SBD/July 21, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sporting KC Names Locally Based VML Official Marketing Partner To Enhance Digital Offerings

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Sporting KC this morning named locally based, digitally focused ad agency VML its official marketing partner in a three-year deal in which the agency will aim to enhance the club’s online offerings. Under the deal, VML will not be classified as SKC's agency of record because the club's in-house marketing team, led by CMO Andy Tretiak, will continue producing all creative. Instead, VML will strategize ways to better the club’s digital approach. In exchange, the shop will get assets including access to the club’s technological innovations and Sporting Park for business meetings, as well as hospitality and signage opportunities. Financial terms were unavailable, but because of the exchange of assets, services and cash will be going both ways, as opposed to the club hiring VML outright. Sporting KC Chief Revenue Officer Jake Reid said that the two sides decided to align because they not only meshed philosophically but furthermore shared multiple companies that are sponsors for SKC and clients for VML. This includes U.S. Bank, Microsoft and MillerCoors. The companies’ execs hope this will allow for synergistic opportunities for both of them. VML Chief Client Officer Chuck Searle said that his firm’s experience in the digital realm will allow it to give SKC suggestions on how the club could create online campaigns that are more connected and multifaceted yet still coherent and easy to navigate. Reid said, “Right now -- and I think this is typical with most teams -- you tend to get a bit segmented. So some guys focus on the web, some on social, some on e-mail/digital marketing, which is all important. But I wanted to take a step back and say, ‘Hey, all these things are interconnected; how do we put together some packages for our clients that are more of a 360 view?’”

K.C. MASTERPIECE: The two sides will begin collaborating immediately, with the first step being a big-picture review of everything pertaining to SKC’s digital operations. MLS is nearing the midway point of the ’14 campaign, and Reid said that the timing of this deal could allow for some of VML’s forthcoming ideas to be implemented as early as this season. Reid added the fact VML is based in K.C. was a key to the two sides coming together, as it not only helped execs familiarize themselves with their counterparts but moreover helps the club further its commitment to make its brand representative of and beneficial to the city as a whole. With the companies’ HQ separated by about a three-minute drive, execs held informal talks over the past six to 12 months and eventually decided the fit was such a good one that they wanted to work together. In the sports space, VML works with Gatorade, Cobra Puma Golf and Napa Auto Parts, among others. The shop also counts the U.S. Soccer Federation as its client and helped build the governing body’s website for the buildup to this summer’s World Cup. However, the SKC deal represents its first venture into MLS.
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