Friday, January 27, 2012

The NFL’s Grateful for the Global Recession

I normally don’t comment on sports in this blog. Too many other people do that already. But, I saw an interesting observation that was made by the commissioner of American Football the other day. Because of the recession, huddled masses of Americans with nothing else to do, are connecting with the sport in front of their televisions.

"People want to feel part of a group, feel like they're connected, and right now during these difficult times, they can turn on free television and watch the greatest entertainment that's out there," Roger Goodell observed.

Admittedly, he said the next challenge is to get people to come back to stadiums because they’re at home experience is just so darn good, and FREE! Ok – he didn’t say THAT, but he might as well have. Not to mention that food and beverage, parking fees and just about everything else about the stadium experience has become so overpriced, a weeks pay is in order for a family of four to go to the stadium. Why WOULD anyone go to the stadium and experience what they can experience at home…free!?

I like Mr. Goodell. Seems like a down to earth guy, coming up from the ranks of nothing short of janitor to head one of the biggest sports leagues on our planet. But, his quote has me a little perplexed and intrigued. Why would you admit your product’s no longer affordable live and better on TV?

Perhaps his observation would open the door for cool, new activation from NFL sponsors to go beyond the games television rights and actually engage fans at stadiums. Create real experiences that are must haves that result in an all day affair reserved for attendees. This would give people a reason to head back to the stadiums and justify those ridiculous prices. By creating greater value for the “fan experience” and a reason for fans to WANT to go back to the stadium, might just be what gets NFL fans out of their living rooms and back to their top left corner, Row ZZZ seat.

My friend reminds me that he can see the game a whole lot better in front of a 50” flat screen – so why spend the money to go to the game. Perhaps sponsors can give fans a reason to chuck the flat screen and embrace the experience that occurs outside the gridlines.

Just trying to help, Mr. Goodell.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Furthering the industry - time to act!

I haven’t been keeping up with my social media presence lately. Well, it’s been almost a year. I considered it a study of weighing the use of time to engage in social media versus reconnect with the world by more tactile efforts – talking to people, shaking hands and more importantly, listening to people.

I’ve been keeping “in touch” with the news, colleagues on the move and the trends of our industry. Honestly, without the likes of Dan Beeman, Kris Mathis, Kim Skildum-Reid, Brent Barootes and even Lesa Ukman, there would be little to no cohesive news about the sponsorship industry at all.

Most of the conversation within the sponsorship industry hasn’t changed much in the past year. People are still looking for sponsors, looking for advice on how to obtain sponsors, discussing evaluations, valuation and return on investment/ engagement/ opportunity.

Are these topics enough to advance the sponsorship industry further? In the world of CMO’s and CFO’s, PR and Ad Agencies, discussions swirl around the power of social media platforms, the next social media darling, measuring social media and the new possibilities from interactive TV. Outside of an occasional big sports deal or music tour or two, barely a whimper is heard about the strengths associated with sponsorship marketing .

Local sponsorships like fairs and festivals tend to make up the majority of sponsorship deals and have an even greater impact on shaping the industry since they connect with infinitely more people. Most sponsorship sales professionals have difficulty relating to billion dollar deals between major sports leagues and Fortune 100 companies. While those deals provide somewhat of a blueprint for activating local programs, they don’t speak to creating great ideas around local sponsorship endeavors.

The people I mentioned in this blog understand and have been instrumental in inspiring many others, including me. As professionals in this fledgling industry, we need to be more proactive, learn from one another, band together in protecting and inspiring others about the benefits of sponsorship marketing. Not just in social media space, but in face-to-face conversations about the challenges facing our industry.

As my firm embarks on a new venture – I open the door to create time to work on recruiting colleagues in other markets to set up roundtable discussions, networking opportunities to connect sponsor professionals with one another. Through this effort, perhaps we can begin to build the framework of an association.

I look for your thoughts and interest in participating.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Time to Get Our Rulers

There have been several terrific conversations lately surrounding the need for sponsorship measurement practices. Research shows a continuing gap in comprehensive measurement of sponsorships effectiveness for brands. New heightened emphasis on corporate accountability places into question how companies can sustain sponsorship practices without numbers to justify the expense.

There’s even renewed discussions brewing at the U.S. congressional level to minimize sponsorships by the military, in part, because a lack of understanding and measurement to actually determine the practices impact. As Professor Tony Meenaghan stated in a recent article appearing in Admap, “Given the nature and scale of criticism directed at sponsorship measurement, a range of changes must be anticipated.”

It used to be that in order to measure results, you only needed to measure the number of eyeballs reached. That line of thought is waning. As Meenaghan points out, “the valuation of media coverage is not a valid measurement of effectiveness …It is essentially a measure of publicity and not a measure of the effects of that publicity, or other elements of the sponsorship and its activation.”

While there is some value for adding to the visibility of a brand, according to Kim Skildum-Reid, author the Last Generation Sponsorship, measurement is to be “based on a brand’s alignment with an understanding by its target audience. The sponsor’s measurement should focus on market research as the key element to measure impact.”

Because of sponsorships unique ability to engage consumers within an experience that matches their lifestyle, sponsorship is able to transcend its advertising roots. The sponsor becomes part of the experience. And, its engagement with the target audience embraces their passions, ultimately providing an indelible bond that research proves to be quite lasting. What’s missing is the need to measure the results of this engagement.

While the sponsee has an obligation to report on what elements it delivers on behalf of the sponsor, it is the sponsor that carries the responsibility to measure the results of engagement. Only the sponsor can capture quantifiable activities that showcase their sponsorship effectiveness. And, if a sponsor is going to justify its budget, it’s going to need to quantify the effectiveness.

Having said that – nearly 4 out-of-5 of sponsors currently spend less than 1% of their rights fees to place any type measurement according to IEG’s Performance Research Report. The European Sponsorship Association members also found in a 2007 survey that only 11% of the sponsors believed there ROI measurement was even remotely effective. So, if it is the sponsor obligation to measure results, there are few taking time and budget to do that, and accountability measures are rising, the entire industry may suffer as company budgets are skimmed and scrutinized.

It’s time sponsor professionals request, no require, measurement tools be put into place by our sponsors. Outlining benchmarks and methods to measure results from the sponsorship should be spelled out in agreements right along with describing sponsor benefits and terms. If representatives of properties truly want to elevate the profession and protect our industry from budget erosion, we must build measurement parameters into our relationships.

I realize the radical nature of the idea – but our options are pretty limited given the corporate and congressional climate around budget and spending; either put up – or shut up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gross Sponsorships for Mad Men

Advertising agencies are king of the advertising world. Most of the dollars spent in advertising and marketing pass through an advertising or media-buying agency. Over the years, I’ve had my share, both good and bad, of discussions with agencies. And like many colleagues, I hang up the phone with an account manager and say “they just don’t get sponsorship.”

Actually they do.

But a distinct issue for agencies is – how are we going to make money off of a sponsorship? Agencies aren’t built to necessarily buy sponsorship and activate the program. Unlike creating a TV ad and buying time, sponsorship falls completely out of their model for making money.

Many agencies aren’t geared to execute street marketing programs, design a fleet of experiential tour trucks, or build out trade show booths. Perhaps because they cannot make money on sponsorships, they steer clear of involving their client in sponsorships.

Ad buying agencies make their money by receive a percentage of what they purchase for their client at a gross rate – meaning – the agency takes anywhere between an 8% -15% cut off the price of the media and that’s how they’re paid. Realize that the media “lifts” the rate they offer to agencies in order to make up for some of the difference of selling ad space directly to the brand versus through the agency. This is called a “gross rate” versus a “net rate.”

I’m not suggesting a major conspiracy here. But it’s possible that because the way North America’s sponsorship discipline developed (no measured media, no gross and net rates to agencies), it’s growth has been stymied because decision makers aren’t able to find a way to make a profit off of it. Look at the growth of the digital media space. Digital media can be measured in a myriad of ways and agencies make money off design (Websites/Facebook Cause pages/digital ads) and placement.

So, would it make sense for the sponsorship industry to offer a gross rate to agencies? How would it effect sponsorship broker fees? Would there be an overall reduction in sponsorship rates from it? I realize there’s a lot of questions to be asked before heading down this road. But, as an industry, shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to make it easier to say “yes,” especially to a discipline that we know works so well!

I respect the fact that agencies need to make good decisions for their clients and also make profitable business decisions for themselves. Maybe it’s time our industry makes it easier for agencies to do both.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

KFC and Komen – Supporting or adding to the cause?

On the outset it’s cute. Supporting breast cancer research by purchasing a chicken breast – I get it. It’s even in a cute pink tub and branded buckets for the cure. But, are you scratching your head on this one too?

YUM Brands KFC, has launched a campaign to provide a donation of up to $8.5 million – a potential record-breaking donation – to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Just go to your nearest KFC and purchase a pink bucket of sodium and fat rich fried chicken or the less sodium and fat packed grilled chicken - and help the cause. However, the verdict is still out on all the causes associated with breast cancer – including the risk from sodium and fat rich foods.

Barbara Brenner, exec at Breast Cancer Action, a watchdog group, denigrated Komen Foundation with this quote: "This will keep them (Komen) in business for years. They talk about a cure, but this partnership will create more breast cancer.”


So, has Komen missed their mark on developing support for their cause? Research says a definite “yes.”

Studies have shown (Gareth Smith, Journal Marketing Management 4/04, Vol. 20) that the connection with a cause needs to make a valuable connection in the consumers mind to be effective. Synergy provides credibility to both the cause and the supporting company. I'm not a cancer researcher, but I'm thinking this may be a bit of a conflict - and hence - would be perceived by consumers as missing the relationship purpose. I'm not sure who looses on this one - KFC or Komen.

Cone’s recent Trend Tracker report stated that 56% of consumers feel better about a nonprofit when they partner with a company. I wonder how this makes everyone feel about Komen?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

America's New Beer Market

Don't look now, but that beer your drinking isn't American. Yes, I know it says "American Lager" or "home of the Rockies" or whatever on it - but it's owned by a multi-national conglomerate that resides somewhere overseas.

And, as I sit in this bar, I notice most people are drinking the local craft coming out of the tap. I don't even see a bottle of Bud Light Miller Draft Coors Lime ANYWHERE here. So, it makes me wonder why these local breweries haven't "tapped" into the fact that building relationships through a sponsorship with the local "cool" community event isn't on the TOP of their list. Look, spending all those marketing dollars on the bottom shelf at the local grocery store is ok, or on those neat little draft tap tops shaped as your logo. But isn't time you come out to meet and rub elbows with the American beer drinker? Isn't time you stepped up your marketing game?

Are you really that afraid of the BIG multinational brewer that you won't even TRY to compete for a meaningful sponsorship? You wanna know a secret? Small properties aren't always excited to work with the BIG multinational brewer - and big brewers seem to have their sites on global events rather than the local food fair.

So, maybe now is the time for the local brews to belly up to that local sponsorship scene and reshape the way your audience experiences an I.P.A. Believe me, activated properly, local events will do wonders in gaining customers because in reality, Americans are ready for you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The sign of too many logos...

Is what we call “sponsorship” becoming too pervasive?

While I think sponsorship marketing is still a fledgling discipline, the way in which it’s currently being used is becoming pervasive….even to me.

But, when I tell people what I do – and I still get this quizzical look. I mean, sponsor logo's are EVERYWHERE.

That’s when I’m reminded that sponsorship has become so omnipresent, the general population has become immune to its existence. And, study after study points to the fact that as sponsorship becomes a permanent feature with properties, the use of benign activities like placing logos as the only property activation point is ruining our profession.

The property rights holders providing proposals to potential sponsors around on field signage, and pricing the different sizes of signage around the arena as options – please STOP. If you want to sell billboards – get into the away from home advertising industry – but stop calling yourself sponsorship marketing professionals.

As a discipline, it’s imperative that we start providing opportunities that fully integrate partners into our properties and the experiences our properties provide for our audiences. We need to insist that sponsors leverage their relationship with us in order for everyone, especially our audience, to gain the most from it. As a property, you’re the vehicle that companies use to promote and sell their brands. But, the rights fees also need to include creating an integrated relationship that the sponsor uses to enhance our audience experiences.

A logo on a sign in the stadium, or in a TV ad, and calling that “sponsorship” does not enhance the experience for our audience. In fact, it doesn’t do anything except line your pocket. And if it doesn’t do anything for anybody except put money in your property – then it really doesn’t do any of us any good.