by Drew Mitchell – April 2014
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?