By Ray Katz, U.S. Director of Sports Marketing, Optimum Sports/OMD
Much has been written recently regarding the increasing challenges marketers face in trying to reach today's time-pressed, mobile, and multi-tasking consumers. These consumers are consuming more media than ever.
In the world of sports marketing, the number of sports available through media platforms, the mediums used for consumption, and the convergence between sports media and sports properties are ever increasing.
Sports marketing, across all categories and brands, has seen a proliferation of media mix, strategies, and tactics which are more divergent than ever.
The purpose of this article on multi-platform sports marketing is to elaborate on
four major themes;
1- Why an increasing percentage of marketing budgets are allocated towards sports
2- Changes in the sports business landscape in a "four screen world"
3- How marketers should best approach multi-platform sports marketing
4- How sports marketers are progressing with respect to measuring Return on Investment
An increasing percentage of marketing budgets
Investment in sports for most companies continues to increase as a percentage of total marketing budgets. Leading brands must develop effective multi-platform sports marketing programs as they face an ever-increasing challenge to engage their consumer.
Sports are currently consumed by a broad range of fans on television, on the internet, on mobile devices and even on iPods. CEO's and CMO's are held accountable for directing sports investments to drive results through achievement of business objectives, rather than catering to personal passions.
The sports fan is bombarded with thousands of marketing stimuli daily. With technological advancements and proliferation of media platforms, consumers have more options than ever to obtain information and entertainment.
Sports are platform agnostic, interactive, and touch on the deep-rooted passion of fans for teams and players for whom they have strong affinity. Sports offer an environment where brand integration is organic.
Because of time sensitivity around the final outcome, and subsequent debates, sports are viewed live more than any other program type besides news. The endless statistics and opinions related to sports prediction, and "Monday morning quarterbacking" delivers perfect content for all new and emerging interactive media forms. In response, sports such as the NFL and Major League Baseball have evolved from being sports leagues into media companies.
Changes in the sports marketing landscape
Multi-platform sports marketing efforts require thorough understanding of all media and properties because these main fan touch points are increasingly complex.
The media pipeline is ever-evolving, such that video, graphics, audio and mobile communication may be utilized. These vehicles offer a range of communication scale ranging from "one to many" (networks), "one to few" (websites and niche cable networks) and "one to one". Some examples are content uploads, podcasts and blogs. An effective sports marketing platform requires proficiency in using teams, leagues and properties leveraged by activating these marketing assets on-air, on-line and on-site.
Convergence has made it critical for any sports marketer or agency to understand both properties and media assets. Media companies have created properties (such as ESPN/X Games) and control property rights (FOX/BCS, and CBS/NCAA). Properties have been establishing media companies (NFL Network), and in many cases are vertically integrated, owning their own media assets (Pro Bowlers Association, LPGA Tour)
As convergence continues, sports media buying evolves beyond "spots and dots." The media activates sponsorships, and uses on-air features, as well as extension of these features on-line, to optimize brand impact.
This is true both for vertically integrated properties, where 360-degree coverage may be secured from one organization as well as for rights fee driven properties.
Properties which have traditionally commanded rights fees (i.e.: NFL, NBA, or MLB) offer a range of points of entry for sponsors and ambushers, who must be strategically intercepted. In contrast, vertically integrated properties must buy their television time, but offer the sponsor full integration across a sport with respect to venue, on-air and online presence, players and teams.
Winning at multi-platform sports marketing in a four screen world
As a result of this convergence, a multiplatform strategy best serves the sports marketer where sponsorship and media buying are coordinated by one entity, with equal consideration.
This more complex marketing environment has driven the emergence of companies such as Optimum Sports, a division of the Omnicom media group, to provide channel and medium neutral consulting for clients.
As the quintessential hybrid of marketing and media capability, Optimum Sports exemplifies an organization which leverages the insight of a media firm's full arsenal of industry experts with full integration with experts in properties including on-site, use of rights property assets and other IP, and hospitality and tickets.
Services which exemplify a true 21st century sports strategy agency would include Media Strategy and Buying, Content Distribution, CRM and Activation Strategy, Property Consultation, Rights Negotiation, and finally, Research and Analytics. Clients benefit from this holistic approach immensely.
Return on investment…the "Holy Grail"?
Return on Investment (ROI) is often referred to as the "Holy Grail" of sponsorship, and recently there has been significant progress in understanding how multi-platform sports marketing may be evaluated across media and sponsorship assets.
ROI may be seen as a combination of hard asset value, on-screen exposure, direct sales, and movement in whatever brand metrics are identified as key measures by brand management.
There are various approaches to asset valuation, but this is generally step one in evaluating a multi-platform sports opportunity. Standards and values have become fairly uniform as industry professionals have crossed career paths and proliferated throughout the sports marketing industry.
Whether the value of a Gross Rating Point, an in stadium impression on a scoreboard, or a hospitality package these assets can be reasonably measured by many sports marketers.
The value of on-screen exposure is harder to measure. One company which has evolved this measurement into a management tool is Image Impact. Their interactive brandbase.tv application allows users to view each exposure within a broadcast. It measures the specific "DNA" and value of each logo exposure while considering the size, isolation vs. clutter, and duration on the screen of the exposure. Direct sales are generally measurable as well. For example, a bank may track how many leads or customers were generated on-site, on-line or on-air with a unique response vehicle such as a phone number or web address.
The impact of multi-platform sports marketing efforts on brand metrics are harder to pin down and can truly be measured only through custom research or existing polls such as the TNS/ESPN Sports Poll. Custom research would entail cross-tabbing of brand measures, with fan avidity and association of a sponsor with a sport or sports. Depending on brand objectives, the overarching challenge is to find the link of media and sponsorship efforts to increasing awareness, brand consideration, purchase intent, revenue or profit.
An example of a successful multiplatform sports marketing program
One notable example of a recent successful multi-platform sports marketing effort is the 2006 launch of Dial for Men Body Wash by Dial Corporation. The campaign was driven by a multi-platform presence on ESPN, kicked off around the Daytona 500.
The program consisted of a weekly "Dialed In" feature on SportsCenter and an extension which drove viewers online. The hosts of SportsCenter debated a hot sports topic and asked viewers to go online to cast their vote, voicing their opinion on the topic of that week. When they got to ESPN.com the following day, they saw the results of the Dial for Men online poll.
Dial for Men also hosted a "Dialed In" sweepstakes on ESPN.com with help from ESPN "The Magazine" which built awareness for the "Dialed In" poll and sweepstakes leading to over 75,000 entries.
The final piece of the multi-platform puzzle turned out to be perhaps the most valuable equity building and promotion vehicle. Every Tuesday morning during the AM Drive radio program, "Mike and Mike in the Morning" and continuing throughout the day, millions of listeners were reminded to get "Dialed In" on ESPN Radio. Listeners were reminded to tune into the Tuesday evening broadcast on television to get "Dialed In."
Mike Golic, who epitomizes the "regular guy", performed all media executions via live read. On one particular day during the program flight, Mike Greenberg declared, "this is our best sponsor ever," alluding to Dial for Men's "Taking Back Your Manhood Means Taking Back the Shower" tag line. At the end of the day, and much thanks to this multi-platform program, sales of Dial for Mean exceeded projections by a double-digit percentage.
Longer term implications
In response to all of these changes in the sports industry, the next generation of sports marketers will need a range of skill sets to succeed. Agencies will have to increase the range of their capabilities as well through organic growth and creative partnering and joint venturing.
Only one thing is certain. Fans will continue to consume a broader range of sports in increasingly diverse ways. In order to address this constant evolution, the sports marketer will have to embrace these changes and effectively communicate multi-faceted custom solutions to their clients if they want to achieve results.
Ray can be reached at [email protected]