Wesley Abercrombie (S3, 2017), the General Manager for Partnership Sales at Southeastern Louisiana University Athletics, shared this creative partnership activation strategy:
If the basketball team makes eight 3-point shots, everyone at the game wins a free slushie from our local convenience store partner, Quickway. We keep track of it by hanging up letters on a wall. Once it spells out “QUICKWAY” everyone knows they win slushies. We call it our “Slushie 3-point shot tracker.”
How successful is the promotion?
Tonight, there was 30 seconds left in the game, and the team hadn’t hit the challenge yet. It spelled “QUICKWA” and we were just waiting for the clock to run out to win the game. The other team wasn’t even playing defense at this point! Fans were literally standing up yelling “one more three” at our team from the stands and our coach heard it!
So as our team was waiting for the clock to run out, coach told our point guard to just go ahead and shoot it, to try to complete the challenge for our fans. He missed the shot, but it was really cool to see the fans react to our promotion the way they did and to see our coach acknowledge it instead of just letting the clock run out to win the game. The best part was, the partner was at the game, and texted me saying that the promotion was the best form of marketing he has ever seen.
Share your story
Wes worked with Quickway to develop a powerful partnership platform that engages the team, coaches and fans for an ultimate experience. Share your Sponsorship Shorts story if you would like to be considered for a feature on the Baylor S3 Report!
Wes Abercrombie is an employee of Peak Sports Management, which manages sales & marketing for Southeastern Louisiana Athletics.
At the 2014 Sports Sponsorship & Sales (S3) Board Meeting held at McLane Stadium on the campus of Baylor University on November 11-12, Jose Lozano hosted a panel of fellow brand experts from the S3 Board to discuss, “How brands measure successful partnerships.”
Not in the awareness business
“We are not in the awareness business,” said Kelly Roddy, President of Schlotzsky’s, which is owned by Focus Brands (Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Carvel, McAlister’s Deli, and Moe’s Southwest Grill). “We are into meaningful relationships and sponsorships provide this,” added Roddy.
These sentiments were reinforced by Bill Moseley, Director of Marketing Communications, AT&T, and one of the architects of a wide variety of AT&T corporate partnership deals. Mr. Moseley noted that account management of corporate partners may have focused on more static venue elements of an agreement in the past, but that, “Today the emphasis is on adding value to the fan experience through creative strategies. The AT&T brand is an integral part of the game day experience.”
Tami T. Walker, Brand Manager for Phillips 66, shared, “When we can get a father and son on the floor [as part of a brand-fan experience] we make fans of the brand for life.” The emphasis is on creating memorable experiences that clearly link the brand with the property in the minds of fans that result in driving business.
What do brands care about in a sponsorship deal?
At the end of the day, or at the end of each year and at the end of the contract, brands care about sponsorship return-on-investment. The panel members underscored that the reason behind sponsorships isn’t because someone at the brand loves the team. Rather, the brand cares about what drives traffic and builds their fan loyalty–when fans of the team become fans of the brand.
AT&T, Phillips 66, Schlotzsky’s, and other well-established brands care most about how much fan affinity transfers to the brand. Why? Brands can track the lift they receive among fans of the brand compared to non-fans in the same markets. Using research tools and brand tracking, brands can see if fans of the team behave differently.
[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”200px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]”Impressions don’t matter.”[/dropshadowbox]Mr. Roddy explained, “When we measure fan engagement we can see the connection with sales increases. We now look for ways to track call to action. We aren’t interested in millions of impressions, but measures of affinity transfer to our brand. Impressions don’t matter.”
How do brands keep score?
When Phillips 66 evaluates sponsorships, senior management keeps score at the bottom line.Tami Walker emphasized that Phillips 66 uses multivariate analysis on net promoter and other key performance indicators (KPIs) to look at drivers of buying behaviors. The make-or-break decision for their partnerships is whether or not the property, “can produce creative solutions we can’t get elsewhere,” added Ms. Walker. Brand managers, like Ms. Walker, must focus on managing contracts in an effective manner to prove the relationship with KPIs.
Other tracking measures include social media scraping. Mr. Roddy explained, “It’s important to see if our brand is connected to the partner via fans’ social media. For example, are people posting about Cinnabon and the Texans?” Using sophisticated web crawler software, brands can analyze social media posts to determine if such a linkage increases as a part of a partnership promotion. Brands also use loyalty index tracking to compare loyalty levels of fans versus non-fans of a property.
Mr. Moseley said that AT&T partners understand that the Net Promoter Score is an important KPI, as they want customers to recommend the brand to others. In doing so, the benefit of the partnership is that the brand-fan linkage helps overcome any pain point with the provider who brings life to their devices.
When is added value really added value?
As Ms. Walker emphasized, building loyalty to the brand is more than just distributing loyalty cards or gaining name recognition. Partners seek true loyalty that shields them against competitive inroads. Properties add value through brand-fan experiences that can scale the effects through social media, as fans share the experiences with others.
For example, the 76 fuel brand partners with the Dodgers, who act as true partners to assess results and adjust to meet their partnership goals. In this sense, the property adds value through their transparency, honesty, and willingness to solve problems.
Jose Lozano, who as CEO of The Company, works with a number of national brands engaged in partnerships, encourages properties to bring their own passion into the equation. Try to understand what each brand wants, seeking to understand the brand’s customers and what they really want. Rather than arriving with a prescribed inventory of sponsorship assets, properties should identify the brand’s KPIs and find ways to bring the brand to life among their fans. When the team’s partnership executives understand how the brand measures success, they can begin to add value beyond the standard rate card for sponsorships.
It’s no secret the world of marketing has become exponentially more complex over the last several years. Gone are the days of screaming your brand message through TV or radio, and expecting to hit exactly the target you wanted.
As you look to take your brand or team to the next level, how well do you understand your consumer base? And as you look to corporate partners, how well do you understand THEIR objectives as well as your own?
For an established brand like Denny’s, we’ve spent quite a bit of time listen — really listening — to current and potential guests. We quickly realized just how diverse their needs were. It’s led to some exciting and successful initiatives running a broad range of targeted partnerships with:
AARP to speak directly to our active boomer (50+) generation,
Social and digital media efforts with branded content with partners like College Humor, Funny or Die, DumbDumb, and
Continual dialogue with younger guests on Tumblr, among many others.
Recently we launched a successful partnership with Atari, appealing to multiple generations including kids, millennials and Generation X who have sparked to sharing the experience of the classic Atari games like Centipede and Asteroids, turned into relevant games downloadable and playable under our Denny’s inspired names like Centipup and Hasteroids.
Similarly, we’ve partnered with major movie releases such as The Hobbit to appeal to generations both young and old. Our kids menu has become re-energized this year with a wonderful partnership with National Geographic Kids – a brand that research proved had strong appeal to both kids and parents. A wide array of partners enable us to drive sales and traffic counts against multiple targets simultaneously, not one at the expense of another.
What’s in common?
Each of these partnerships have commonalities:
They are unique. No one else is doing anything like it.
They hit specific targets at a time where they are most receptive–where they are and when they’re naturally consuming the media vehicle we’ve selected.
And most importantly, they are partnerships that truly create win/win situations for both brands. Each of us (our brand and the partner brand) allows the other new avenues to target key customer groups in ways that we don’t necessarily naturally reach.
How does this translate to sports marketing? Having been on both sides–the team and the brand–I can attest that it does very clearly.
Within the team sports space, our best partners understand our brand and the particular target we’re trying to reach in that market AND the particular business objective we’re trying to hit. Is it a value sensitive market? If so, how can you help us get our value message across? Is it a heavy Hispanic market? If so, let’s make sure that important demographic is clearly a part of the partnership proposal. A market with a high representation of families… or millennials? You get the idea. A little research by the team goes a long way and leads to truly breakthrough results for BOTH of us. Come with THOSE ideas, and you’ll prove there are indeed positive, powerful win/win partnerships.
Whether you want to work in the Wide World of Sports Sponsorships, or really any competitive field of business, you’re going to face someone like me in the interview process. I always ask these three questions in the interview:
What are you not good at?
How do you plan your daily/weekly schedule?
How do you penetrate companies you are going after?
What do people like me on the other side of the desk really want to know from questions like these?
What are you notgood at doing?
I usually start off interviews with this question or make it my second or third question. I learned of it while reading an industry magazine years back and it always has stuck in my interview repertoire. It usually catches people off guard and throws them off course.
All of us go into an interview well prepped on the basic questions that we are going to get asked. But, typically, we don’t plan on telling the interviewer what we struggle with. Now, I have seen this answered many ways. What I’m not really looking for is the typical:
“I don’t take no for an answer,” or
” I work long hours and need to do a better job with work life balance.”
I’m looking for someone who is genuine and authentic; somebody who has humility and empathy. Being part of an incredible team at work that gets along famously can accomplish extraordinary results.
How do you plan your schedule?
Because I have always led sales organizations, this is a key question I always ask experienced candidates. I pretty much know in the first few minutes of the response whether this person is a high caliber player or just a run of the mill salesperson.
I know this is not going to be a good hire if I hear something like:
” Well, I come into the office on Monday and start making telephone calls for appointments that week and I come back into the office on Friday to do my paperwork.”
” I typically send emails asking for appointments and wait to hear back and then set my schedule based on responses.”
I am looking for the person who is setting appointments every day! These high caliber sales people are active and taking and making connections all day, every day. They are typically booked two weeks in advance and are always prospecting and cultivating. Because prospects and customers cancel all the time these high end sales people are plugging in these cancellations with new opportunities and follow ups. You’ll recognize these people because their phone is always ringing and their follow up paperwork and processing is never ending. They don’t care because they are printing money!!!
How do you penetrate companies you are after?
This question shows me how well potential candidates understand how corporations work. I often hear a response like this, “Well, I research the company online and find out what they do. I then find the key contact in marketing and try to get an appointment.” I usually follow this up by asking the candidate, “What if the marketing person won’t see you or won’t respond?” If I get, “Then I usually will call back or move on to the next target,” I know that this is probably not going to be the hire that gets my team to the next level.
I wish I had a better sounding name but I am looking for a rat. A rat finds the hole and gets in. Because corporations are large and each department has different goals, the best sales people know how to network ALL departments in order to gain entry. For instance, if a sponsorship person is looking to sell a major apparel manufacture in Dallas and can’t get any traction with the marketing department, perhaps they should focus on finding out who is responsible for HR (Human Relations) and try to sell them an employee outing or special event. Perhaps they should approach the CFO’s Executive Assistant and ask her when she is scheduling the next finance meeting for out of town employees and ask if it could be at the stadium with tickets and food and beverage (much more fun than that dim conference room at the Holiday Inn). The salesperson could approach the VP of Sales with an opportunity to meet the coach or GM in an upcoming meeting. The sales person can network their family, friends, or people they go to church with and find someone who works for that company that can give them the inner workings and key decision makers.
The best salespeople instinctively know how to work every department within a corporation looking for a hole that will gain them access.
If you can successfully answer these three questions to show that you are genuine & authentic, are constantly planning and making appointments, and can find ways to dig into even the most impenetrable companies, then you can close the interview with a career in sponsorship sales.
After spending more than 8 years in the “Minor Leagues” (4 with Daktronics Sports Marketing and 4 with the Texas Legends), I have learned you can never have a shortage of creative inventory and thinking. This is especially true in a competitive market space where you are up against all the big boys of the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NFL. You must be able to differentiate your property and the value of your brand with new, creative ways to drive value to a brand or sponsor.
Where do you find new premium inventory?
When team owners annually increase revenue goals and you are already sold out of your premium inventory, what do you do? Where do you find new premium inventory that drives enough value to justify a major spend and attract the big sponsors?
Justin Cooper, Director of Group Sales for the Texas Legends suggests, “With major league teams the sponsorship opportunities provided are more black and white, while within the D-League (and other minor league markets), being creative is half the battle. Without creative and outside the box thinking, it’s hard to affect the transactions that big league teams are asking for.”
In my time at the Texas Legends, we have been nothing short or creative with our outside the box thinking. Most times, there is no box.
Creating visibility out of thin air
Case in point, last summer when we were brainstorming with one of our existing sponsors, KIA Motors America and Central KIA dealerships, we were challenged with coming up with a way to get them “Bigger and Better” inventory and provide a more commanding brand visible platform.
So, what’s the problem you ask? An existing sponsor is telling you that they want to spend more money with you and asking how they can spend it.
The problem was that we were sold out of premium court inventory: We had already sold the four court quadrants the NBA allows D-League Teams to sell. We had an already committed jersey sponsor. Our center court logo was the brand of a state in Mexico (Veracruz, MX), not the Texas Legends logo. So, I guess that was thinking outside the circle. But, surely we weren’t maxed out on premium inventory, right? How could we possibly find additional inventory to meet the sponsor’s need of “Bigger and Better” inventory and stand out along with our other top-tier sponsors?
Let’s hang a car!
The conversation was flowing at a nice Brazilian steakhouse with representatives from the Legends, Central KIA and regional KIA Motors. We were throwing out ideas, taking turns putting on the thinking cap and then as we scratched our heads, we looked at each other when….POOF…there it was. Just like out of thin air came the idea, “Let’s hang a car.”
Our KIA representatives looked at each other inquisitively as if they had misheard what was proposed. “Hang a car? As in a KIA?” It certainly would capture the attention of fans. What else could we do to build value?
We could create a season long activation and give the car away during the final home games.
We could capture leads for the sales team and enhance other marketing initiatives through media, digital and print.
The ideas started pouring in…from where? Out of thin air.
Fast forward…in a Kia
Eight months later, there was a beautiful KIA Soul hanging above center court inside Dr Pepper Arena. We received a challenge from a sponsor with specific goals (Bigger and Better). We created inventory that didn’t exist. We created one of the best activation ideas to be the first to suspend a car above the playing surface of a professional sports team.
“The advantage of selling a smaller sports property is the ability to help marketers target a specific group of people and engage them in an intimate and memorable way” adds Jon Bishop, Senior Director, Team Marketing and Business Operations for the NBA.
One thing I enjoy best about working in the minor leagues is that you are not limited on creatively thinking of new sponsorship inventory. The Legends have mastered this art after changing the way that many league executives think and what even a sponsor would imagine possible.
When it comes to your team or property’s inventory, are you maximizing all the potential areas of valuable inventory? Are you looking for those ideas that just may appear…out of thin air?
Juventus, la Vecchia Signora of Italian football, may be one of the most established brands in Italy, but she recently showed the sort of innovative approach to earned media that many newer, more agile brands could only sit back and admire. Using a multi-platform approach to social media, Juventus ran a competition to design a vast choreography within the stadium during the heated match with fellow soccer grandees Inter Milan.
Users uploaded their suggestions via a Facebook app for a placard-based design to be rehearsed and performed by the Juve faithful as the teams took to the pitch. The app received:
over 4000 registered users,
290,000 views, and
over 18,000 users voted for their favourite submission online using the #LoveJu hashtag.
This hashtag is itself a superbly crafted example of digital interactivity, a homophonic pun that is simple and appealing, and works on a platform where English is still the most used language.
During the game, the interactivity continued, as tweets using #LoveJu were displayed on the stadium’s massive screens. Many events now have this form of interactivity and it surely cannot be long before most stadiums in Europe follow suit, with the appropriate levels of screening, obviously.
“This was a great initiative, yet another example of Juventus’ modernity and innovative thinking. A number of clubs are embracing social media in Italy and doing a really good job at engaging with their support. The other clubs that spring to mind are Milan, Roma, Fiorentina and Parma with Inter and Napoli probably a touch behind though not by much. To return to the #LoveJu initiative, though it looked great and was a real success, I do think fan choreography is at its best when it’s spontaneous and designed by the supporters rather than the club.” ~ James Horncastle[/dropshadowbox]
Juventus’ initiative was over three months in the planning. They have had a digital department for two and a half years, which is longer than many clubs in Europe. I asked whether there were plans to follow up the choreography event and was told, perhaps a little cagily, that “it’s something that could perhaps be considered, but we view this particular event as more of a one-off”. Of course, with the app already produced and the hashtag well established, the nuts and bolts of such an initiative are in place, so any reactivation would be fairly straightforward. Indeed, one might ask why, given its undoubted success, it would not be something that the club would commit to. I suspect that it is an example of comms smoke and mirrors, rather than a genuine likelihood that it was a one-off.
Connecting the dots for sponsors
The Juventus spokesman I spoke with stated that “one of the aims of our social media initiatives is to give visibility to our sponsors.” Of course, this is achieved by repeated visual exposure to the shirt and its sponsor, Jeep. Beyond this, though, and the obvious positive brand association with a widely covered and ground breaking social media initiative, it is difficult to see any immediate, tangible benefit accrued by sponsors.
The predominant benefit for sponsors, anyway, is visual earned media and positive association for fans of the club with that brand. So, in that respect, something which is globally reported and talked about as a viral event achieves that aim. Nonetheless, I suspect that clubs and sponsors are working hard to maximize the earned media potential of social media engagement.
Building the digital fan base
The Juventus spokesman told me that social media is for the club is about:
building a closer relationship with our fans and football aficionados,
understanding their needs and opinions, and
gaining and reaching out to new international fans worldwide.
The digital age has spawned what I like to call the digital fan, someone who may live on the other side of the world, but who feels part of the supporting community and lives that support as part of a connected web of fans, using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to participate in the supporter experience.
Before you might have been able to buy a club shirt and watch the occasional game on television, but now clubs can generate and drive support and engagement with social media. Fans feel actively part of the community through chat rooms, forums, and other online discussion platforms. Games can be watched on a wide array of satellite channels or live streams online. A digital fan can be almost as engaged as a season ticket holder who sits in the stands every week, and may even be more knowledgeable and active in their online life.
The #LoveJu choreography initiative was clearly designed to tap into this digital fan base and did so, registering interest from all corners of the globe. It is important for the digital fan to feel connected and so the participation rates for effectively planned events are high. Since this captive market puts itself forward to be part of an event, what sponsor wouldn’t want a piece of that action?
Opportunities for global brand partnerships
More and more events of this nature will be coming from clubs with a global fan base. Global clubs and brands may partner to activate on each other’s websites and feed back into the clubs’ other communication channels to increase visibility and brand engagement. The potential is too big to ignore; where the Old Lady of Turin has led, others will surely follow.
Bill Glenn is President of The Breakout Group, a boutique consulting firm that creates sales and marketing strategies to challenge norms and produce breakout results for brands and sports/entertainment organizations. His thinking is built on a foundation of deep sales and marketing expertise and both an agency and client-side perspective as it relates to integrated marketing programs in sports and entertainment, including big data and program analytics. Glenn has a both a Bachelor’s in Journalism and MBA in Marketing from the University of Missouri.
Build a Skill Set Foundation: Start with Sales
Glenn’s career started as a Marketing Associate with GTE (now Verizon) where he had three, six-month assignments in direct marketing, product management and sales. Although he doubted sales would ever be something he enjoyed, the brief experience felt like such a great fit he remained in B2B “consultative” sales and sales management for the next ten years.
Over this time, Bill learned the critical importance of blending strong customer relationships with a keen understanding of the assets you’re selling:
Great relationships uncover business needs while asset knowledge delivers the best client solution.
Understanding this dynamic is the key to any successful business strategy. Through this experience, he was able to learn how sales and marketing are co-dependent functions in delivering client success. Additionally, Bill says, “Sales taught me the importance of having a broad knowledge base and understanding how all the parts of an organization work together to enable revenue.”
Build the Bridge: Understand How Sales and Marketing Work Together
After 10 years in sales, Glenn wanted to extend his skill set to brand marketing and marketing communications. He took over trade show marketing and strategy at GTE and was able to learn how messaging and technology at an event can deliver product value in a different context and what value this communication channel offers a field sales organization.
Bill quickly transitioned to leading GTE’s sports marketing and sponsorship group, where he leveraged his prior roles to understand how to leverage partnership assets in unique ways to produce value for both consumer and B2B target segments. His sales experience offered credibility and improved his productivity when interfacing with business and consumer-related field sales teams.
Balancing the objectives of multiple organizations in this sponsorship role yielded a solid understanding of the company’s overall brand strategy and also improved the effectiveness of sponsorship investment. With this knowledge he was able to determine the best values in a sponsorship package.
Focus on Results: Learn About (and Learn to Like) Data
Having a strong understanding of sales and brand marketing, Glenn decided to extend his skill set (adding research/analytics) and perspective (agency side) in joining The Marketing Arm where he launched the agency’s first Insights and Analytics practice. In this role, he learned how to leverage primary and secondary research and measure program performance using statistical models to help clients understand the impact of marketing strategy and programs. It was a tremendous experience in learning how to find meaningful data points to both support and direct marketing and sales strategy.
Build Value: An Extended Skill Set Yields New Perspectives and Experience
Today, Bill is putting all these skills to use in consulting with brands and sports/entertainment organizations in creating integrated programs and building sales and marketing strategies that make a difference.
Merrill Dubrow, President and CEO of M/A/R/C Research, says, “Bill has a very diverse background having been on both the client and agency side. Very few people have the ability to offer clients sales and marketing expertise, including analytics, as well as an agency/vendor perspective.” Dubrow went on to say, “When dealing with clients, having been one of them, he is able to quickly gather keen insights thanks to this varied experience and perspective.” Dubrow’s comments reinforce how well Glenn knows sales and marketing and how extending your skill set over a career can pay dividends both personally and professionally.
Have Desire: To Learn
As an Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Glenn mentors many students and young professionals. He says, “I just try to get students to think differently. The first 5-10 years of a career should be spent getting a broad base of perspectives and by extending your skill set through experience.”
Glenn says he hears many say they “want to work in sports” but that desire depends heavily on understanding sales and marketing. He continued, “It is much easier for me to teach someone the sports business than it is to teach marketing and sales skills. The latter, for the most part, is developed through experience.”
Glenn also coaches students to concentrate less on who they’re working for and more on the role their current job will play over the course of their career. In other words, what’s your dream and what perspectives and experience will enable you to reach that destination?
“If I had a dollar to spend on marketing why would I spend it on sponsorship?”
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked a variation of that question over the years, I could probably afford a nice presenting sponsorship somewhere.
One of the many challenges facing CMO’s these days is how to best deliver a return on investment on their marketing spend. Unfortunately, sponsorship marketing is one of the least understood marketing channels and it is often one of the first channels to be asked to take a cut when those are necessary.
We marketers could potentially avoid that cut if we’re able to effectively capture (and communicate) our sponsorship return. In order to do so, we have to collect and measure numerous direct and indirect variables. We’ll need to measure the various elements included in exchange for our spend and the broader impact of your activation programs while also having a solid understanding of your market share, target customer, annual & lifetime value and a variety of other internal metrics.
Ultimately, since every sponsorship has different entitlements and each business has different metrics, there’s not one easy way to measure a return. It’s not like some other channels where $1 spent will get me xxx impressions or xx click-throughs.
No Soup For You! Next…
The result of this complicated sponsorship measurement process is that many companies have shied away from trying to truly measure their sponsorship return. In this era of short attention spans and “just bottom-line it for me” management it’s often easier for a Marketing Exec to justify to a CEO that we’re going to spend $XX get this many impressions/clicks or this TV rating or hit these listeners than to try explain the many different variables that should go into capturing sponsorship return.
But I Was Told There Would Be No Math…
If you’re looking for a short, easy response to the question of why sponsorships are valuable, then choose any one (or all) of these: Sponsorships…
Provide our brand with a way to break through the clutter in ways that traditional media can’t do.
Result in getting our customers to buy more product at a higher prices and stay with us longer.
Offers our business a completive advantage and force our competitors to spend more to keep up.
Amplify the results of all our other marketing channels leading to better results overall.
It’s Not Just Tickets and Signs?
No. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some really smart people and together we’ve defined, redefined and refined the various elements that go into measuring sponsorship return for the brands we’ve worked with.
While every business is different there are some “typical” elements that you should be capturing when measuring a return on your sponsorship spend. Here are just a few:
Brand Metrics (Awareness, Preference, Selection) – Numerous studies over the years have shown than sponsorships can move the needle for brand metrics when consumers are aware of the sponsorship. You need to figure out how an increase in any or all of these metrics impacts your revenue?
Traditional Media (TV, Radio, Print, etc.) – What’s the traditional media value of the assets and how did they perform against expectations? This may be the most straight-forward of all of them…
Digital Media (Online, Social, Mobile) – Brands have increasingly stressed the need to engage consumer beyond the stadium. Online, Social and Mobile elements should be part of any activation plan but you should also have a plan for not just tracking but also placing a value on the engagement you get from those elements.
Sales Metrics (Both New & Retained) – How many direct sales did your sponsorship deliver, how many customers did it help to retain? How much money are you saving by keeping the old customers? How did your sponsorship impact the broader market – the people who knew you were a sponsor but didn’t buy directly or right away.
Hospitality – We often measure this in how much did a ticket or the access cost, but you should also consider how valuable the people you’re inviting are and how much additional business you are able to generate from them.
Customer Engagement – None of the other metrics matter much if people don’t know that you’re a sponsor of the property. You should be working to develop activation programs that try to engage the largest possible, relevant audience.
Employee Engagement – Do you use you sponsorship to motivate employees? How much more productivity to you get from employees with higher morale? Does it have an impact on employee retention?
Property Alignment – The property itself can make a difference. You don’t have to be aligned with the biggest and most popular property in your target market but you should be aligned with the right property. You need to understand how the property lines up with your target customer, how you’ll fit in with the property’s other sponsors and how good (or difficult) they are to work with. Any or all of these can impact overall performance.
Again, this list isn’t meant to be an all-inclusive list or the right list for every business. Hopefully, it’s gotten you thinking about how you’re currently measuring your sponsorship ROI and given you some additional ammunition to answer the “$1 to spend” question the next time you’re asked.
This Is Great But How Does This Apply to the Property Side?
Having worked with hundreds of properties and reviewed thousands of proposals, I can probably count on two hands the number of times a property asked me about how we’re going to measure the results. By asking the question and gaining an understanding of exactly what the sponsor is going to measure, properties can help themselves by delivering the assets that are going to drive the best results for the sponsor. A sponsor that can point to a positive ROI on sponsorship spend is more likely to renew or increase their spend than a sponsor that doesn’t have any results to speak of. Just saying…
Thanks for reading. Now it’s your turn. What elements are you measuring to capture sponsorship return?
Dave Notolli, Regional Sales and Marketing Manager at General Motors, has worked for GM for over 30 years. A graduate of Purdue University, Notolli has enjoyed the automotive business from the moment he became a part of it. The automotive business has a unique, challenging aspect to it because of the competition and fast paced environment.
Managing the Escalade brand
Pinned as the first brand manager of GM, Notolli was given the difficult task of promoting the Escalade in the early 1990’s. This proved to be a challenging time for Notolli as he learned different roles and responsibilities.
The goal was to establish Escalade as its own brand. In order to do this, Nottoli said, “I had to try to change the mentality of the company and think of each car line as an individual brand.” Notolli was extremely successful, and the Escalade remains as a leader in the premium SUV category today.
Sponsorships fuel global expansion
Internationally, GM signed a record deal (Reuters estimates the seven-year deal at between $60-70 million a year) as title sponsor of Manchester United. Chevrolet is looking to make a huge push internationally, as its jersey sponsorship with ManU begins in 2014.
Chevrolet is the fastest growing brand in the world right now. Nottoli stated, “It is very important to be a global brand and get global recognition given where markets are growing.”
Regarded as one of the most popular and recognizable soccer teams in the world, Manchester United reaches over 650 million fans worldwide. This new sponsorship is an excellent gateway into growth and sustainability worldwide.
What marketing methods seem to be working best now for GM? Notolli pointed towards two fundamental changes related to digital marketing:
Product: Equipping cars with technology and digital components to reach a younger crowd.
Promotion: GM’s most successful dealerships effectively use digital marketing and promotions and individual GM brands activate through sports & entertainment sponsorships integrated with social media (see Cadillac inset).
Notolli believes team goals always take priority over individual goals. This philosophy contributes to the development of teamwork and collaboration within the GM organization. However, Nottoli believes first and foremost, “We must show integrity in everything we do, being honest and open.”
Nottoli is known for his consistent ethical and moral values as a leader. Ken Mussmann, Chevrolet Field Manager adds, “There are three things about Dave that come to mind when I think about his leadership: First, he is trustworthy. Second, he has an intimate knowledge of the business. And, third, he really cares about the people that work for and with him.”
Stephen Flynn, Chevrolet Marketing Manager believes, “Dave’s work ethic and decision making are always based on his moral compass. Do the right thing, be honest with others, and act with total integrity.”
Differentiating GM from its many competitors is not an easy task. Nottoli regards having great products, customer service, and marketing as the three contributors to making GM stand out among the crowd. Nottoli believes in his product. He put it best when he said, “What’s good for GM is good for America.”
A Christmas Story is one of my favorite classic holiday movies, an opinion likely shared by many of you given how it seems to run 24/7 on TBS during the Christmas season.
As my family gathers around the Christmas tree each year we laugh at the great story about Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the ’40’s who dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun. One of my favorite quotes is a very well known part of the movie, when Ralphie learns an important lesson in life. After working hard to break a secret code that turned out to be a promotion for the product Ovaltine, Ralphie learned that many things we want in life aren’t always “free.”
How did Ralphie react when his “prize” for cracking the code is a commercial? In case you don’t know or forgot, here’s what happened.
Ralphie’s response is an important take away. How do fans react to a “Crummy Commercial” during a sporting event or live show? Pretty much the same way.
What do fans expect?
Fans pay top dollar from their discretionary income to enjoy an event live and in-person. They don’t expect commercial interruptions.
Sherry Cassidy, Vice President of Public Relations at InTouch Credit Union, echoes the philosophy of the Legends,
“The goal for our partnership with the Texas Legends is to maximize a fan’s experience at the game by providing additional games and entertainment, contests, & interaction with the players. They make fans a part of the experience, not just a spectator. It’s important that there are a variety of activities going on during the game… such as the High Five Tunnel, and Fan of the Game, the bounce houses, etc. Being a part of this experience, we create a fun-filled safe environment where parents feel comfortable letting children participate in the activities throughout the arena while they enjoy watching the game.”
Drive by passion
We produced a great season long promotion with FIAT to enhance fan experience and connect fans with a sponsor in a very positive way. A lucky fan received a FIAT 500 during the final home game of the season. Fans entered at each home game for the opportunity to be selected as a finalist to win the car. Fans waited in anticipation each game to see if they were selected as a finalist, keeping them engaged with the promotion and the sponsor during the course of the season. With each finalist invited back to the final home game, they lined up and tried their chance at winning the car. With about 4 finalists to go….we had a winner!
See the video of the giveaway and the fan engagement with the promotion:
You Make the Call!
The Legends also increased their fan experience on TV broadcasts through a social media platform allowing fans to make a play suggestion to the head coach. The coach then selects a minimum of one play per quarter with recognition to the fan whose who submitted the play.
Director of Broadcasting for the Legends, Kyle Judkins adds, “Fans have the opportunity to interact with our broadcast and have a real impact on the outcome of the game. This is such a powerful way to connect a fan with a sponsor with a positive association with the brand in an elevated experience.”
No Ralphie Moments
When a fan has a positive experience with a team they are likely to return more often. When they have a positive experience with a sponsor, they are more likely to try or adopt that brand.
I’m sure we all have had situations where our fans felt like Ralphie. To avoid those in the future, the steps to build partnerships to mutually benefit the sponsor, team and fan are pretty simple:
Remember activation means action. Try to find ways for fans to take action.
Don’t disappoint fans (and sponsors) by running another “crummy commercial” during games.
Develop a creative marketing program to enhance fan experience and engagement with both sponsor and team.