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.
It’s not news that traditional advertising reaches fewer people and fails to cut through the ever-increasing noise in our daily lives due to the fragmentation of the media ecosystem and, for those of us willing to admit it, an ever-shortening attention span.
A silver lining for marketers is that sports marketing offers a unique opportunity to engage consumers around a common and, in many cases, deep passion. But simply opening the checkbook and sending your brand’s logo in various file formats to your local team’s marketing department isn’t the answer. Sports partnerships forge a deeper relationship than mere sponsorships by delivering benefit around agreed-upon business objectives that create value for both parties. So what can brands do to ensure they approach a sports marketing opportunity as a true partnership?
What makes a true partnership?
Establish KPIs & stick to them
First, do your homework before signing a contract. It’s critical to identify the primary business objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) upon which success will be determined. Having a clear understanding of what matters most about your brand to your target audience will help you negotiate the assets and activation opportunities that will create true engagement. In too many cases a brand aligns with the CEO’s alma mater or favorite team that may not resonate with the people you’re trying to influence.
Integrate with the annual marketing plan
Once you’ve inked the deal, support the partnership with the full power of your annual marketing plan. Identify all potential channels that can effectively deliver the message you’d like consumers to play back, especially broadcast and social media. Don’t forget to include and leverage your internal audiences, from front line employees to the C-Suite. This will help ensure universal buy-in and support from all stakeholders within the organization.
Signing the deal isn’t the hard part. Negotiating the partnership cost and assets is just the beginning. Set aside adequate budget and resources to bring the partnership to life via on-site and multi-channel activation. Otherwise you’ll be treating the opportunity like a sponsorship (not a partnership) and will leave most of the potential value on the table.
Once the partnership is active, engage! Your brand’s involvement and support will demonstrate you care about the team and its success. Create and distribute content that links your brand to the team, thereby leveraging fan affinity and giving consumers another reason to care about your brand. Look for ways to authentically engage fans in interactive experiences that leave clear memories they will want to share with others.
Finally, take the time to periodically measure, refine and optimize the partnership. Building in flexibility during the initial contract negotiation will allow you to enhance and extend the elements that deliver value to the bottom line and eliminate those that do little to move the needle. In true partnerships, both the property and the brand care about delivering measurable success consistent with the KPIs established at the onset.
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.
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.
Why should brands pay for the rights to be an anchor sponsor of an NFL, MLB, or NASCAR property? Can these properties defend their rate cards that afford brands the rights to communicate with their fans via the property’s venue, television, radio, website, social media, special events, and logos/marks?
“We have been very successful showing the success of sponsorship to build brand equity, and in turn firm value, which has been harder for those trying to use impressions to capture ROI.” ~Anne Rivers, SVP, Global Director of Brand Strategy, BAV Consulting
Sponsorships activate the brand in the minds of passionate fans across multiple channels to achieve brand objectives. If it were just about buying media and exposures to gain a particular audience, there are typically cheaper (CPM) options than sponsorships. But, exposures can be important, because it gives some idea about the potential to reach passionate fans. What it doesn’t tell us is if they are paying attention.
So, the question becomes less about media and more about meaning.
Brand managers are smart. They know single exposures (or even a few) of a brand message have no meaningful impact on consumers. They know people pay more attention when they are highly engaged and passionate, which is what people are about their favorite sports, teams, and players. They also know consumers think, feel, and act more positively toward a brand if the message is received and reinforced through multiple channels.
This brings us to the sponsorship question of the day: Is paying the property for the rights to use their assets worth it?
Evidence for rate card support
[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ] “Brands have had an overwhelmingly positive response to our analytical approach to measurement. Our ability to provide our partners with measurable, goal-oriented results is invaluable and allows us to truly be a solutions provider.” ~ Matt Webb, Director, Corporate Partnerships, Cleveland Browns[/dropshadowbox]After years working with brands such as AT&T, TXU Energy, HEB, and a variety of other brands in cooperation with The Marketing Arm, this past year I began working with clients in NASCAR, MLB, and the NFL to determine if anchor sponsors receive more bang for the buck than mid or lower level sponsors.
We learned two simple lessons that we’ll complicate with colored charts and graphs.
#1 Attendance means nothing. Engagement means everything.
Fans can spend up to 36 hours over three days at a NASCAR racing event. And many do. But the number of hours at the track has no significant correlation with whether or not fans recognize the activation of brands like Ford, Coke, Sprint, and SpeedTV. Instead, it’s the frequency of engagement with sponsors–which we measured using RFID tags connecting fans with sponsor activation locations–that predicts whether or not fans distinguish the brand as a sponsor and not its competitors.
#2 More channels increase relative brand equity.
With our partner, BAV Consulting, we measure a brand’s energized differentiation (see inset) for not only the sponsor, but also competing brands who may be sponsors or ambushers. In short, sponsors routinely outperform non-sponsors (see our MIT Sports Analytics paper). But, what about anchor sponsors versus secondary sponsorships?
Working with our NFL and MLB team partners, we compare multiple categories of anchor versus secondary sponsors in terms of fans’ recognition of the sponsors’ use of property assets: stadium signage, stadium messages, special game promotions, website, social media, television, radio, and use of team marks in advertising/POP.
If you’re the kind of stats nerd that attends and understands the data analytics presentations at the MIT or Wharton conferences where we’ve presented, then the charts below are for you. If not, here it is in words:
Activation not exposures. How often the fan attends, watches or listens to games increases the odds of recognizing the brand’s sponsorship activation (the green boxes), but does not have a direct effect on the brand’s energized differentiation (the red boxes). This reinforces our NASCAR findings: Just being there doesn’t count. The brand must be activated in the minds of the fans.
Multi-channel communication. The greater the multi-channel activation among the property’ eight assets, the greater the energized brand differentiation of the sponsor (dark green boxes).
Anchors = activation. Fans recognize anchor sponsor communications across more channels than they do for mid-level or low-level sponsors in the same categories (tan boxes). In other words, the additional assets pay off with greater activation of the brand among fans.
Brand equity effects. For the eight categories we tested, each additional effective channel increases energized brand differentiation by 6-7% (the regression equation in Table 2 is an example of one anchor sponsor for the NFL team). Overall, the number of effective channels explains over 90% of a brand’s asset value in the minds of fans. This is a big number.
Some might still say, “So, what? Where’s the big payoff?” We’re glad you asked.
Consistent with our findings in each category, the chart below shows what happens to market share among those fans who recognize activation across multiple channels between the anchor sponsor and the low-level sponsor in the same category.
Both sponsors are national brands with otherwise strong brand equity according to BAV Consulting. But, the payoff for being the anchor sponsor for the NFL team brings substantive market share increases (4.4% ) for each additional effective channel.
If your team or brand would like to learn more, please tweet (@kirkwakefield) below or email. Happy to help!
In recent times, PowerPoint presentations WERE considered trend setting and innovative. But, as we all know we live in a rapidly changing technology driven world. What was once standard is now being quickly replaced by anything digital teams can get their hands on.
Digital budgets are one of the fastest growing line items in franchise budgets. The standards are rapidly changing for how teams want to PITCH and go after sponsorship dollars. This is really why Sportsdigita decided to help teams in the sports sponsorship space with the creation of the Digideck platform.
After leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning and starting Sportsdigita, I have seen a growing trend of teams, venues and leagues wanting to do m
ore with their branding, story and presentation decks. With two years in the making, we’ve basically built an entire company on teams wanting to better present themselves and be more creative in going after sponsorship dollars. And now, we’ve provided them with an innovative vehicle to do just that.
The need for strategic integration
Organizations already have all the assets, inventory and history. We help them strategize and put it all under one interactive digital umbrella. This kind of integration forces a team or venue to rethink what they have done for so long and really hone in on the story they are trying to tell and why someone should partner with them.
“The Digideck platform provides an innovative solution for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment,” said Christy Grady, Vice President of Partnership Marketing. “The Digideck provides a dynamic solution for telling the Kroenke Sports & Entertainment story to our prospects and current partners. We are able to provide significant insight into each of our team’s brands and potential partnership opportunities giving people a true sense of just how powerful it can be to partner with multiple KSE properties across different platforms.”
No more flying solo
At first, the strategic process can seem overwhelming, but once our partners immerse themselves in the process and start to understand the end goal and see the finished product – it all becomes worth it. The complete Digideck provides a highly branded unified message that is presented the same way by all salespeople with a blessing from the entire organization. The days of the lone salesperson recreating each and every deck by cutting and pasting logos themselves with possibly outdated branding is now a thing of the past.
The Digideck is a very cutting edge leading interactive alternative to traditional presentations. It’s a first-of-its-kind digital platform that allows for the inclusion of award-winning design, video, motion graphics, analytics and 360-degree game day panoramas of in-venue sponsor inventory using our own groundbreaking logo integration technology.
Leading the way to sponsorship revenue
The Digideck is now used in every major pro league with 60-plus professional teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Stars, NASCAR, Cleveland Indians, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Timberwolves, San Jose Sharks, Dallas Mavericks, and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. These clients take advantage of the many features of the Digideck shown below (click on picture to pause).
If you are interested in bringing your partnership inventory and story to life, feel free to explore further on our website or contact us HERE for more information.
Katy Gager (Baylor S3 ’08) is a Senior Account Executive at The Marketing Arm an agency based in Dallas, Texas. She represents and manages AT&T’s brand through corporate sponsorship of professional & collegiate sports properties in the Southeast Region.
Willing to move
Katy transferred to Baylor for the S3 program to begin her junior year. One of three transfers in the class, Katy was torn between UT and Baylor when deciding to transfer. Gager felt like Baylor was home and believed the S3 program gave her the best opportunity to start a successful career in sports. After moving halfway across the country from California, Gager experienced challenging projects through the curriculum from selling tickets for the Rangers (back in their losing days) to presenting sponsorship ideas for the AT&T Challenge.
Finding Her Niche
Gager quickly found she enjoyed the relationship focus in the field of sponsorship. All S3 majors are given a DISC assessment (DiSC Profile Website) to determine their own personal behavioral style and what types of careers are likely to fit them best. Katy has a high Steadiness trait, which “place[s] an emphasis on cooperating with others within existing circumstances to carry out the task <ref>DiSC Profile Steadiness Overview</ref>.” Being a high S and having a more conscientious, detail-oriented personality helped make Katy a great fit for contributing to an agency sponsorship team.
Gager started her career at The Marketing Arm (TMA) in Dallas working on the Insights and Analytics team. She had the opportunity to work with over 25 different accounts including AT&T, State Farm and Frito Lay conducting research for each brand related to their sponsorships with properties nationwide. After becoming an account executive for TMA, she was able to pull from her knowledge of the brands objectives and her research background to manage programs for AT&T that would yield results and drive sales.
Eric Fernandez, Senior Vice President of MEDIALINK LLC, says,
“Katy is a great example of an S3 student who seized the opportunities presented to her. While the S3 program prepared her for entering the sports marketing business, her work ethic, positive “can do” attitude and natural curiosity have contributed to her professional growth and advancement. She’s achieved quite a bit in a short time and continually is a model representative of the S3 program.”
High praise also comes from Travis Dillon, Vice President of Activation and Property Management at The Marketing Arm.
“Katy is one of our rising stars at TMA. She has been an integral part of our national college football program the past 2 years with AT&T and ESPN College GameDay and is quickly establishing herself as a leader on the team. In addition, her insights and analytics background make her a valuable strategic asset to the team since day one.”
This work ethic, “can do” attitude and natural curiosity led to a recent promotion to Senior Account Executive.
Approach to Networking: Sports is a small industry. No matter where you are or have been, your name and personal brand will come up again with come up again. Continue to build your personal brand equity.
Be a Problem Solver: Look for different areas of your client’s business and your business to solve problems all across the board. Be known as someone who finds solutions.
Have a Great Attitude: Be a team player with a positive attitude when approaching all projects, including that those aren’t exactly your favorite.[/dropshadowbox]
S3 Spotlight on alumni and board members[/dropshadowbox]
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