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    Innovation for Sports Marketing Success

    Innovation for Sports Marketing Success - Line Drive Sports Marketing

    “That’s because he’s been at his job for a long time and he’s executing, not innovating…”

    These words were said by a senior director of what will remain an unnamed high profile sports entity in response to an idea I had offered up to change the way they looked at ticket sales. Although the words were said in passing the subconscious impact was immediate and immense. Spot on, I thought … what an astute observation … and, how common is this in today’s sports business climate?

    The conversation was a private one. I share it today with anonymity and the stated purpose of addressing the value of innovation in today’s sports marketing efforts.

    Obviously, the value of innovation is not unique to this industry. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that is not made better by creativity and advancement. That being said, it is critical for teams, companies, and networks selling sports assets to be creative in formulating new ways to sell tickets, increase ratings, and deliver advertising messages for their sponsors.

    Pardon me while I sell for minute… one paragraph only, I promise.

    As a leading sports’ marketing agency in Phoenix, innovation is the primary focus of everything we do. We look to utilize traditional and digital assets in new ways. Innovation is achieved when you creatively combine sponsorship assets with other valuable components like tickets, player access, in-game integration, logo rights and interaction with your media partners.

    Admittedly, there’s nothing new or groundbreaking about that. I see teams like the Suns, Diamondbacks and Cardinals innovating all the time. (For what it’s worth if it was a contest it would be a close one and from where I sit, it would be in that order.)

    That’s not a slight to the rest of the pack, it’s more of a nod to these three teams. In fact, the Suns have someone tabbed as the Senior Vice President of Innovation. His name is Dan Costello and he’s well respected in the market and around the league. Their sales packages are typically a well designed mix of their entire asset portfolio (TV, radio, print, digital, signage, hospitality, naming rights, player appearances, in-game integrations, community events, etc.) combined with well thought out activations.

    Innovation in sports marketing is especially important when you are dealing with a limited number of events (i.e. college football), a single event (WM Open), or an event with a limited budget. There’s no set formula for innovation, if there were it wouldn’t be innovative, would it?

    One case study I can point to is the Patriot All America Collegiate Golf Tournament held at the Wigwam at the end of December.

    When Line Drive was initially hired by the tournament committee I was told that we had no money for promotion, no title sponsor, and no one attending the event. Two years later we have a notable title sponsor, a viable promotional plan supported by that sponsor, and growing interest in our event. Whereas it’s not the biggest deal I’ve ever done, it most certainly is one that I’m very proud of. I would be amiss not to thank two great gentlemen who were instrumental in making this happen: Rob Ginis from Valley Toyota Dealers and Ben Tsai from LaneTerralever.

    People don’t engage companies like mine simply to conduct transactional business that they can otherwise execute themselves. It is our job to assess their goals, the assets available, and their budget while formulating a unique and effective plan that exceeds those goals. It’s the same for every team, network, and agency in the market.

    I guess if you’re counting that was actually four paragraphs of selling … or was it really 13? Either way if your sports marketing plan is more about executing than innovating, shoot me a note here or email me at

    About the author: Ed Olsen is the CEO of Line Drive Sports Marketing. He is a former adjunct professor at Arizona State University and has lots of opinions on all things sports.

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