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SBD/Issue 165/Sports Industrialists
THE DAILY Goes One-On-One With FedEx’ Laurie Tucker
Published May 19, 2005
FedEx Senior VP/Global
Product Marketing Laurie Tucker
Q: You haven’t quite reached the levels of a Coke or Anheuser-Busch yet, but FedEx is approaching them in terms of ubiquity across sports. What’s the strategy there?
Tucker: Around ten years ago, we began to realize that very clearly our target was 25-50, male, professionals and at the time predominantly male decision-maker. We learned through things like the St. Jude’s Classic and the Orange Bowl, and learned that not only was it a great boon to our branding and our advertising, but it was a tremendous hospitality vehicle. We really hadn’t had anything like that. So we saw the opportunity for great reach. The real value is being demonstrated today.
One of the challenges all marketers face is diminishing returns on television
advertising. Obviously sports is more TiVo-proof than other programming, so
it is very helpful there. We’re still finding that our reach is greatest through
the use of sports marketing. Sports has also helped us build customer loyalty.
We’ve built incentive programs around sports for our best customers where they
can win things like NFL (licensed) items or a trip to the Super Bowl or some
other important event we sponsor. Loyalty programs are in great vogue right
now. As companies and products mature, we are all looking for a key differentiator.
The loyalty premiums we get through associations with our sports properties
have had a very positive impact on sales. I think most people know the brand,
but we are aligning ourselves with sports properties that are also viewed as
leaders, and that rubs off.
Q: What are the biggest motivators in your category?
Tucker: What really drives purchases is relationships, affinity and
affiliation with the brand. That tells you a lot, again, about why we are so
involved in sports.
Q: For a real life example, tell us how your new NASCAR team sponsorship fits in.
FedEx Feels That NASCAR Shares
Qualities Like Speed And Precision
Tucker: There’s a huge opportunity for us, if we can match our brand
equities of reliability, speed, precision, and teamwork with NASCAR, which clearly
shares those qualities. It may be subtle, but it is brand building by aligning
ourselves with other leaders that we have things in common with.
Q: Why more sports properties like NBA and NASCAR in the past year?
Tucker: Well, a marketing analysis could easily have shown us that a
NASCAR sponsorship was not the best way to spend the next chunk of our marketing
budget. We already had very solid coverage during the NASCAR season, with things
like the NFL. The primary benefit for us with NASCAR is as an employee. It
was a question all of our marketing folks got everywhere we went -- ‘Why are
we not in NASCAR?’ Now that I’ve been exposed to it a little, I know it is
the most passionate fan base I have ever come in contact with. Our employees
wanted NASCAR more than they wanted their next breath. When it was announced
that Joe Gibbs was going back to coach the Washington Redskins, I turned to
whomever was next to me and said, ‘I give us three months before we’re into
NASCAR.’ It took a little longer than that, but not much, and we had our decks
prepared for senior management to tell them how much it would cost before they
called us. We’re working hard to use it as an employee motivator. The NBA
gave us a platform where we can reach a young diverse audience, and we also
got a way to emphasize our global reach and another important hosting opportunity
for our customers.
Q: As someone who gets a lot of sponsorship proposals, what kind of filters do you use to separate the wheat from the chaff?
Tucker: We ask if it is a leadership property, does it provide us with
a new value we are not getting delivered by our current properties. Does it
reach a unique segment of our customer base we aren’t reaching already. Like
with the NBA, the opportunity is to reach that international customer and customer
overseas. The NBA is active is
Q: The other thing sponsors struggle with when it comes to sports properties is definitive ROI. What is your formula?
Tucker: The hardest thing to measure from an ROI standpoint is advertising.
We get a high return on brand recognition and recall for advertising shown
within our sports properties. When we do customer hosting and hospitality, we
measure our guests before and after that event. We use that information to
justify the investment, but also to help our sales staff find the best prospects.
Every guest has a sales contact, and we track them with our sales team so we
can be sure the right customers are being hosted at our events.
Q: FedEx seems to use their sports properties far less in advertising than other big buyers. Visa, for example. What’s the thinking there?
Tucker: I don’t know that it is planned that way. If there’s a good
creative idea, we’ll go for it. Last year, we had some good NFL ads in concept,
but then we bought Kinko’s, and that is where we spent our marketing budget,
too. We’ll look at the NFL again this year. There is value in the affinity,
and in NASCAR, for example, very few run ads that aren’t NASCAR-related. So
I think we are going to look more at that overall.
Q: DHL has been spending a lot behind its re-branding effort. Have you seen any effect in terms of market share yet?
Tucker: They’ve done a nice job in terms of their brand launch, and
we have seen they have picked up their brand awareness. I give them credit
for doing a nice job there, but it has not impacted our market share.
Super Bowl Commercial That Tied Into
“Cast Away” One Of Tucker’s Favorites
Q: There’s been years of great creative behind the FedEx brand (FedEx
has been a client of
Tucker: Provocative advertising has become such a part of our culture,
our employees have become our most harsh critics -- they either love it or hate
it. So I take it as a personal challenge to please them. Really it (good advertising)
can motivate them, so it’s really helpful. Our formula is usually one of telling
a short, funny story, where our customer or FedEx is the hero or the problem
solver or both. ... My favorite ever was the fast talker, but that was a while
ago (an ad that first aired in ’82 from the now-defunct Ally Gargano agency
and starred JOHN MOSCHITTA JR. as a business exec who could speak as
many as 450 words per minute). More recently, I thought our “Cast Away” ad (Super
Bowl ’03, a tribute to the film of the same name that had liberal FedEx product
placement throughout) was a brilliant idea, well produced, really epic, with
a huge laugh at the end.
Q: What brand do you admire outside of your own?
Tucker: AmEx, and we have more in common than most people would think.
We have very similar marketing issues in that we have strong brands that are
often misunderstood -- people think AmEx is a high-end charge card only, and
they have spent a lot of time and money trying to educate consumers that they
have products for everyone. We have similar issues, in that people often think
of us as a premium product only for overnight delivery, and we do everything
now from biz-box freight for stuff like ball bearings to small business that
we can service out of our Kinko’s acquisition. We share a lot in terms of our
approach to the market.
Q: What sports event do you want to go to but haven’t gotten around to yet?
Tucker: I had to choose between the Daytona 500 and the NBA All-Star Game this year since they were on the same weekend, and I chose Daytona, because it’s our first year in NASCAR. So I guess now it is the NBA All-Star Game. Before this year, I never wanted to go to a NASCAR race, and now I can’t wait to go to the next one, so obviously that answer is subject to change.