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Managing the sports business

23 Nov 2012, by Informa Insights

We are honoured to have the opportunity to pick Dan Migala‘s (Publisher of The Migala Report & Partner of PCG) brains before the upcoming Sports Business Summit 2012 conference happening on the 10th December in Sydney.

What advice would you give to teams trying to generate more sponsorship revenue in a tight market? How can sporting codes/clubs/franchises create originality and uniqueness to provide greater cut-through for their sponsors?
In my experience, I actually embrace a tight market. I’ve found that companies are more open to creativity and progressive sponsorship programs in a tighter economic climate than in a booming economy and it’s really an opportunity for sports organizations to be at their best.

The process for me is an exercise in discipline as it requires the sports organization to invest the time and look at the opportunity through the lens of that brand and not their own. The benefit of this is twofold: First, the sports organization is able to better understand what success looks like from the brand perspective and ultimately how a program can be customized to the brand vs. simply, what I like to call, a “insert sponsor logo here” program. Secondly, the investment of time into this process does wonders for the relational trust with the sponsor and “shows” them vs. “telling” them you understand the company’s brand complexities.

My experience has been that these steps are the key to generating more sponsorship revenue because it is a path to having the sponsor make an investment vs. a spend.

Over the years, we believe we’ve perfected this process and use the following checklist of PCG’s “5 Virtues of Sponsorship.” I believe this is a universal foundation for helping sports organizations of all levels maximize their sponsorship revenue.

1. Emotional Connection: The branding platform should look to engage the desired target audience through a variety of positive feelings like inspiration, fun, passion and sentiment.

2. Enhance, Don’t Interrupt: No matter the environment, the branding platform should exercise discipline in creating a thematic that looks to communicate a message that enhances the consumer environment versus interrupting.

3. Moments of Truth: The desired branding platform connects the brand values of the product and the product that it radiates truthfulness in the consumers’ eyes.

4. Authenticity: The objective is to produce a thematic that is so genuine that the idea does not feel like an ad and gains unparalleled credibility amongst the desired target audience.

5. Revenue is a Result, Not an Objective: The brand must exercise creative discipline in designing the “big idea” to keep its initial focus on the objective of engaging consumers vs. its own bottom line. By implementing this philosophy, experience has shown that this is the path to a significantly higher ROI generated from the branding platform.

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How best can teams utilise their star players to achieve their business objectives and how do they manage the associated risks?
There’s an old sports business adage in the United States from sports marketing pioneer Bill Veeck who said, “You can control everything about the fan experience except what happens on the field.”

This is a very relevant quote to reflect on when it comes to modern times in balancing the risk and reward of a featuring a star player in a business platform. My experience has been to follow Bill’s timeless advice. As marketers, we have to understand that athletes, even the greatest, are prone to failures on the field of play and it is best to feature the players and their personalities authentically as much as you can. This humanization of them as individuals becomes, in Bill’s words, a “controllable” asset.

Take, for example, State Farm Insurance’s brilliant use of Green Bay Packers quarterback & Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers in this campaign. Watch video here.

The self-depricating humor is the driver of their message and serves as an invitation for consumers to feel more connected with him and as a result, the insurance company. In comparison, putting him in his uniform would actually distance consumers from the connection to Rodgers and State Farm.

In Australia, one organization that has mastered how to authentically market players are the Big Bash League’s Brisbane Heat. For example, last season’s viral campaign featuring James Hopes provides great lessons in how best to merge the player, the team and a message. Watch video here. In this case, the message is fun and provides a compelling link to the aura of the boldness of a Heat match experience.

Sporting organizations would be wise to examine the work done by both the Heat and State Farm as they are providing the perfect template to how to feature players in a marketing campaign.

What do you believe has been Australia’s ‘hero moment’ in sport – or do you think that is still to come?
I’m always looking ahead to what’s next so I have to think that the best is yet to come both on AND off the field in Australian sport. Hopefully someone at Sports Business Summit 2012 will be inspired and dream big and create a “hero moment” that has all of the world watching.

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