8 Ideas for Winning with Sports

Attention. Select. Recall. Reoccur. Not every sponsorship is a home run or touchdown. It takes an incredible amount of brainstorming, crafting, and evaluating to walk away with a win.

What is the key to success? IEG, a leading organization in sponsorship analysis, insight, valuation, and measurement, says it’s pairing innovation and sport.

Sport offers a substantial and sustainable opportunity to out- innovate competitors by connecting audiences to the things they love on an immeasurable scale. And in ways they never knew were possible.”

mml-logo-flatIEG has developed eight ways to successfully turn sports assets into value-enhancing, consumer- focused ideas. It starts with finding emotion by viewing audiences as people, not demographics, and developing a relationship. NCAA realizes even die-hard basketball fans cannot sit around for two weeks watching continuous March Madness coverage. But they can watch almost every game through the March Madness Live streaming service or apps for iOS, Android, Kindle, and Windows devices. The accessibility allows fans to carry on with their lives, like going to the mall with family, without missing a play.

Values now count as much as value, according to IEG. Purpose is one of the new 4Ps of marketing; build race+against+cancer+web+logoservice into every sponsorship. Subway has signed on as the new title sponsor of Covenant Health’s “Race Against Cancer” in Knoxville. John Dell, a local franchise owner and development agent for East Tennessee explains:

All Subway restaurants are locally owned and operated, so it’s important to us to support organizations that are working to improve the quality of life for members of our community.”

Create great content; bring something new and better to the fan experience. More than 80 teams are engaging fans with in-stadium interactive displays. The feature allows them to use their phone to “have a deeper conversation with their favorite teams, athletes, sponsors, and fellow fans” with “access to exclusive content, promotions, and giveaways,” according to Chantal Tode with Mobile Marketer.


Participation in a sponsorship can promote brands and magnify the marketing value. Southwest Airlines used a Doritos commercial that aired during the Super Bowl to its advantage with this tweet:

Consumers are human. Great stories draw them in and keep their attention. As IEG says, “Every touch point is an opportunity to prove who you are.” Consider the Budweiser commercials that air each year during the Super Bowl featuring the clydesdales and Golden Retriever. The storyline is relatable and emotional, which captivates millions of viewers. This year’s theme was titled “Lost Dog” with an emphasis on #BestBuds.

 

Companies must stay one step ahead: be relevant, be agile, be fast. Launch small ideas and quickly move on. It’s easy to be pushed out of mind, so create memorable moments that give the world something they can’t stop talking about. Remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Nike tweeted a staged photo of a coin toss that that went viral during the CFP National Championship in January.

Measure what matters, not what’s easy to count. According to IEG, reach and media equivalencies “fail to reveal whether or not a partnership is building market share, brand value, or shareholder value.” Remember to concentrate on outcomes over outputs.

Balance the portfolio to “reveal both conflicting images that dilute brand impact, as well as overlapping strengths and weaknesses.” Visa uses its sponsorships to communicate its credit/debit card payment service is “everywhere you want to be.” From the FIFA World Cup to the Olympics Games, each event plays a different role in the pursuit of fulfilling objectives.

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Crafting Sport Sponsorships That Work

Sponsorships can generate big money, but the expectations are growing and the ideas have to be innovative.

IEG predicted brands would spend $14.35 billion on sports sponsorship deals in 2014, according to Advertising Age. That’s a 4.9% increase from 2013 when spending grew by 5.1%.

PepsiCo spent the most on sponsorships in 2013: $350-355 million. Coca-Cola, Nike, Anheuser Busch, AT&T, General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Adidas, and MillerCoors rounded out the top ten.

It’s not just about the money, though. The art of preparing, selling, and evaluating a sponsorship deal is constantly evolving. A successful sponsorship should aim to create a win-win for the sport organization/event, fans, and sponsors.

As Laura Huddle, Senior Marketer at Eventbrite, says, “Ask not what your sponsor can do for you, ask what you can do for sponsors.” The experience should be unique, while meeting target demographics and objectives.

Huddle and her colleagues came up with the 7 Tips for Getting and Keeping Event Sponsors:

1. Know your audience

It is crucial to understand who attends your event(s) by gender, income, age, ethnicity, job titles, location, etc. Are they decision-makers or key influencers? What are their brand preferences? How often do they participate? You can collect additional information using registration details, surveys (don’t ask too many questions), experience from sponsors, and social media engagements.

2. Brainstorm what’s brandable

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Courtesy: IEG

What makes your event unique? On-site signage, logo on a website, merchandise, tickets and hospitality during the event, and co-branding are all options. No idea should be held back.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are using Instagram to extend sponsor reach. Dodger Stadium is the most geotagged sports venue on social media. The team is leveraging that status by adding sponsor messages into photos. Case in point:

The team placed Bank of America branding behind the number 42 in the Bank of America Retired Members Plaza. The jersey number —which honors Jackie Robinson—is the most popular location for Instagram photos in the stadium.”

3. Make a list

Start with people you know and event participants. For example, friends, board members, volunteers, and customers. Also consider competitors of sponsors of other events, supporters of your cause, and grand openings.

Tailgaters need food, right? Why not have a Tailgater of the Game contest? Food City has that deal with the University of Tennessee. Judges search Neyland Stadium for style, spirit, and creativity. The winner receives a $500 Food City gift card and a shoutout on the video board. What’s in it for Food City? Brand awareness.

4. Know your sponsors

tips-for-finding-an-event-sponsor-30-638Once you’ve made a list, research what sponsorships they’ve done before, find out who makes the deals, understand why they make those decisions, and learn about their decision deadlines. Business-to-business and business-to-consumer are going to have different needs.

Understand most sponsors want exclusivity. AT&T is the Official Communications Services Sponsor of U.S. Soccer. NASCAR will lose Sprint as a title sponsor after the 2016 season due to “a need to focus more directly on its core business priorities.”

5. Be specific

Forget selling points! Discuss specific ways an organization/event can help a sponsor meet their goals. Focus on the individuals attending, the story behind the event, event numbers, and the experience.

6. Measure what’s important

Find out what the sponsor wants to evaluate: total audience, demographics, engagements, impressions, leads, media value, awareness, testing a new product, etc.

7. Get endorsements

When someone else can validate that a particular project was a hit, that statement will have more of an impact on potential sponsors’ decisions.

A complete understanding of your organization/event and sponsor is key. The relationship will prosper with relentless communication, evaluation, modification, and new ideas.

Evolving From Cornhole to Extreme Sports

UnknownDon’t get so cocky, Red Bull! Mountain Dew always has and always will be chomping at your heels.

PepsiCo’s citrus-flavored soft drink is more than just a beverage. The current slogan of “Do the Dew” emphasizes it is a lifestyle brand that’s been strongly connected to niche markets for more than 20 years.

The brand began in the hills of East Tennessee in the 1940s. In 1993, Mountain Dew began getting a feel for extreme activities, like skydiving and mountain biking.

Jason Belzer wrote in a Forbes article that the brand has focused its sports marketing and sponsorship strategy on just one goal: being synonymous with the extreme.

Just like eating crackerjacks reminds us of baseball, drinking Mountain Dew triggers an association with action sports (fast, exciting, extreme).”

The bridge between rural consumers and young, active consumers was cemented by signing a sponsorship deal during the original X Games in 1995. In 2002, Mountain Dew started the Free Flow Tour, an amateur skateboarding competition. The Dew Action Sports Tour with NBC Sports began in 2005.

Now, the average consumer isn’t going to want to immediately go snowboarding after drinking Mountain Dew, but as Belzer states:

Having a deeply rooted association with pleasant and enjoyable feelings is an incredibly powerful tool that helps drive consumer behavior.”

Mountain Dew is building and strengthening relationships with buyers before and after competitions with movies, music, and online content.

MD Films released First Descent in 2005. The documentary, centered on the rise of snowboarding, was the first motion picture produced by a soft drink company.

The brand released “A Mini Mini-Series” in August 2014. According to the show’s YouTube page, users can watch all eight episodes in just two minutes.

Green Label is the company’s online magazine “featuring the latest stories and emerging trends in skate, music, art, gaming, and more.” Green Label Sound is a record label for emerging artists, which recently launched the Green Label Station on iTunes Radio. Mountain Dew is even sponsoring the “Anything Goes Tour” for the country duo sensation Florida Georgia Line.

The brand is effective in communicating through social media. Instead of buying airtime for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial, the company ran a spot for its new Kickstart line during the pre-game show and then continued the conversation with more than 10 million combined followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Beverage Digest reports Mountain Dew was the third most popular refreshment brand in 2014, and about 20 percent of its consumers are responsible for 70 percent of its volume. As Denise Lee Yohn, a marketing consultant, told the Huffington Post in January:

By focusing on a ‘cult, loyal following,’ Mountain Dew may be better poised than other sodas to survive the health and wellness obsession that has swept the country in recent years.”

Mountain Dew is highly successful in leveraging their sponsorship across brand communications. These niche markets appreciate the attention and are willing to reward the company by opening their wallets.

Planning For A $7 Billion Market Spike In 3 Years

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A recent survey from McKinsey, a global consulting firm, claims frugal is the new normal. The survey found four in ten Americans trimmed their spending in the past 12 months, while 55% are searching for ways to cut back.

When it comes to entertainment, particularly sports, people are not pinching pennies. According to the 2014 edition of the PwC Sports Outlook, the market is expected to grow by $7.2 million from 2015 to 2018.

There are four key segments within the North American revenue stream: gate receipts, media rights, sponsorship, and merchandising.

Media rights are projected to continue growing at the highest rate: 26.06% of total revenue in 2015 to 27.36% in 2018. Sponsorship will also see an increase from 24.08% to 24.85%, while the shares of gates revenues and merchandise are expected to fall.

Notice the give-and-take relationship between gate revenues (-.77%) and media rights (+1.3%) from 2015 to 2018. Fans are not going to just give up and stop consuming sports. They will either watch in person or on a broadcast.

Disposable incomes are limited. Organizations are constantly struggling to find ways to sell tickets and fill stadiums/arenas. Consumers want more of an experience than just watching a ball get passed around while they sit and get a sunburn or frostbite.

The Tennessee Titans heard the gripes, so Comcast is installing WiFi at LP Field before the upcoming season. AT&T installed two new 4G LTE antennas in 2012 near the Bridgestone Arena to accommodate an increase in mobile use. The Jacksonville Jaguars recently put up cabanas with a fully serviced, premium tailgate/seating experience. EverBank Field also offers two swimming pools where fans can watch games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a life-size pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium. Other facilities are making changes to their seating, concessions, and parking lots.

As fans decide to stay home and watch a game, leagues realize media rights will increase $2.6 million in 2018. The National Football League just renewed its contract with CBS to broadcast eight games on Thursday nights for more than $275-$300 million. Several current deals are expected to expire by 2018, and the media companies already know it’ll be costly to renew. Organizations are also striking up conversations about online streaming, OnDemand, and mobile apps.

Keep in mind that nothing beats the live atmosphere on game day, which explains why gate revenues still make up the biggest piece of the pie in 2015 and 2018.

Sponsorship is dependent on the economy (+$2.2 million and +.77%). PwC lowered its five-year growth rate from six-percent per year to just under five-percent per year. The reason:

A slower roll-out and slightly less optimistic outlook for the potential net impact of new sponsorship inventory resulting from digital media platforms, uniform rights, and in-venue signage/naming rights, as well as further brand category rights segmentation.”

Local facility naming rights will continue to increase revenue as a lot of contracts are expected to expire soon.

Merchandise will see very little growth in terms of dollar amount (+$580 million) and the biggest drop in percentage (-1.29%). If someone has a team jersey or hat, they probably won’t buy another one. One way organizations can increase this segment is by changing logos or color schemes. There is also a need to focus more on women, children, and electronics. Dooney & Bourke, a leading handbag company, is now offering Major League Baseball and collegiate products.

Helping the Worst NFL Team Become a Success

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The Jacksonville Jaguars are consistently ranked toward the bottom on lists comparing National Football League franchises. Fans are finding it difficult to support a losing team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2007. It’s not easy trying to build morale when there’s also a lot of buzz that owner Shahid Khan is considering relocating the organization to London. If the franchise wants to be successful in this cut-throat industry, the perfect time to transition the Jaguars into a powerful squad deeply rooted in the Jacksonville community is now. This is a guide to rebrand the Jaguars for the upcoming 2015 season. It is a blueprint to offer guidance and will need to be adjusted to feedback.

Read the Brand Blueprint for the Jacksonville Jaguars

The Rebranding of a Franchise: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also known as the Bucs, became the twenty-seventh franchise in the National Football League in April 1976. The team got off to a rough start with the inability to pass the ball, play defense, and most importantly, put points on the scoreboard. They became the first team in NFL history to lose all fourteen regular season games, which caused many excited fans to immediately lose faith. The organization knew it had to make some adjustments or success was doomed. The franchise finally underwent transformations in 1995, 1997, and 2002. The most recent changes have been deemed a success, helping the franchise become one of the most profitable in the league. The job is not over quite yet; there is plenty to do as the brand is monitored and grows even larger.

Read more about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers branding strategy in this Case Study

Protecting Privacy

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Beware! Big Brother isn’t the only one watching your every keystroke or click. Brands are also closely monitoring your online activity, gathering more than enough information to target you in their next campaigns.

What type of information is being collected? What are companies doing with the information? Are they trustworthy? How is that information being protected?

The Pew Research Center released a new study Tuesday that found there is widespread concern about government and business surveillance:

91% of adults in the survey ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that consumers have lost control over how personal information is collected and used by companies.”

Ever Google your name? You probably wouldn’t consider yourself a celebrity, but you’ll still pop up in the results. One of the first links, Spokeo, will more than likely show your name, age, and where you live. That’s pretty scary!

CNN spoke to Don Jackson, a security researcher, in August 2012. He warned “data mining” can lead to hacking, identity theft, and stalking:

We have seen cases where just basic information, just very few pieces from social networks, can lead predators to potential victims, for example. That’s a common scenario, actually.”

Companies need to be transparent in their quest for information about consumers.

Facebook updated its privacy policy on Wednesday. The social Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 10.31.14 AMmedia website also released an easy-to-read, interactive guide for users to learn what information is being gathered and how it is used and shared. It’s still pretty complicated to understand.

SnapChat, a popular photo-sharing app, is also taking steps to make users feel safe. CNN Money reports the company will:

Warn you if another app on your phone is saving your pictures. Snapchatters using third-party apps will be forced to change their password. If they refuse, their accounts will be locked.”

AT&T stopped using hidden “super cookies” on smart phones on Friday. USA Today reports the change came after consumer pressure.

Online tracking isn’t going to go away anytime soon. In fact, it will only become a bigger issue. There is no way the federal government can regulate because the problem is universal. Privacy really starts with the user, though. Only share information you don’t mind being blasted to the world. What if consumers got paid for their information? Would that make it more acceptable?