Last year a friend recommended a book titled “The Power of Nice,” suggesting it might help in my negotiations. I was surprised by the title, as most negotiation training involves “sticking to your guns” and overpowering the other side. Ron Shapiro, the author, is a very respected sports agent. His book shares how anyone who sits down to make a deal can get what they want by exercising the surprising “power of nice.”
If you read no further than this, one thing I have learned from reading this and other Shapiro books is this:
ASK the other party what THEY NEED the outcome to be.[/dropshadowbox]
Understanding their needs up front has been amazing in moving an agreement along. I expect that having the CLIENT ask what the SELLER needs has caught a few off-guard. I don’t think that is normal in the standard negotiation practice, but I have actually found the process is enjoyable and everyone seems satisfied when the contract is finalized.
Ron’s books show you how to prepare better, probe for what they want and why, and to propose–but not going first to avoid impasses or getting backed into a corner.
Preparation is power. Successful negotiators are prepared negotiators. It takes patience and persistence but it always pays off. This could be interpreted as manipulative, but that isn’t how I see it. I try to know how my brand can help their company, how we can truly be partners as an outcome of the negotiation process. If this isn’t done at the beginning, even if you say we are open to additional opportunities, those rarely occur after the deal is inked.
Probe so you know their (a) wish list, (b) motivations, and (c) must-have list.
Listening is power. If you ask the right questions and LISTEN the other side will give you the input you need to make the deal you want.
Sometimes clients don’t want to ask questions because they appear to be uninformed or stupid. And even if they ask, sometimes they aren’t listening. This is an area I continue to be challenged on, digging deeper vs. accepting a surface response. I once heard that the first answer to a question isn’t where you gain knowledge, but if you wait quietly for the second response, you will learn so much more. That’s when the person has a chance to really think about their response. Another barrier to probing is being afraid to ask the question. In your mind you may already think you know the answer, one you won’t like. But don’t make the decision for them without knowing: Ask.
The three rules of proposing are: (1) Try not to make the first offer, (2) Never (immediately) accept their first offer, and (3) set your aspirations high.
Patience is power. With a few tweaks, since reading Ron’s books, I have found the first offer isn’t that far off from what we had hoped to achieve. Like many industries, ours is highly competitive, the margins are low, and everyone is being held to a higher return than sometimes is reasonable. Understanding all the options available so that you can get the best payback on your investment is critical. If you propose first, you may miss an opportunity to know all the possibilities a company has to offer. Be patient. Have a good team to bounce off ideas. Be persistent.
Budgets and expectations are high. I found Ron’s approach lowered the stress level for everyone involved in negotiations and outcomes have been more successful for both parties.
You probably rely on a variety of benefits when pitching a sponsorship opportunity to a prospect, including things like signage options, hospitality opportunities, media exposure, and activation potential. However, have you considered the value of how well your brand “fits” with the prospective partner?
What does research tell us?
Research we’ve done shows that a good match between the sponsoring brand and property leads to a number of positive outcomes. More specifically, a strong sponsor-property fit results in:
Positive attitudes and emotions toward the sponsor and the sponsorship
Higher recall of the sponsoring brand
Higher levels of attention to the sponsor
A greater willingness to consider the sponsor’s products.
These successes lead to higher sponsorship renewal rates, and it’s a great selling point for a brand to choose your property over others.
When is the fit obvious?
The term “elephant test” is sometimes used to describe situations in which an idea or object is hard to describe, but instantly recognizable when viewed. Fit between sponsor and property can often be considered an idea where the elephant test is in play. Audiences will often have a feel for whether a sponsor and property fit together, even if they have difficulty defining why.
The “why,” however, is typically based on at least one seven common types of fit:
Use — when sports participants or audience members are likely to use the sponsoring brand
Size similarity– when the brand and property are equally prominent
Audience similarity– when the brand and the event share the same target audience
Geographic similarity — when the brand and property have the same scope of influence
Attitude similarity– when there is equal liking of the brand and property
Image similarity — when both brand and property have equivalent meaning or image in consumers’ minds
Time duration — when the brand and property go together because of historic ties
Which type is best?
Should brands and properties seek partnerships with particular type of fit? Are multiple fits better than a single fit?
This seemingly simple question has a complex answer, because the best fit depends on many factors. The interplay between the fit type and the product category may influence which type is the best. Product categories differ in purchase frequency (soft drinks vs. automobiles), purchase involvement (candy vs. vacations) and consumer interest (casinos vs. insurance). So, for example with casinos, geography and size (prominence) might be more important than anything else.
How “the best” is defined will influence the answer of which fit is best. In some instances “best” might be measured by the pairing that results in the highest level of recall. But, of course, there are many other measures of “best” depending upon the goals of the sponsoring brand. These could include changes in brand attitude, purchase intentions, word-of-mouth propensity, and image change. Thus, what is deemed to be the best is dependent upon what goals the firm is seeking to achieve through sponsorship.
What if the fit isn’t obvious?
Is all lost if no obvious fit exists? Sponsorship research indicates “articulation” holds value if the partners communicate why the firm sponsors a particular event, especially if a fit argument can be made (e.g., Brand X is proud to sponsor team Y because of….). This explanation tends to have a more favorable effect when the communication about the sponsorship originates from the property rather than from the sponsoring firm.
Other creative approaches can manufacture fit. Southwest Airlines sponsors the NBA halftime break, which somewhat fits with its “Wanna Get Away” campaign. Better fits were the Nestle’s sponsorship of the NBA Crunch Time Stat of the Game and the Dutch Boy Paint’s “In the Paint” TV segments. The San Diego Padres made a TaylorMade club fit as a right field foul pole. The Chicago White Sox start games at 7:11 because, you guessed it, an anchor sponsor is 7-11.*
In the end, it’s up to you to assess sponsors for the appropriate fit or to get creative to make the sponsor fit. Because if it doesn’t “fit” in the buyers’ minds, you won’t be looking at a good fit at the end of the contract.
Over my years at American Airlines I was fortunate to be part of some great brand activation campaigns. The following is a list of my favorite sports and entertainment marketing activations and other moments in general (in no particular order), followed by how partnerships can adopt some of the same ideas.
1. Up In The Air starring George Clooney (2009)
Since the S3 Report tends to lean more towards sports I wanted to lead with an entertainment example that will always have a special place in my heart. This is the project I use as an example to help educate internal departments and employees about the power of entertainment marketing for customers and employees. From start to finish, this was a total 360 integrated marketing example that included product integration, digital promotions for a variety of internal departments, inflight content, TV advertising, customer and employee engagement.
In the film, George Clooney plays the role of a business traveler that lives on the road. He is a miles junkie that has mastered the art of packing, living out of a suitcase and navigating his way through security and airline lounges. Since we got in on the ground floor of the production, we worked with the filmmakers to ensure American’s brand and messaging were seamlessly woven into the script and on the set. Director Jason Reitman’s aim was to make everything as authentic as possible, so a lot of the items seen in the film were either provided by American or made to look like exact replicas.
As the film prepped for release we executed a number of promotions for AA.com, AAdvantage and the Admirals Clubs. We held special screenings and were also able to get employees engaged by assisting with filming and attending special screenings in a variety of markets. American received positive publicity around the film and customer engagement was at an all-time high because our best customers could relate to Clooney’s character’s passion for travel. To this day, customers still ask if we will ever create a special card for those that reach 10 million miles, and what better way to get brand association with one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors?
Not every brand can be a part of a feature movie, but what partners can do is take a 360 integrated marketing viewpoint to sponsorships rather than single-event promotions. We supplemented the movie with an integrated promotion beyond the branding play:
2. Disney’s Planes (2013)
When Disney decided to give Planes a theatrical release instead of putting it straight to DVD, we saw an opportunity to create an integrated marketing program for customers and employees. For this project Disney did something groundbreaking – they created a special Planes character for American named Tripp. Tripp makes a cameo in the film and we incorporated Tripp and other Planes characters into a TV spot that was utilized in owned and paid channels throughout the promotional period. Since the film was airplane specific, activations were created for digital, inflight, airports and at air shows. Customers, employees and aviation buffs (and their families!) were thrilled with the film and excited that American had its own character that showed off the company’s new logo and livery.
The insight here is that we were able to activate the brand among children and their parents interested in the movie.We are so often geared to the short term. What are you doing to build long term brand affinity?
3. Takeoff featuring Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion (2014)
This is a great example of the brand finding a way to align company messaging with a franchise and individual athletes both in and outside of a title deal like we have with the American Airlines Center.
American is in the midst of receiving a large number of new aircraft, and to help promote the new 777-300ER, the team put together a special promotion for Mavs fans featuring top players Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. Both players were filmed on a set in a real first-class, lie-flat seat, which was used in a special environment featuring videos of the players talking about the new aircraft and a special photo area was installed at American Airlines Center. In the photo area, fans could be digitally superimposed in a picture showing them fist bumping one of the two players. Fans could immediately email their photo or share to their favorite social networking site.
The name of the game in sponsorship activation is engagement. How are you physically, tangibly engaging customers to interact with your brand in a way that creates user generated content?
4. A321T Campaign and Hologram Activation (2014)
In early 2014 American took delivery of its first Airbus 321-Transcontinental aircraft to fly transcon routes JFK-LAX-JFK and JFK-SFO-JFK. These new aircraft make American the only airline with three-class service with fully lie-flat seats in both Business and First Class. These routes are heavily traveled by Hollywood’s elite, so in order to help promote the new aircraft, American put together an integrated advertising campaign that feature actors Neil Patrick Harris, Juliana Marguiles, Grace Kelly and Gregory Peck. Since American was the first to invent transcon service in 1953, the campaign focused on its modern-day reinvention.
American incorporated some activations into the campaign. The first was in conjunction with The Hollywood Reporter’s lounge at the Sundance Film Festival and centered around educating Hollywood A-listers about the new product. Another innovative activation was a hologram setup at airports served by the A321T which allowed for customers to take a 3D interactive tour of the new aircraft. American was the first airline to utilize the hologram technology that was well-received by employees and customers alike.
Tapping into the history of the brand often connects with consumers in a deeply emotional way and exploring new technologies connects in a dynamic way that draws attention and engagement.
5. American Airlines Center vs. American Airlines Arena (2006 and 2011)
Who doesn’t love a little publicity? The NBA Finals in 2006 and 2011 featured both of American’s namesake buildings, which in itself became something for everyone to talk about. There were multiple articles that debated the value of coverage American would receive during the Finals, and American’s employees in both cities proudly displayed their colors and entertained a friendly rivalry. In this case American benefited by global publicity and TV coverage as well as an opportunity for employee engagement. The series currently sits at 1-1, and both times the winner closed out the series in Game 6 on the road.
The pros/cons of engaging in title deals are worthwhile, but the real issue is how can you stay top-of-mind and engage a critical segment (upscale frequent flyers) in your primary DMAs? If you think about a place where the majority of your key segments are apt to pay attention every year, that sounds like a good place to be.
6. Great Ticket Giveaway (2006)
This one technically occurred a few months before I started at American but I had the privilege of working on it from the Mavs’ side. This was a coup for American because who doesn’t want a free airline ticket? American’s intent was to show some love for Dallas by giving everyone in attendance a free flight, and the fans and media ate it up. This is a great example of how a brand can benefit by aligning with a popular sports franchise. Team popularity was at a high and it turned out to be the first season the Mavs advanced to the NBA Finals.
The objective for these types of brand activations is to work hand-in-hand with the property and media to maximize publicity. And, since Mavericks season ticket holders are likely frequent fliers, we reinforced their loyalty to the brand. What are you doing to reward your loyal customers?
Up, Up, and Away!
I consider all of these favorites for a variety of reasons, but the one thing that ties them together is that they are all integrated campaigns based on whatever American’s business objectives were at the time of execution. Do you remember any of these or see anything missing from my list? Please feel free to share your comments here!