Sponsors: Take care of your current customers

September 22, 2011

Sponsors are constantly looking for ways to better improve their activation at sporting events and every decision seems to revolve around acquiring new customers and seeing an ROI. One of the best tactics is to use the event to take care of your current customers, and increase the prestige of being part of the brand. BMW is one the brands that is taking full advantage of this tactic.

BMW has partnered with Big Ten Sports Properties  to become the conference’s official luxury automobile. As a reward to their customers, fans arriving to the season’s inaugural Big Ten football championship game in a BMW will be given their own reserved parking spots close to Lucas Oil Stadium.  BMW will also establish a similar preferred parking program at many of the conference’s championship events including Men and Women’s Basketball, Baseball, and Olympic Sports. BMW has also wisely created a similar system at golf tournaments on the PGA and European tours.

Speaking of the PGA, another brand that employs this method well is American Express. AmEx’s activation centers around taking care of the card members and allows them access to PGA professional that non card members could only dream of. At the U.S. Open Championship, American Express offered card members free headphones and radios to listen to all the day’s action, just for showing their card.

American Express has also enabled the PGA to start a “Friend of a Card Member” that allows anyone paying for a golf lesson with an AmEx card to bring a friend and get a lesson for free.  Another program called “Championship Tees” enables card members to have access to courses that have previously hosted PGA or USGA championships. It’s clear that American Express knows how to take advantage of sporting events.

Sometimes, it pays for a sponsor to take care of their own rather than spend wildly to attract attention. Not only can the company save money, but with a carefully crafted activation, they can create a buzz and turn their own customers into their best marketers.


Better Sponsorship. Better Activation. Papa John’s.

September 7, 2011

Many sponsors have scrambled to put together a successful campaign as soon as the NFL resumed business, and you would be hard pressed to do a better job than Papa John’s has. With a large influx of eyeballs in such a short amount of time, the official pizza sponsor of the NFL took full advantage.

To build the brand’s loyalty program, Papa Reward members (already 1,000,000 strong), and new fans who sign up at PapaJohns.com will be put in a drawing to receive one of 60,000 free pizzas each week during the regular season. Marketing for the promotion includes digital advertising on NFL.com, both home page and banners, social media, e-mail, and in-store marketing. However, the most noteworthy banner placement is in NFL.com’s Fantasy Football Draft rooms. With at least two drafts per minute, ten to twelve users per draft, and drafts lasting for at least an hour, Papa John’s was able to gain countless impressions that has given them and edge among brands before the NFL season has even started.

Well played Papa John’s, Marketers will be sure to keep an eye on your campaign among the many in-season promotions.

Toyota – Social Network

July 7, 2011

Very 2011 – no car mention, only Facebook references. Intelligent Marketing or missing the point?

NBA Players to Europe

July 7, 2011

Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets is reportedly planning to play in Turkey if the NBA lockout is not settled by the Fall. Other notable players entertaining the idea of playing in Europe include the Atlanta Hawks’ Zaza Pachulia, Kobe Bryant, and the Knicks duo of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. The idea of NBA players playing in Europe has been debated and dissected by numerous TV shows, radio shows, and analysts across the industry with every concern cited from safety to ability to adapt.

Thinking with the sponsorship hat on, I believe it would be advantageous for stars of the NBA to compete in Europe from a business standpoint. Players would be able to showcase their personal brand, and the Nike’s and Reebok’s of the world would be able to leverage their high-profile athletes in a brand new global setting.

[As an aside, consider this a tip of the cap to WNBA. While most are compelled to compete abroad for financial reasons, one has to admire their willingness to put it all on the line. As of March 2011, 92 players from all 12 teams are competing in a dozen countries all over the world. See the full map where all WNBA players are competing here.]

Interactive McMarketing

June 23, 2011


McDonald’s created a brilliant billboard in the city of Stockholm, Sweden. This “Pick ‘n’ Play” campaign was experimental but returned huge results for the company.

As you see in the video, users connect with the billboard using their smartphone, without having to download additional software (big perk!) The user is prompted to pick their favorite McDonald’s snack to begin, and then play a game of pong on the billboard using their smartphone to control their paddle. If the user wins the game, a coupon for a free snack that they chose is sent straight to their phone.

Team executives would be wise to follow this excellent interactive marketing strategy and apply the concept to their home stadiums. Those tailgating or entering the stadium would gladly participate and play the game on the billboard, especially if they could get something for free out of it. Team sponsors can creatively integrate their product or service into the game, and teams would have the option to rotate every game or series to maximize their partnerships and revenue opportunities.

Foursquare and American Express team up; Sports implications?

June 23, 2011

Foursquare and American Express announced a deal today wherein rewards and incentives will get even better. Users will be able to sync their Foursquare and AmEx accounts where they will receive exclusive discounts and saving at specified locations. For example, shoppers who check in on Foursquare at H&M will recieve a $10 credit to their AmEx account when they spend $75. If you spend $50 at Sports Authority, you will receive a $20 reward. This partnership has great potential and has already created a buzz after an initial test at SXSW back in March involving a “spend $5, get $5” deal.

If used properly, this type of partnership could have big implications on professional sports teams and their use of location-based apps such as Foursquare, Gowalla, or Whrrl. After a proper sync with a team and/or league, there are many possibilities to leverage this type of relationship.


  • Season-Ticket holders receiving credits to an account for every check-in at the game, redeemable at the game or for future ticket purchases with the team (and who wouldn’t want to be the ‘mayor’ of Yankee Stadium?)
  • “Booth of the night” – One sponsor/vendor’s booth is pre-determined by the team each game, and the first fan to check-in at said booth wins credit to store and a shout-out with sponsor on stadium scoreboard (Ex: $25 to Jimmy’s BBQ.)

Out of Stadium

  • Every fan check-in at a team’s sponsor leads to money redeemable at the stadium (Ex: St.Louis Rams fan checks in at U.S. Bank, receives $10 to spend at Edward Jones Dome.)
  • Every fan check-in at a league’s sponsor will allow them to receive cash back if they pay with league’s credit card (Ex: NFL-Visa, NBA-American Express, MLB-Mastercard.)

This American Express/Foursquare is only the tip of the iceberg, but I think it is safe to assume that location-based apps are here to stay, and it will be exciting to see how they can be integrated into sports business.

MLB en español

June 21, 2011

Today the Boston Red Sox announced the launch of a Spanish-language webpage, redsox.com/beisbol, as well as a Spanish Twitter account @redsoxbeisbol. Social media is still a (relatively) new frontier for Major League Baseball teams; the Red Sox are just the 8th team to have a dedicated Spanish-language Twitter and/or Facebook. However, Los Red Sox are the 21st team to create a Spanish-language webpage meaning there are still 9 teams lacking one. The question is, why are the teams without a Spanish-language page reluctant to create such a site?

The teams currently without an official Spanish webpage are the Blue Jays, Brewers, Cardinals, Indians, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Reds, and Twins. If the teams do not add any content and simply translate their current pages, what’s the hold-up? In the cases of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, St.Louis, and Toronto, Hispanics and Latinos make up less than 5% of the population in each respective city (per the most recent U.S. Census), but that should not be a valid excuse; 27% of current Major League ballplayers are Latino, it would appear that the interest is certainly there.

The Phillies (5.7%), Indians (7.3%), and especially the Brewers (13.3%) need to leverage the Hispanic presence in their home cities. The San Francisco Giants have a similar Hispanic presence (14.1%) and have two specific positions in the front office targeted at that audience including a Hispanic Sales and Marketing Coordinator. The aforementioned teams are leaving thousands of dollars on the table in both online advertising and ticket sales by not having a dedicated Spanish-language team website. Team executives would be wise to look at the numbers and adjust their sales and marketing plans accordingly.