Partnerships: Category to Watch

watch.jpgProperties looking for new potential partners should consider the luxury watch category. Why? January sales of Swiss luxury watches in the United States were up 11% from a year earlier. The global watches market is expected to exceed $31.6 BN by 2009, growing at a compounded annual rate of 4% from 2001-10. The United States is the largest watch market in the world (with sales expected to reach $8.6 BN by 2010).

Despite an increase in consumer demand for electronic gadgets like the iPod, cell phones, and mp3 players, the luxury watch category has been able to maintain positive levels of growth due to consumers attributing luxurious watch brands as symbols of success.

Should collegiate rightsholders consider this category as well? The answer is Yes. Rolex recently made a $1MM pledge to Oklahoma State University at Okmulgee for scholarships and equipment. The catch is that Oklahoma State-Okmulgee is one (1) of ten (10) in the nation that offer a two-year watchmaking program, but that shouldn't stop you from being able to sell access to your institution's elite alumni base.  

Who are the key luxury watch makers that you should consider targeting?

  • Bulgari
  • Timex Corporation
  • Tag Heuer International
  • Seiko Holdings Corporation
  • The Swatch Group
  • Hermes International
  • Gucci Group
  • Cartier
  • Patek Philippe SA

Consider Leveraging Your Gas/Fuel Partnerships...

gas.jpgAs the price of gas at the pump continues to rise, have you considered leveraging your team's gas/fuel partnerships to benefit your co-workers? Summer forecasts have gas prices nearing $4.00; working in an industry where wages are competitive and the working hours are long, can teams build internal rewards into their existing partnership agreements? It is worth a thought. 

Derrick Hall and the Arizona Diamondbacks have done an amazing job re-tooling their organization by starting with an employee-focused approach. Have you considered any avenues that your team's partnerships can benefit those working in your organization (your most important, consumer/client facing assets)?

Racing USA recently announced that they would guarantee that their employees would have to pay no more than $2.85 a gallon for gasoline to come to work. This measure was developed to relieve Racing USA employees of one inflationary pressure. The company, headquartered just outside of Birmingham, AL, staffs a 10,000 square foot facility.

It's Tournament Time!

team.jpgWith Selection Sunday creating bracket buzz across the nation, I wanted to share a few quick facts regarding the magnitude of 'March Madness':

  • Over 130 million people watched the 2007 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament in 2007
  • 40.3 million people watched the 2007 championship game
  • CBS has an 11-year, $6 billion dollar deal with the NCAA to be the exclusive rights holder of all television, radio, satellite, digital, Internet, and home video rights of the event
  • CBS is charging $85,000 per :30 commercial advertisement for the day games and $350,000 for early round and prime time games
  • CBS is charging $1.4 million per :30 commercial advertisement for the two (2) Final Four games and the championship game
  • CBS ad television revenue will top $450 million and possibly reach $545 million when factoring in Internet and other media outlet revenues (2007 ad revenue: $400 million) 
  • Top five (5) corporate spenders for 'March Madness' include:
    • General Motors (Pontiac) (approx. $70 million)
    • Coca Cola ($22 million)
    • AT&T ($20.7 million)
    • Anheuser-Busch ($15.8 million)
    • SABMiller ($13.8 million)
      • Other "Big" Spenders" Include: Enterprise Rent-A-Car, The Hartford Group, State Farm Insurance, Kraft's DiGiorno, Lowe's, Sheraton (all six of the aforementioned are Official Partners of the NCAA)

Attract and Leverage Camera/Film Partnerships!

  1. American consumers have a fascination for photo booths.
  2. Fans love unique ways to capture their experience at events.

Why aren't sponsorship sales reps taking advantage of these understandings through partnerships with leading film and/or camera companies?

Here are a few unique activation tactics to consider:

  • photoboof.jpgPhotoboof is a mobile photo booth filled with bizarre props that travels to parties where people can pile in and take photos. The mobile rig instantly provides consumers with prints and drives traffic online by uploading images to a photo gallery.
    • From a sports perspective, a team can offer a Photoboof that scours fans tailgates and enables them to take pictures to capture the moment using unique team props (i.e. mascot, dancer/cheerleader outfit, replicas of trophies, etc.) 
      • Why is this attractive to a camera/film company? This program could drive web traffic (fans going online to download/see/print their photos), demonstrate proof of print quality/efficiency, and engage consumers through an "out-of-the-box" personable experience. What's great about this idea is that it eliminates the need for space to activate in-arena and is a great tactic to engage fans pre-game (Ideal for events where fans tailgate).
  • photo.jpgPolite in Public - This "new photo booth", is in essence a blend of karaoke and photography. Teams can use this technology to create a specialized background for fans to capture a picture of themselves "in the moment."
    • Idea: Offer a unique photo booth experience to fans sitting in the upper level of your arena to add incremental value at a minimal cost. Collaborating with a film/camera company to offer this exclusive photo booth will provide fans with an exceptional way to capture their experience (if possible, do this free of charge for fans). Simple in-arena tactics can leave lasting impressions enticing fans to return!

Side Note: Why don't teams use player nicknames to drive corporate partner investments? The Miami Heat could leverage Dwayne Wade's nickname, "Flash", to drive a unique team partnership with a camera company (Canon, Olympus, etc.). The Heat could offer fans the exclusive chance to rent out a new camera (at the team store, etc.) to take pictures of Flash in action (meanwhile, using the camera's flash feature). Such a simple collaborative promotion would enable consumers to trial product and drive traffic to an exclusive website where fans can download and view their photos.

Extend the Life of Your Marketing and Ticketing Strategies...

Can you name ten (10) brands that advertised in this year's Super Bowl?

super%20bowl.jpgJoseph Jaffe of Ad Age posed this question to prove that marketers are spending too much time and effort on the upfront "oohs" and "aahs" and not enough on the follow through. Each company spending $2.3MM to advertise during the Super Bowl would hope that you would remember their associated presence. In reality, the Super Bowl is a data overload, overwhelming consumers with a variety of messaging (commercials, commentary, in-game advertising; not to mention the actual game)

 Read more here on adding "life" to your campaigns.

Sponsorships in Collegiate Athletics...

John Semeraro of the NCAA passed along an excellent resource for individuals seeking community engaging sponsorship iniatives. The website,, offers an "Ideas that Work" section, where property representatives can search through ideas that have worked at Division II schools across the nation. John noted that there are 180+ ideas for engaging local communities, etc. The website looks like a great resource, so check it out if you are interested.

On the site, you can search by:

  • Type of Activity (Indoor, Outdoor, Away from Campus, Internet Communication)
  • Time of Activity (Pre-Game, Post-Game, During Game, Special Event)
  • Target Audience (Eighteen (18) options
  • Division II School Conference
  • Division II School Name


Sponsorship Review: Atlanta Motor Speedway

ams.gifThis weekend I headed down to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Kobalt Tools 500 and left with a few takeaways that I wanted to share:

Sherwin Williams

Sherwin Williams did an exceptional job identifying an opportunity to brand golf carts at-track. The Sherwin Williams logo (located in front of the right rear wheel well) was visible everywhere at track; the branded golf carts were a great way for the company to bring its “Cover the Earth” slogan to life.


I am not buying Budweiser’s new branding strategy as “The Great American Lager”. Budweiser, traditionally known as The King of Beers, introduced the new slogan in recent months and it just doesn’t do the brand justice. Do Americans really consider Bud Heavy a lager? Did the beer give up its reign as King of Beers? In all, Budweiser’s presence at-track is significantly less with Dale Jr.’s departure. After this weekend, I am convinced that Anheuser-Busch will have a very difficult time convincing the American people that Kasey Kahne is a good brand fit, unless he starts winning (a lot).

Fan Demographics Are Not What They May Seem

As a sports marketer, do you think you have a good general grasp of who the 18-49 Caucasian American demographic is? Unless you have attended a NASCAR race, think again. One would be widely surprised to see that a large portion of the American populous does not match (or even come close to) their demographic generalizations. I am not going to even try to define a NASCAR fan, you just have to see for yourself.

If It’s Free, It’s Gone

Fans at-track will take anything they can get… for free. An activating sponsor that gives away free product (for trial, etc.) through an interactive game in Speedway Boulevard can strike gold with consumers. It doesn’t take a genius idea – a simple spin wheel or Plinko game (distributing collateral) are enough entertainment to have NASCAR fans wait in line for 20-30 minutes. NASCAR fan’s may not have a household income (HHI) that matches NFL or NBA fans, but one would be amazed to see the amount of disposable income that they spend at-track on a variety of items, merchandise, and beer.

Separate Yourself From the Rest of the Pack; Target Race Campgrounds

Dozens of the track’s corporate partners are paying thousands of dollars in site fees to target consumers in Speedway Boulevard, an extremely cluttered area where consumers are looking for entertainment and “free goods”. Why do sponsors continue to pay significant dollars to target fans when they are walking around in this mindset? Why aren’t more companies looking to spend their dollars more efficiently by re-allocating their dollars to enhance on-site staffing and collateral value and target fans in their campgrounds through a guerilla marketing tactic? Over a three-day race weekend, consumers spend an ample amount time at their campers and tents; a period of time when these persons are very open to sponsors that reach out and benefit their experience. By enhancing bathroom amenities at-track, Old Spice has effectively impacted the experience of many race fans at-track.

Dale Jr. is a Living Legend

Dale Jr. definitely belongs in the same league as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan when it comes to being the People’s Champ. There is no question that Jr. is the overwhelming fan favorite at almost every racetrack around the nation. While Dale Jr’s sponsorship association (i.e. see below) does not seem as strong, his fanbase has never been stronger. Fans have quickly bought up the new Dale Jr. merchandise (Amp jackets, t-shirts, hats, etc.) and seem very responsive to Dale Jr.’s new position with Hendrick Motorsports. The Dale Jr. brand will definitely enhance Amp’s position in the marketplace, but how many consumers relate him with the National Guard? I am not buying this brand fit just yet, although the National Guard is in it for so many other reasons.

Track Security is a Concern

How many sports allow fans access to the performance level without a security check? Unfortunately, this should be a measure of concern for NASCAR and its individual tracks. While this statement doesn’t reflect all NASCAR tracks (i.e. Daytona, Indianapolis), it is frightening that in this day and age any person with a lanyard (resembling a lanyard) and a jacket can gain access to the infield (this even speaks to persons in golf carts). When cars enter the AMS infield, they often have to show a validated parking pass but they can gain access without officials checking their trunks and/or underbellies. Tightened security measures at-track may not align with the sport’s culture, but I would like to see NASCAR officials take a more proactive approach to preventing a potential track disaster (with 160,000+ fans in attendance).

Where are the Track Walks?

Campgrounds. Loyal Fans. Drinking. Sounds like SEC football right? The only thing missing are track walks (i.e. Tiger Walk, Gator Walk, Bulldog Walk, etc.). Why has this concept not yet reached the masses of the NASCAR crowd? SEC fans have grown accustomed to heading close to the track pre-game to welcome their team. If schedules permitted, why would a team like Hendrick do a track walk where fans could line up along a designated path to cheer on Team Hendrick as they walk/drive into the track? Even individual drivers could use this track introduction to build their fanbase.

NASCAR is Extremely Commercial But It Is A Way of Life

There is no fanbase more brand loyal than NASCAR fans. With rising performance costs, fans understand the role and importance of corporate sponsors in the sport and respond favorably. In how many other sports do we see this? Are there many other sports/forms of entertainment where a brand can directly impact the level of performance? If you are looking to build a holistic brand platform, look no further than how many sponsors build and activate their NASCAR programs. NASCAR is such a powerful play for sponsors because of its schedule (30+ race weekends per year), the size and reach of its fanbase (1 in 3 Americans are NASCAR fans), its ability to deliver on a regional and national scale, its level of stardom (Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, etc.), and its strong media presence.

Always Account for Seasonality

Save yourself before learning the hard way: always account for seasonality (when signing contracts, forming execution/activation plans, etc.). During this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500 weekend in Atlanta, the weather went from a snowy 20 degrees on Saturday morning to a mild 55 degrees on Sunday afternoon. The weather on Saturday morning was a contributing factor to a late Saturday race day crowd.

Designated Family Sections

While roaming the track I learned of many tracks offering “Designated Family Sections”, areas of the stadium where families can sit separate from the goons that bring cases of beer into the track to assist their race viewing experience. Is this something that most stadiums/arenas offer to their fanbase? This was actually the first that I have heard of such section – with the recent successes of All-You-Can-Eat sections and growing security concerns (i.e. NFL upper deck behavior issues), is this something that teams should look into offering? Most organizations offer family plans (Families Receive 4 Tickets, 4 Hot Dogs, and 4 Cokes for $44), but can we sweeten this deal with extra incentives (i.e. families in attendance get an exclusive meet-n-greet with a select player and his family; kids can play while female fans chat with team wives, etc.)?

Topless! Topless! Topless!

Returning to Charlotte on I-85, there is one of the greatest billboard campaigns in the nation. Café Risque has purchased six billboards in a row that read “Topless! Topless! Topless (with bright, bold lettering)! Despite being an example of a forced messaging tactic, the repetition of billboard messaging repetition does serve as an effective way to drive awareness.

Sell Solutions, Not Sponsorships!

handshake.bmpSell Solutions, Not Sponsorships. I saw this tagline while reading an online IEG article the other day and it really struck a chord. Too often we see teams/properties selling their attributes (team record, attendance figures, demographics, media power) when in reality, they need to be selling their power to provide solutions.

It's human nature to be great at selling yourself. But how often do you listen? How often do you seek out the needs and objectives of a potential client? "Partnership Activation" was created because in today's world, corporate-sports relationships are so much more than just "sponsorships". Sports partnerships are driven by a marriage between two (2) brands, each of whom have a set of needs and objectives that need to be satisfied through working relationships. They need to be treated in the same mindset as personal relationships - each party must understand each others goals from the beginning (and maintain an understanding of these objectives throughout the relationship to continuously demonstrate value (as these objectives may change over time)). 

But are YOU a Sponsorship Seller or a Solutions Provider? Start by asking yourself a few of these questions:

  • Are your proposals client focused or property focused?
    • Are the first ten (10) pages of your proposals all about your team/organization's brand? Does the name of the client that you are pitching appear on Slide 1 of the proposal and then not again until Slide 7?
    • Do you state the client's needs and objectives directly at the front of the proposal and cater all information contained within around these objectives?  
    • Have you considered how a potential client reviews your proposals? Is your proposal a document that is engaging, with direct ties to their brand? Or is it a data dump of information that strictly features stale, traditional assets? If you were the client reading the proposal, would you flip directly to the back page to see the asking price?
    • Have you considered what differentiates your proposal from the rest of the pack? If there are no unique elements, you are not doing yourself justice. Outshine others with your ideas.
  • Do you really KNOW and UNDERSTAND the companies that you are pitching to?
    • Sometimes it is hard to understand corporate objectives before heading into a sales pitch, but have you tried looking at a company's annual reports? (You can usually find these online, stating the company's outlook and objectives for the given year)
    • Have you looked at the client's website to gain a complete understanding of their services and offerings? 
    • Have you investigated what other sports/entertainment partnerships the company has undertaken?
    • If you are pitching high-end brands, have you considered that they are probably not interested in your general, overall fanbase? In this case, do you seek to understand exactly which demo they are targeting (ages, income, etc.) and how this aligns with certain segments of your fanbase?
    • Instead of just pitching tickets and hospitality, have you asked your clients whether a large scale (hosting 20+ persons) or more intimate scale would be more impactful?
    • Are you asking all the right questions? Are you asking your clients whether you are satisfying all of their objectives?
    • Have you found an effective way to benchmark your offerings against others in the market/industry?
    • How often do you ask your current partners if their objectives have changed, or if there is more that you can do to meet their objectives?

Leveraging Insurance Partnerships...

I wanted to point a "best practice" for leveraging insurance partnerships through online integration. Arizona State is currently featuring a "Click Here for the Top 25 Allstate Agents" banner ad on their athletics website,

Upon clicking on the website's featured side bar advertisement, Arizona State does a tremendous job profiling twenty-five (25) of the top agents in the local marketplace. The on-site integration serves as a very effective publicity piece for the company and each of its respective local agents (who have their contact information listed along with their picture in front of the Allstate field goal nets). When you have a moment, check the website feature out - it's great.

This "feature" format can also have applications to other sponsoring partners:

  • Franchisees of local QSRs (Quick Service Restaurants) and Grocery Retail Locations
  • Operators of Local C-Stores (Convenience Stores)
  • Managers of Local Restaurants / Casual Dining Locations 


Are We Really Selling Our Fanbase to Sponsors?

pat.jpgAnalyzing the sponsorship landscape, I think too often property reps try to sell the fact that they have 70,000 persons in attendance each game or 675,000 fans in attendance over the course of the season... But who are these fans? How often do we dissect who these fans are and what they really like? Most properties now provide potential corporate partners with traditional Scarborough demographics (Gender, Race, HHI, etc.), but do we do a good enough job understanding and selling their purchasing tendencies?

What got me thinking about this topic was a recent article in Event Marketer magazine (February 2008 edition):

"Gone Daddy Gone. - Not only are married women controlling more family purchases than ever before (even in traditionally male-dominated areas like cars, insurance, and electronics), single and divorced men may be byepassing their married counterparts as one of the fastest-growing consumer power markets. According to a recent U.S. Men's Market study by market research firm Packaged Facts,  never-marrieds - especially those under the age of 35 - are serious shoppers, especially for gadgets and personal style products. The popular "metrosexual" demographic also needs a skeptical second look, says the study. Marketers should dig deeper to divide then conquer their single male targets into groups like more traditional men whom the study calls "machosexuals", blue collar men and college educated men."

A few questions to consider:

  • When we are selling sponsors in the CPG, auto, insurance categories, should we be looking to provide more of this detailed information, especially if we have young, single males?
  • If we have a fanbase that skews female, shouldn't we be selling the "married women are controlling more family purchases than ever before" pitch?
  • Have you ever considered the machosexual vs. metrosexual angle? or blue collar vs. white collar? or marrieds vs. singles/divorcees?

It is one thing to sell a sponsor on your fanbase's demographics... it's another to have concrete details to support your numbers and really show sponsors true value.

Sponsors Align Their Brands with Music Artists...

japan.jpgIn recent months, a large number of corporate sponsors have begun to expand their sponsorship portfolios, reaching out to the entertainment world to seek new target audiences and messaging avenues. While partnering with artists may carry an elevated level of risk, they in turn offer corporate sponsors a new medium for finding true solutions to meet their set objectives. 

Read more here.

When it Comes to Showing Value... Swing for the Fences

fenway.bmpAre you looking to provide additional value to your corporate partners with minimal fixed costs?

The Boston Red Sox recently announced that they are offering groups the chance to take batting practive in the visiting team's batting cage at Fenway Park. In an effort to drive more year-round traffic to the ballpark, the Red Sox are charging groups $50-75 per person (min. 20 persons) for a private party and batting practice. The Red Sox are the first MLB to offer such an experience to fans. Read more by clicking the Sponsorship Ideas link above.

The Economy is Falling... But the Sponsorship Industry is Rising!

money.jpgGood news for corporate sponsors and property reps... Despite questions of a recession in 2008, sponsorship spending is slated to increase 12.6% (IEG), the highest single-year jump since 2000. Sports sponsorships are estimated to account for $11.75BN of the overall $16.78BN sponsorship spending in the US and Canada (rights fees alone). (Source: SBJ, 2.18.2008).  Read more here.

NHL Goalie Billboards?

The newest buzz circulating around NHL camps?

NHL goaltenders have recently asked the NHLPA to consider starting a "Goaltender's Club", an initative that would enable them to place a corporate logo on their jerseys. While this would take away from the purity of the game, it would generate incremental revenue for the league (and possibly players). NHL goalies interested in the concept include Devils G Martin Brodeur, Stars G Marty Turco, Red Wings G Dominik Hasek and Oilers G Dwayne Roloson, who have been working with two (2) sports marketing consultants to pursue the idea.

Read more here.

Don't Strike Out with Sponsorship Opportunities


The Chicago White Sox sent the sports industry clamoring for simple, seamless sponsorship ideas when they changed their game times from 7:05 to 7:11 to ink a blockbuster deal with 7-Eleven. Why haven't any properties sold Circle K on the idea of fan strikeout signs?

Read more: