Successful sales teams build strong relationships. Client relationships are important. Building strong relationships within the company and specifically with the marketing department is also important. Marketers support revenue generating goals by crafting a strong and memorable message, building an effective and integrated promotional plan, and reaching beyond the typical target audience.
The sales staff and management can work effectively with the marketing team to maximize sales and revenue by following these five guidelines:
Build a relationship. As with any coworker, build a rapport with your marketing contact so you aren’t only reaching out when you need something. Show an interest in his or her job and learn what responsibilities s/he has. Encourage them to get familiar with your role as well.
Share your strategy. Let marketing know your goals. What does success looks like for each project? In general, salespeople and marketers provide unique perspectives on the same task. Inter-department collaboration on a marketing and sales plan will encourage teamwork and promote an understanding of each other’s goals.
Get a point person. At the Mavs, a marketing position serves as the primary liaison for ticket sales creative and promotional requests. The marketing contact collaborates with ticket sales and gains a thorough understanding of their needs while maintaining final creative approval. It also encourages a sales focused perspective when making marketing decisions such as theme nights, promotions, premium items, etc.
Plan ahead. One of the most important factors in creating a successful marketing campaign is preparation. Sales employees are sometimes shocked to learn the lead time required to send a seemingly simple message. Many moving pieces need to be coordinated internally before going public. Marketing needs time to design graphics, create messaging, schedule promotions and advertisements, and ensure accuracy before moving forward. Messages can change quickly during a season, so it is important to prioritize major or recurring sales goals in advance to ensure that these messages get necessary time and attention.
Keep open lines of communication. Marketing contacts are usually the most informed on the upcoming communication priorities across the organization. Be sure to include at least one marketing contact in your annual planning and relevant department meetings. Keep them up-to-date on your upcoming priorities. This will allow them to integrate fresh sales messages into promotional schedules and recommend additional sales opportunities throughout the year that might otherwise be overlooked.
Although we work in different departments, we are all on the same team. It’s everyone’s job to sell tickets, “put butts in seats,” generate revenue, drive fan engagement and create memories. Help us help you (and hopefully you’ll help us too).
The Dallas Mavericks’ George Killebrew, the San Antonio Spurs’ Jeanne Garza and Baylor IMG’s Brian George shared advice and experiences in the sponsorship field at the Baylor S3 Club meeting on October 8th. Courtesy of Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports 1, we also provided some lucky Baylor S3 club members with court side seats at the Dallas Mavericks preseason game against the Pacers.
Why should students pursue a career in sports?
All three panelists spoke about the “diversity” of opportunities that selling sponsorships affords people. Sponsorship sales takes people outside the office, learning the inner workings of a range of businesses from “mom and pop stores to traditional giants” as Brian George put it. George Killebrew said it was great for people who enjoy “learning something new” every day.
On the other hand, the group warned of the long days that come with the job. Jeanne Garza said it’s important to remember that “it’s not what you see on ESPN.” Killebrew reminded everyone that “other jobs are more of a nine to five, Monday to Friday deal, and sports can always be a hobby. But, when the team schedule comes out for the year, it pretty much plans my life for the next few months.”
Getting into corporate partnerships
Killebrew’s advice for those interested in selling sponsorships was to gain experience in “multi-dimensional sales” like in the media field, where packaging groups of inventory for clients is more complex than selling individual products. Jeanne Garza suggested selling air at radio stations, since it’s more promotion-driven than TV, hence more like selling sponsorships for properties. Brian George underscored the need to be able to think outside the box. “We sell ideas, concepts and beliefs. Clients must know you have their best interests at heart.”
Women in sports
Jeanne Garza believes that opportunities for women in the field have grown significantly. She cautioned that women still have to be particularly careful in how they present themselves and in separating their professional and personal lives.
George Killebrew believes the talent pool today is much larger, and that the leadership teams he’s seen that included women were much more effective.
Career advice for students
Killebrew said that those wishing to enter the field need to be comfortable “introducing themselves and telling people what they want to do.”
He also said that a good resume is simply a “blueprint for telling your story, and a guide for our discussion” in the interview process.
Jeanne Garza made a case for cover letters because they’re a great way to show why you’re unique and a great fit for a position. She also added that any errors in the resume or cover letter are reason enough to not consider a candidate.
Brian George emphasized the importance of building relationships, especially in a small industry like sponsorship sales. Even if you just meet someone new and go to dinner with no immediate job prospects, you should still write a hand-written thank you note.
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!
As George Killebrew has taught us, you’re always learning in this business, assuming you want to stay in this business. So, after breaking into sponsorship sales with the Dallas Mavericks, I began collecting helpful tips for those of us who are the new kids on the sponsorship block.
#1. Manage Your Expectations
“Understand that this process is a marathon, not a sprint. Deals take time to develop.” -Guy Tomcheck, Director of Corporate Partnerships, Texas Rangers
Sellebrate: Celebrate the successes of sales regardless of the price tag.
Be a “grinder.” Look yourself in the mirror each day and ask yourself, am I 1% better than the day before?
Be an “explorer.” Don’t be afraid to explore new categories, create a new activation piece, or use fan data to engage with fans differently through your partnership.
#2. Start to Develop Your Personal Brand
Ask yourself: How am I different from those around me? Define your own brand, style, and the way you carry yourself. Dan Migala shared an insight he learned from Ted Phillips, President and CEO of the Chicago Bears, who said, “Find the uniqueness of your own voice. Don’t try to conform to others.”
#3. Take a Story-Telling Approach
Tell someone a story you aspire to have happen to you.
Have a “reference story” for different categories of business or situation (ex: community relations initiative, quick serve restaurant activation story, in-game promotion, etc.). Show you’ve done your homework.
My inspiring reference story? Someday I want to create a deal like Dan Migala did when he changed the start time of the White Sox games to 7:11 to tie in with the 7-Eleven sponsorship. I want to make a game-changing deal!
#4. Believe You Belong
“Don’t get caught up in others’ titles (CEO, VP Sales, etc.). Focus on building a mutually respectful relationship.” ~ Brian George, General Manager, Baylor IMG Sports Marketing.
Make others feel like they belong: When you are out in public, never discount someone you meet and how they may can help you in some way someday.
What do you think?
If you’re the new kid on the sponsorship block or the experienced manager or executive, what tips would you give me? I’m always willing to learn!