It was a pleasure and honor to moderate a Sports Marketing panel at Dine America hosted by QSR Magazine. We had a great team of panelists that included Tracy White, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, and Chief Sales Officer for the Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers and Philips Arena; John Kittredge, Fabri-Kal; and Bruce Skala, VP, Taco Mac
Based on the lively discussion among panelists, I arrived at the following five take-away’s:
Right fit for the brand
It was very clear that finding sports that are the right fit for the brand is the first step.  Brands should not just go for what is available as this is an area where effectiveness is more important than the efficiency.  To identify fit, there are three areas a brand must look at:
  • Fits the brand’s target audience
  • Fits the brand’s personality
  • Connects with the brand’s target audience
Size of opportunity does not matter
A common thought is that only the big players can play in this field since it is important to play at the highest level.  Based on the panelist discussion, that assumption is not true.  Instead, brands need to find the team that fits best, both the brand and the brand’s budget.  It may mean a less known national sports or a local event or team that could be the perfect fit for a brand.
“Internal Activation” is the key
Getting rights to the coolest sports property is not good enough.  Instead, a brand must make plans to activate the property to market it within the store. When planning a partnership, a brand must allocate key resources for the activation phase, as even a partnership with the coolest property on the planet needs successful in-store activation to bear fruit.  Activation includes using the property (logo and signage) within the store, communicating to customers, and getting team members excited about the partnership.
While measuring ROI, having a clear call to action and patience is the key
Just like any marketing effort, there is no clear answer to the question “does sports marketing really work?”  Instead a brand must compare the sports marketing opportunity to traditional opportunities to identify which has a better chance of sticking with customers.  In many industries where short term performance alone is the key, it is important to develop realistic time lines for the partnership, as it will take continuity to build a partnership.
Maximize your brand’s efforts by continuing to differentiate
Just like in any marketing communication, a brand must continue to strongly brand its sports marketing partnership. This is an opportunity to create something memorable and not just place a brand’s logo next to a sports team’s logo.  Creating memorable association both in communication and events will make this a big success.
A big thanks to Blair Chancey, Editor of QSR Magazine for giving me the opportunity to moderate this panel and for putting together such a great conference.  Should you have any comments or questions, please contact me at arjun@zenmango.com.

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