Sports marketing and tapping into fan engagement for ROI

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Sports is considered the original social gathering and today teams are driving that experience as much as possible through a variety of devices and applications. Integrated media and corporate sponsorships are driving more ROI than ever because of it. Sports marketing has evolved into a sophisticated programming and marketing mix – moving beyond the traditional live game experience to unique content plays, social media tools and marketing partnerships to drive fan engagement, tune-in and local affinity with fans.


At the NAB-RAB Radio Show, we heard some of the latest in the space from a 9/29 panel session that included Chris Oliviero, SVP Programming, CBS Radio; Jim Rushton, Sr. Vice President of Corporate Sales/Integrated Media, Miami Dolphins; and Mark Turley, Director of Corporate Media Sales, Pittsburgh Penguins. The session was moderated by Jimmy Lynn, Founder & Managing Partner, J Lynn Associates.

Oliviero stressed that it’s best to market a digital buy in sports with an on-air package—it’s a “symbiotic relationship.” He discussed CBS Radio/DC’s “superstation of sports programming,” WJFK-FM–which includes WJZ-FM Baltimore on HD-2; WFAN-AM NY on HD-3 and WIP-AM Philadelphia on HD-4: “A lot of sports fans are out there that go beyond their DMA metro. We invest a lot of money creating this content, so why not expose that content to the most people possible?”

Rushton mentioned part of the problem of pushing real-time sports content to fans in the stadium is there is not enough bandwidth. The Dolphins solve that by airing content on a portable handheld receiver (“FanVision”) that uses the UHF band. Turley says the Penguins work with Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh for wi-fi connectivity at games.

Turley really raved about team-branded radio stations on HD multicast channels. He mentioned the Pittsburgh Penguins’ HD-2 channel on WXDX-FM. “Our fans can never get enough info. It started with the team websites, but team-branded audio/sports talk is the way to go.”

And he should know. The Penguins’ team-branded station is the #1 most listened to in the nation—perhaps part of the reason ESPN Radio’s WEAE-AM Pittsburgh is switching to Radio Disney on 1/1.

As well, the penguins now have a mobile marketing database of 80,000 people. 311,000 people “like” The Penguins on Facebook. “A lot of effort goes into ticket sales, but we are really concentrating on driving brand affinity.” And with that affinity comes ROI. For example, Pizza Hut is a major corporate sponsor of the team and participated in a commemorative player cup promotion throughout the season, where the cups were given out free with Pizza orders.

Adding to KRLD HD-3 Dallas’ Dallas Cowboys Radio, it was also mentioned that in 2011 there will be a team-branded station for the L.A. Kings hockey team.

Rushton talked about the Dolphins’ Integrated Media Platform. It includes television, radio/mobile, internet and print. “We’ve got a half million people connected on most game days, he said.” Much of the content over that platform is via the team’s coach. “The Tony Sparano Show” is a hit and Geico is a major  sponsor with “Geico Game Center.”


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Carl has been with RBR-TVBR since 1997 and is currently Managing Director/Senior Editor. Residing in Northern Virginia, he covers the business of broadcasting, advertising, programming, new media and engineering. He’s also done a great deal of interviews for the company and handles our ever-growing stable of bylined columnists.