I had the opportunity to host a panel at The National Sports Forum to talk how fans, teams and sponsor brands can co-exist with a maximum return on experience and return on investment.
On the panel were:
—Geoff Cottrill—Sr. VP of Strategic Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company
—Steve Koonin—CEO, Atlanta Hawks
—Jamie Spencer—EVP of Business Development, Minnesota Wild
—Nicole Metzger—Chief Revenue Officer, Clemson Sports & Campus Marketing
—Bernie Mullin—Founder & Chairman, The Aspire Group
Here are my major takeaways:
1. Sports sponsorships are under an ROI microscope. Preeminent brands such as Coca-Cola are concerned by falling attendance numbers and rising ticket prices. Younger demographics and family affordability are two metrics that Coca-Cola values—something the MLS is accomplishing. "In many cases, we'll sponsor a team or venue and pay significant dollars for the rights and our products are $6 for something that everyone knows costs $1 at the convenience store," said Cottrill. It comes down to this: Are brands getting increased value out of escalating sponsorship costs? If not, there are other areas to spend sponsorship dollars.
2. Without culture, it's hard to drive brand. Culture and brand come way before a strategy. Build your brand inside the walls first, get believers, then let them go out and behave in a way that will accelerate your brand.
3. Game experience shouldn't rely on wins/losses. Going to a game has to be a great night out. Venues are competing with the city's best bars and restaurants, movie theaters, concerts and other entertainment options. The thought that fans are going to sit in a seat for three and a half hours and eat overpriced, mediocre food is outdated. There has to be a social component.
4. Build brand through community. The future of your brand will always be in the hands of the younger generations. You have to appeal to them at an early age. Support of youth sports and allowing the community to activate and feel they are a part of your brand are key.
To hear more of the conversation at NSF, see the video below.