What do Health-care and Craft Beer have in common with Sport? A lot actually…

What do Health-care and Craft Beer have in common with Sport? A lot actually…

There’s been a new trend of unique sponsorships that has slowly made its way into the sport arena. Within the last few years, we have seen businesses in the health care industry (insurance and hospitals) and craft beer industry branch out and become part of the sport branding team. These partnerships may seem odd at first, but when you really think about it, they make complete sense. If we consider “brand alignment” and “fan activation”, and their importance to sponsors, these two industries do have a potential market in sport, as well as having the opportunity to expand their scope and reach new clientele.

Real Life Example: We can see some of these unique sponsorship deals with the NBA patches. In this new NBA three-year patch deal, the Atlanta Hawks have partnered with Sharecare, a “health and wellness engagement platform”. At the surface, this partnership looks odd—what does an online wellness experience app have to do with basketball?—but the mission of the organization is to provide consumers with personalized information, programs, and resources to improve individual health, promoting an active, healthy lifestyle. Basketball is active. Being active is being healthy. BOOM connection.

 

Real Life Example: Move over Budweiser and Heineken; due to the international love for Major League Soccer, craft beer is finding its wat into the sport sector in the United States. Widmer Brothers’ beer Hefe can be found in the Portland Timber’s Providence Park; the Timbers’ logo even graces the bottles of beer. The connection here is an easy one to make—sport people like to drink. Alcohol is a huge revenue boost for many sport venues and teams, so why not make it an even bigger revenue boost and become an official partner or sponsor?

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And who’s to blame for this? MILLENNIALS! If you haven’t heard already, the millennial generation is “killing the beer industry” by becoming more familiar and more obsessed with craft beers and IPAs. I’m sure the baby-boomers will continue to blame us for the lack of Coors Lite in stadiums, but the increase of craft beer sponsorships is actually pretty cool. Most of these beer companies are small, local breweries who are big on community outreach and big on getting their name out there. By partnering with local sport teams (especially MLS with its growing popularity in the U.S.), organizations are able to widen their market, as well as transfer some of their own fans into the sport sector.

Even though some of these new sponsorship deals may seem odd, if  you just take the time to really analyze and really think about sport demographics and market, I think you’ll find that these partnerships are pretty cool and something to look forward to in the future.

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NCAA vs. student-athletes: Post-Northwestern union

NCAA vs. student-athletes: Post-Northwestern union

Back in 2014, history was (nearly) made in college sports when football players from Northwestern University filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to organize a union for student-athletes. Their reasons ranged from low stipends to inadequate medical care, but the student-athletes made the argument that their contribution to the university required proper payment—something they were not seeing with the current scholarships. Soon, this movement was national news: players were wearing APU (All Players United) taped-wrist, the coach public congratulated the players’ courage, and universities across the nation waited to see what would happen to the nature of college sports. All seem to come to a head when in May of that same year, NLRB’s Chicago director ruled that players should be considered employees with collective bargaining rights.

But nothing happened.

During this ruling, Northwestern players were being bombarded with phone calls from former coaches, boosters, and alumnus saying the fight for unionization wasn’t worth it, would do more harm than good, and flat out threatened to cease their efforts or else. They said they players (Colter in particular) were “killing the program” and burning all the bridges the university and the football program provided them. And above everything, the NCAA powerhouse refuse to let up and give the Northwestern football players. Student-athletes were students first, and athletes second; nothing more, nothing less. In the end, the players appealed the regional director’s decision and declined jurisdiction; their reason: it “would not serve to promote stability in labor relations”.

Since then, the idea of paying student athletes has been silenced, but has never really gone away. In 2017, the NRLB again stated that “football players at private universities who compete at the NCAA’s highest level are employees and entitled to protection from unfair labor practices” (Solomon, 2017) but the NCAA pushed back on the general counsel’s remarks. Once again, the organization stated that student who participated in college athletics are in fact students, not employees. This year, the NCAA will make $771 million from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with coaches having an average salary of $3 million dollars (Demby & Gutierrez, 2018), and yet most people believe those student athletes—those who play in the games/tournament that will make almost a billion dollars—should NOT be paid.

There are many factors to be considered when talking about payment:

  • Who gets paid, all sports or just revenue generating?
  • How do we determine payment (salaries or increased stipends)?
  • How do we justify payment between teams and players?
  • Would players be considered state employees/how do we tax that?

These are only a few of the counter points made by critics who believe in the amateurism of college sports. Money is the main focus when we talk about paying college athletes mainly because we’re not really sure who would pay them. It’s no secret that universities around the country don’t have the money, and out of the thousand athletic departments, only 23 generate revenue; 7 actually make a profit ( (Staurowsky & Abney, 2014). According to the NCAA, the money generated from tournaments and bowl games go back to the universities and their respected conferences. The fact is, we don’t know where the money would come from, or how compensation would look like. For now, the ruling stays the same, even after cases like O’Bannon vs. NCAA over the players’ likeness used in a video game, college athletes are primarily students and the NCAA has complete control over their compensation and NIL (name, image, and likeness). At the moment, despite the gaining momentum of the idea of compensation for student-athletes, amateurism remains in college sports.

As for my own opinion, I have found myself in a unique position. I am a student who has been on both sides of the fences. A liberal arts major who has worked with student athletes during half of her college career. I’ve participated in interscholastic athletics and ultimately chose a different path for my high school and college education, but I’ve always kept some type of tie on athletics. That being said, I’ve often believed this matter to be clear cut: student athletes are students playing a sport for a university who are compensated in the form of scholarships. Unfortunately, my argument falters here because not all student athletes receive scholarships. Depending on the institution and the sport, stipends are given to the student-athletes during their time at the university. I had a hard time understanding how student athletes didn’t have enough to eat when they were allotted stipends for their sport participation, but when I became a graduate assistant, I started to understand their struggle.

As a graduate assistant, I’m given little over a thousand a month to live on, while only a portion of my graduate studies is paid for by the university. My total bills average around $950 a month, and that’s cutting every corner and saving every penny. When you’re only paid 9 months out of the year, still owe two thousand on your tuition, and are “highly discourage” from seeking another source of employment, college life can become extremely stressful. Add mandatory workouts, study hall hours, meetings, and practices into that mix you have complete chaos.

I’m not sure how we could do it, but I believe student athletes should receive higher compensation for their athletic participation on our sports teams. Maybe to get around the “employee” title, we could just increase the stipend for our student athletes while providing them with adequate health care during and maybe even after they leave the student-athlete realm.  The NCAA has become a “Big Brother” type figure that seems unbeatable and all-knowing, but I believe due to recent scandals (North Carolina academic fraud and the Adidas scandal) the NCAA has lost faith of the general public. Fans of college sports are demanding change from the organization, and I think we could see some of that change start with student athletes compensation.

Until then, student-athletes are just broke college kids trying to make it work.

References

Demby, G., & Gutierrez, M. P. (2018, March 23). Why Shouldn’t We Pay Student-Athletes?Retrieved from NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/03/23/596132113/why-shouldnt-we-pay-student-athletes

Nocera, J., & Strauss, B. (2016, February 29). Fate of the Union: How Northwestern football union nearly came to be . Retrieved from Sports Illustrated: https://www.si.com/college-football/2016/02/24/northwestern-union-case-book-indentured

Solomon, J. (2017, Feburary 2). NLRB counsel: Football players at private FBS schools are employees. Retrieved from CBS sports: https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/nlrb-counsel-football-players-at-private-fbs-schools-are-employees/

Staurowsky, E. J., & Abney, R. (2014). Intercollegaite Athletics. In P. M. Pederson, & L. Thibault, Contemporary Sport Management 5th edition (pp. 192-213). Human Kinetics.

The Times Editorial Board. (2015, August 26). Why can’t college athletes unionize?Retrieved from Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-ncaa-20150826-story.html

New Signage: The NBA sponsor patches—Tacky or Brilliant?

New Signage: The NBA sponsor patches—Tacky or Brilliant?

Last year, an interesting form of sponsorship made it’s way into the NBA: patches.

Now, I guess this form of sponsorship isn’t too interesting—NASCAR has been covering their cars and drivers with sponsors since its existence, but there’s something odd about this trend entering into the NBA arena. As a sport marketer with a background (and passion) in design and creativity, I find the patches on NBA jersey a bit tacky. I’m not completely sure what irritates me about the 2-2 ½ inch patch, but I find it kind of sloppy and uncreative.

The NBA, a powerhouse in the professional sports, will make about 4 billion dollars this year through ticket sales, television contracts, and sponsorship deals. The main push for these patches is to generate additional revenue for the teams and the NBA. NEVER before in the history of the NBA have the teams worn sponsorship signage. From a sport marketing standpoint, most sponsorship deals are made in the effort to generate revenue for both parties. These brands, though different from the original organization, at some point are made clear and the partnership begins to make sense.

The NBA patches don’t make sense.

Out of the 14 teams who have jersey deals, here are the lists of companies we’ll see during the season:

  1. Sharecare—Atlanta Hawks
  2. General Electric—Boston Celtics
  3. Infor—Brooklyn Nets
  4. Goodyear—Cleveland Cavaliers
  5. Western Union Bank—Denver Nuggets
  6. Flagstar Bank—Detroit Pistons
  7. Rakuten—Golden State Warriors
  8. Harley-Davidson—Milwaukee Bucks
  9. Fitbit—Minnesota Timberwolves
  10. Disney—Orlando Magic
  11. Stubhub—Philadelphia 76ers
  12. Blue Diamond Almonds—Sacramento Kings
  13. Sun Life—Toronto Raptors
  14. Qualtrics—Utah Jazz

These sponsorship deals range from 2.5 to $20 million dollars annually—a huge revenue boost for the NBA, even if nobody has heard of more than half of the companies.

“So, what’s the problem” you may ask, in which I would respond with, “what’s the connection?”

A decent marketer creates partnerships with sponsors that will generate revenues. A great marketer will create partnerships with sponsors that matter and generate connection with fans. My problem with these new sponsorship deals in the NBA is that they seem random, as if the organization is money-hungry for new revenue sources (which maybe they are–attendance is declining). I understand professional sports will always be searching for new revenue streams and always be on the lookout or new opportunities, but how much of an opportunity can be found in a patch on the left shoulder?

Despite my dislike, the brand patches are believed to already be generating a real return on their investments just from social media alone. Since this new sponsorship deal is a first for the NBA, it has sparked interest in fans who have done their own research on the new companies to see why their favorite team have paired with them. Though some seem typical and corporate—Western Union Bank and General Electric—others actually do make sense, like Sharecare, an Atlanta health service, paired with the Atlanta Hawks, or Rakuten, a global innovative company, paired with the Golden State Warriors.

Not all partnerships in this deal are random, but the contract for all of them only last three years. I guess the NBA is waiting to see if the editions to their prized jersey actually make a difference in their ROI. As for me, I guess I’ll try to put my disgust for patches behind me and see how well this sponsorship trend plays out.

The truth behind Higher Education; a response to Declining by Degrees

The truth behind Higher Education; a response to Declining by Degrees

Unknown-1In the documentary Declining by Degrees: Higher Education at Risk, many concerning points presented established the basic argument that “college isn’t what it used to be”; which is true! Before, a college education was for “the elite” or those individuals from upper class families who could afford the time and the money to continue their education. It wasn’t until FDR’s passing of the G.I. Bill—law that provides educational benefits/assistances to services members—that higher education became available to all people, upper and lower class through federal financial assistance. As the documentary goes on, they bring up three points that reveals the risks threatening higher education:

1) the lack of quality, 2) the cost, and 3) the distraction of sports.

THE DOCUMENTARY

In the beginning, the documentary questions the importance of higher education, saying there’s no way researchers are able to study the true impact of a college degree (do students really learn in college?). Immediately, I put up my defenses and was ready to fight—as a product of higher education and a graduate teaching assistant, I completely understood and believed in the philosophy of higher ed and the importance of continuing your education. However, as the video went on, I started to agree with the many points the documentary raised. They talked about how the quality of education students receive today may not be as nice as students received even just a decade ago (this video was filmed around 2008-2009). Professors were interviewed about curving grades and how so much of the universities’ focus in on retention, NOT education.

The second point in the documentary talked about the outrageous cost of tuition. From 1999 to the time this documentary was filmed, Western Kentucky University’s tuition had risen 62%–which is much lower than the tuition I’ve paid since 2012. The documentary gave the perspective of how cost of tuition reinforces the class system, forcing the lower and even middle class to take out huge loans and face potential debt. At this point, we’re introduced to a student from WKU who works fulltime (48hrs per week) and is a full time student. She talks about her struggle to stay awake and to keep up in class due to her intense work schedule, but sees no way around it since it’s the only way she can afford to go to school. We also meet a young woman from Denver who moved to the U.S. when she was 11 form Mexico and was smart enough to get in to NYU, but ultimately opted out of that opportunity and attended community college due to its lower cost. Since colleges and universities are seen as possible revenue generating organizations, government has reduced funding to many universities. This lack of assistance has forced universities to seek funding elsewhere, and many have placed their sights on college athletics.

During the last few decades, the importance of athletics in higher education has sort of taken over the industry, and may have hindered the quality of education all students receive. Our culture’s obsession with college sports have sort of tainted the philosophy or the reason we push people to go to school. The documentary highlighted individuals who we open about their reason for going to college—sports—and revealed just how many student-athletes (who receive FULL tuition scholarships) leave the university after two years to play professional ball. Critics look at all the money being put into this area, and to watch it leave after two years, say the belief of “strong athletic teams equals more money” is wrong and harmful to higher education and its students. By the very end of this documentary, we catch up with the fulltime student and worker from WKU only to learn she could not keep up with the insane pressure, and ultimately transferred to a community college.

MY THOUGHTS

I do believe the higher education system needs to be reworked. I do believe college athletics has taken over the original philosophy of a higher education, but I also believe this argument is way more complicated than we think.

In my short time as a TA, I’ve seen the type of mentality of retention over education. I’m not fighting for tenure, but I am being closely watched on my teaching abilities, which is mainly based on the students’ performance; if the student decides not to perform to the best of their ability, it’s not really seen as their fault but as mine. That being said, it’s not really the professors (or the universities) fault. Most college and universities are public institutions that rely heavily on government support, so when your government is telling you that you will only receive X amount of dollars for X amount of students, you eventually relax on your morals and give in to the system just to stay afloat.

Personally, I believe going to college is more than furthering your education; you’re growing as a human being. The university experience teaches students to become more open-minded, to work hard, be discipline, and to always fight for growth and knowledge. I believe we as a society have become intimated by knowledge and the power of intelligence. We’ve become afraid of discovering that the small world we were born into is not the same world that is waiting for us, and I think the government has played a huge part in that fear.

College is not the same as it once was because times have changed. Yes, we need to get back to our roots and demand the best quality from our institutions, but we also must pay, fund, and appreciate ALL our teachers and professors. We cannot complain about the quality of our education if we (the government, NOT the students) refuse to pay for it. Our professors are being overworked, told to think about keeping students instead of teaching, and are under-appreciated 90% of the time.

This documentary is right on a lot of things (college cost too much, it’s not what it used to be, and there’s too much focus on athletics) but its not the institutions or athletics fault.

It’s ours. We need to demand a better quality of education from out government, not form our educators—they’re ready to teach us, we’re just not ready to do put in the work and pay the price. We need to be bring back the emphasis of education, not sports, to our institutions so we can stop lying to individuals that  this path is for everyone. It’s not. It’s for the hard workers, the dedicated, and dreamers, regardless of income, class, race, or gender. And, believe it or not, athletics should be a part of the university experience. College athletics give individuals amazing opportunity to further their education while playing the sport they love—but we must emphasize the importance of education (think DIII).

I’m making bold statements, but gone are the days were we can tip-toe around the issue. Again, this problem is complicated, but if we want future generations to have the opportunity to rise higher in their education, we must change something.

Social Media vs. Student-Athletes: the risks and complex nature of social media in collegiate sports

Social Media vs. Student-Athletes: the risks and complex nature of social media in collegiate sports

Social media has changed the entire dynamic for amateur athletes and athletic programs. This new, exciting, and always-available technology connects fans to their favorite players, both pro and collegiate. Players can share, inform, and inspire their fans both on and off the court, but when is it all too much?

Social media affects many people career-wise, but it seems to affect student and professional athletes on a larger-scale. Back in 2012, a game between Michigan State and Alabama brought out the worst in MSU players. When MSU linebackers went on Twitter to criticize Alabama’s quarterback after Saturday’s game, it became national news by that Sunday morning. Tweets were deemed “disrespectful” by MSU’s head coach (tweets that said: DENARD IS SOOOO BAD! And it makes me feel so good) and drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty from Mark Dantonio.

In 2017, Baker Mayfield was in the spotlight (again) for commenting on a live Instagram video posted by Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. Using his verified account, Mayfield commented #GetMeToMiami. Now in the professional field, players have less restrictions when it comes to their social media accounts, but the comment still came off a little desperate and unprofessional. Mayfield tried to diffuse the situation by tweeting an explanation:

“Just so everybody knows… I commented about playing for Miami because I was talking to a former Sooner in Kenny Stills. Everybody can relax, I will play anywhere that gives me a chance. I’m not picky, I will go anywhere and strive to uplift a franchise and win ball games.”

But, personally…it was already too late; Mayfield looked desperate.

Social media is a huge, mysterious giant that  has yet to be figured out and fully understood by employers and universities. Oklahoma State University (OSU) Sports Media Show talked about social media in college athletics on O-State TV. The program mentioned that even though there are many opportunities to promote and fundraise directly with fans, there are also many risks when it comes to social media. They talked about how collegiate and pro athletes use social media to brand themselves: 

Professional athletes can share/write/tweet anything on their personal accounts (almost—there are some consequences)

  • Many pro athletes sell their social media outreach/popularity to corporations (hey! I have 2million followers and people will like my tweet of me drinking a soda, sponsor me!)

But college athletes do have restrictions…

  • Student athletes are strongly discouraged posting pictures/tweets that have the potential to harm the university’s image
  • Many departments aren’t sure how to monitor their athletes
  • OSU talked about using 4/5 identity words that can help student-athletes brand themselves (what do they stand for) and then explain to the athletes how that translates online
  • The problem with student athlete social media accounts: Athletes forget to think before they tweet; they don’t realize the whole world has access to their accounts

The OSU program explained a risk of social media—it can potentially jeopardize the safety of student-athletes

  • Athletes often give too much info
  • “Think before you post”
  • Departments suggest student-athletes turn off their “Location” setting on the iPhone

Like I stated before, most programs monitor student-athletes’ accounts, but there has been some negative backlash on that

  • Social Networking Online Protections Act (SNOPA): athletic departments can’t…
    • Have a student-athlete turn over their password to social networks
    • Require athletes to log on in front of a coach or administrator
    • Require athletes to ‘friend’ their coaches (or accept the coach’s request to follow)
    • Use monitoring software
    • Use an athlete’s friend page to monitor the athlete’s page

So, how does the compliance office deal with social media violations/potential threats?

  • Athletic departments teaches student athletes how to handle social media
    • Don’t post anything about drinking, getting free stuff, or anything unprofessional or that will put the university in a bad light
  • Monitoring interactions can be difficult; so many athletes, so many accounts
  • Compliance office acts as a liaison between the NCAA and athlete; they try to protect them from a violation
    • FUN FACT: NCAA can regulate speech without violating the law because it a voluntary association

Social media can also have an effect on college recruiting:

  • Outside influences (fans, boosters, employees) can use social media to try ans recruit HS players
  • Only a coach is allowed to recruit
  • Other people can’t contact recruits—even on twitter (this is actually a NCAA violation)
    • That being said, the NCAA is not too concerned by a mere fan tweeting a potential recruit for a university; they draw the line at current players and/or boosters

Because of all the craziness of social media, some universities have talked about (or implemented) a Social Media Ban. Is that right?

  • People say a ban means players would end up being punished for social media use
  • Others say programs need to be monitoring athletes because they represent the university
    • Hootsuite is often used to monitor the accounts (a social media program that allowed the user to see all social media accounts on one platform)
  • Athletic Departments advice: Keep it professional; hold yourself at a higher standard than the regular college student

By the end of the program, the OSU Sports Media staff debated on who had the actual power to decide on a social media ban. The first amendment is often thrown into the debate when they talk about banning student-athletes from social media, but since the NCAA is a voluntary organization, the situation doesn’t really fall under the amendment. That being said, bills like SOPA do represent the legal risk that follow universities who do ban social media from their athletes. Universities need to be reminded that they do not own the students, not matter how much money they spend on the players.

Overall, social media is a unique, powerful tool that the NCAA,  universities, and their student athletes need to become more aware of. As our culture becomes more available online, these institutions need to decide just how to handle the things their players say online WITHOUT violating their freedom of speech. At the same time, players need to realize the power of their social status and learn how to be more professional online, while still maintain a sense of privacy and freedom when it comes their personal social media accounts.

 

References 

Beasley, A. H. (2018, January 19). Baker Mayfield’s draft wish? #GetMeToMiami. Retrieved from Miami Hearld: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/nfl/miami-dolphins/article195450189.html

Greenstein, T. (2012, September 04). Spartans’ mocking tweets draw coach’s ire. Retrieved from Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-04/sports/ct-spt-0905-big-ten-football–20120905_1_tweets-urban-meyer-danny-hope

Steinbach, P. (2012, October ). Schools Attempt to Control Athletes’ Social Media Use. Retrieved from Athletic Business: https://www.athleticbusiness.com/schools-attempting-to-control-athletes-use-of-social-media.html

University, O. S. (Director). (2013). OSU Sports Media Show–Social Media in College Athletics[Motion Picture].

Sport Marketing Tips!

Sport Marketing Tips!

Spot Marketing is a unique field mainly because sport is unique.

Think about it: we are the only marketers whose product is produced and consumed simultaneously; it’s intangible, based more on emotion than logic, and all about the fan experience rather than the sporting event itself. Our unique marketing characteristics provide us marketers with unique opportunities and challenges than can make sport marketing a complex and dynamic field to work in (yay us!).

According to Ramiro Lehera, there are 5 essential tips that sport marketers should implement in their marketing campaigns in order to obtain successful marketing. In this post, we will cover those tips while giving examples of sport campaign that accurately uses all five of the tips.

The company of choice: Proctor & Gamble Olympic commercials “Thank You, Mom”

The first tip Lehera give us is Know your product—what makes your product different; what it’s unique selling point? Lehera says that most of the time, our selling point is going to be an emotional one—this is true for Proctor & Gamble. This consumer-goods company on the surface has no ties to sports, but almost every Olympics, they produce a sport marketing campaigns celebrating our mentors who have been there since day-one: Moms.

These “Thank you, Mom” campaigns really pull on the heart strings while showcasing the strength and sacrifice our Olympic athletes and their families display during their Olympic journey. This emotional twist gives P&G a competitive advantage over other companies who are also sponsors for the Olympic games. P&G’s emotional pull is why they attract consumers.

The second tip Lehera gives us is Know your consumer—where are they and how can you find them; can you define your target audience? P&G services a wide range of people, so wide in fact that they are bound to have sport fans in their mix. By working with the Olympics, P&G is showing their audience that they care about other things than household goods—they care about people.

The third tip is Know your market. What are those key aspects that will allow you to have success? Is the fact that P&G is so willing to be a sponsor for a sporting event give them the advantage over their competitors? Does the P&G logo when affiliated with another sporting event, team, or player expand the company’s market in both scale and scope? These are questions you should ask yourself when you look into your own market and how well you can showcase your brand and product.

The fourth (and maybe even the most important) tip Lehera mentions is Build team culture—a successful marketing campaign takes a team effort. Lehera states that a marketing team should be ran in a motivated atmosphere, and based on trust. Without this team as a foundation, it will be much harder to implement a successful campaign.

The last tip Lehera gives us is to Bring your passion—be passionate about what you are doing and have a clear professional and personal goal and where you want to go. “Thank you, Mom” campaigns show P&G audience their dedication to sports and the Olympics. I know Lehera says you have to be passionate what you’re doing—and I would agree—but I would also tack on that marketers need to show that they are committed and dedicated to their doings outside of the company.

 

Take these five tips and use them to form your own successful sport marketing campaign, and who knows, maybe we’ll be watching your commercials during the Olympics!

Four Sponsorship Trends you NEED to know!

Four Sponsorship Trends you NEED to know!

When we talk about acquiring sponsorships and forming partnerships, we must realize the trends in the industry that could have a major impact on our dealings. Being in Sport Marketing, our jobs are marketers can be unique; it may require us to be creative, innovative, and strategic with our sponsorships and the way we form our partnerships with different brands. In this post, we will talk about four major trends—according to Senior Vice-President of IEG Jim Andrews—that will have major impact on our sponsorships. These trends seem simple, but once we dive deeper into their meanings, we will discover just how clever and effective these trends are becoming.

The first trend is about Story-telling. Before, telling a simple story through brand recognition was enough for consumers to become interested in the product (whether that be an event, an actual product, or an experience). Now, we have to do more with our sponsorships than just telling a story. It’s important to have a story about a brand, to get the consumer interested in the product or event you’re trying to market, but it’s even more important to nurture stories told by others. Our consumers are networked—this means they are already in-tuned with what’s going on and with the stories we’ve already been telling. The days of having a 1-on-1 conversation with consumers are gone. Thanks to social media and the digital age, consumers have become story-tellers/collaborators—they share all the things they find interesting, relevant, or noteworthy on their own social networking pages.

Therefore, it is our job to create stories that consumers would want to share AND enable their stories—stories we don’t own but stories that they’ve co-create with us. By doing this, our consumers become brand-ambassadors; they represent, advertise, and market our product for us! An awesome example of a company who uses this type of story-telling would be Coca Cola; their “liquid and linked” strategy entails multiple stories that Unknown.pngencourage sharing and support its “Open Happiness” campaign. In Jim Andrews’ presentation, the VP shows a Coca Cola ad about soccer celebrations—the ad plays different soccer players’ goal celebrations, giving off a happy, exciting vibe—and end the ad with someone drinking a coke with the tag line” show us your own celebration. Overall, this ad tells a create story that is shareable and exciting to watch, but the best part of the commercial was Coke asking consumers to upload their viewers’ celebrations. The ad with the fans’ celebrations was shared MORE than the original ad!

The second trend mentioned had to do with Exploitation—changing the conversation around exploiting/leveraging for your own needs by using your assets to serve others. In this trends, it’s important to examine the value of sponsorships. It’s no longer about creating value for the company, but about how we create value for the consumer. A good example of this would be purpose-based brands or purpose based partnerships, like Proctor % Gamble Company. Going back to the London Olympics in 2012, P&G gave backUnknown-1 90% of their Olympic tickets to the consumers and/or public. Coca Cola is a great company that uses their assets to serve their consumers. In a Coca Cola Portugal ad, Coke announced that they would close their own corporate box and created a “dorm” where fans could come and spend the night—24hrs—at the arena! The most important thing to remember about this trend, that both P&G and Coca Cola have shown us, is that it’s not about pushing our products on consumers, but serving them in ways that makes their lives easier (or at least, entertaining).

The third trend is Engage—no longer is it enough to engage with consumers, but we need to create a sense of belonging. Brands need to become part of the community and help consumers to belong! Take a look at your partnerships and ask “what are we doing to help our consumers belong?” A good example of a company that actively engages with their consumers is Heineken. The beer company did some research on their consumers to see how they find a sense of belonging when it came to sporting events. They found out that many of their consumers were watching games (soccer) by themselves and wanted a way to connect with others who enjoyed the same game they did. This led them to creating a social gaming app that lets soccer fans interact and compete with each Unknown-2other while watching televised matches (how cool!!). They’ve also done this with music—at a Poland music festival, Heineken discovered that people go to music festivals to 1) enjoy music, but 2) to meet new people. Knowing this, Heineken set up a tent that helped festival attendees create stick-able QR codes that told fun, personal messages about the individual, encouraging people to scan each other and get to know one another. The idea was a hit!

The fourth trend is what Jim Andrews called Activate—this means to go beyond activating a partnership; think about HOW do we create these partnership. Get innovative! Andrews notes that Activate impacts all the other trends. Basically, don’t do the “same things” or the things you’re used to/expected to do—it doesn’t help anyone, especially you! An example of this would be the Swiss watch company Hublot.Unknown-3 This company stepped out of the luxury brand sponsorships (tennis and sailing) and got involved with sports that catered more to the masses ( so like soccer and football); they wanted to reach younger people and expand their brand. It was the first luxury brand to sponsor soccer, but most importantly, it used the megaphone of sports to promote a cause instead of its own brand. Hublot gave a nonprofit “say no to racism”  their sign boards to promote their cause during a game instead of advertising watches.

 

Overall, the most important thing to remember about sponsorships and our trends is to be unique and be different. Think about how to be unique in what you sponsor, with consumer insights, and in the way you activate your partnerships!