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    Sports… It’s Complicated

    Sports most certainly provides a great environment to engage consumers with your brand. The beneficial attributes of sports marketing include audience engagement, tribal affiliation with the team, and a multitude of touch points that include media, on-site, and hospitality. In a highly fragmented and time shifted world sports has become a relative beacon of stability for marketers.

    There are, however, some nuances to sports that one must understand to get the very most from your sponsorship investment. One of the primary issues is the interest in sports has a tendency to fluctuate, meaning attendance and ratings will either grow or suffer based on where you are in the season and how your team is performing. Let’s take a real life example of this from a couple of the deals that we recently did at Line Drive Sports Marketing.

    Getting our game plan ready

    Our client is executing a brand rollout. The timeline for said rollout was September – December. The client is primarily based in Arizona but has a legitimate two state footprint with the inclusion of New Mexico. Since the all-star break the Diamondbacks have been going back and forth with the Dodgers and Rockies in what is a compelling and hotly contested pennant race for the NL West. As many of you know, Fox Sports Arizona carries the Diamondbacks and also has a legitimate two state footprint that delivers across all platforms (cable, satellite, etc.). Our rep did an outstanding job of formulating a great in game activation for our client placing them in a prominent feature that is only relevant for teams vying for a place in the postseason. We bought the last month of the season to properly kick off a bigger television campaign that starts October 1st.

    Fast forward to today and the Dbacks are struggling and may miss the playoffs entirely but it did not detract from the value we generated for our client by having affiliation with the team at a critical juncture in the season.

    We did something similar with the Mariners albeit we launched it right after the all star break. They also fell out of contention but it no means diminished the value of the in-game activation or the brand presence with the team. This was an entirely different client that had similar needs with one clear differentiator. They are based in Seattle and, whereas we accomplished solid brand reach with the strategy, our real home run came by way of solid hospitality assets that helped our client to acquire some larger, regional sports partnerships.

    Boom or bust?

    On the surface (or from afar) you might conclude that both sports partnerships were a bust based on team performance. You couldn’t be more wrong. We accomplished a number of goals with each client in each market. Establishing legitimacy for a new brand is one goal we accomplished. We also generated tremendous reach for their brand by having both ad and in game assets featuring our brand(s). Hospitality played a role in Seattle. It’s also important to note that both the Mariners and the Dbacks still have strong TV ratings despite the challenge of falling out of their respective pennant races. You have to also see the value of having games with the Cubs, Astros and Dodgers … popular teams that typically create bigger ratings.

    Determining the success of your sports partnership efforts

    Bottom line, there is way more to sports sponsorship than just wins and losses. It’s worthy to note, whether we like it or not, that time of year and team performance does impact your sponsorship. It’s also important to understand that there are a lot of factors that ultimately determine the efficacy and success of your campaign.

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

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