SBJ/August 6 - 12, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Adding value to packages can add customers in tough times

If misery loves company, then sports marketing professionals can commiserate with magazine sales executives. The cutback on ad spending by many companies has created double-digit decreases in ad-page revenue for many titles. If sports properties posted their sales results, it's likely that many would report similar, if not greater, drops in revenue.

In an effort to drive ad sales, some magazine publishers are responding with textbook value-added programs, including event sponsorships. According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, magazines are offering advertisers sponsorship rights to events as an incentive to buy ad space. Other lures include giving access to subscriber mailing and e-mail lists, providing editorial staff members to speak at company events and custom-publishing opportunities.

The strategy pursued by publishers — and one that could be easily followed by sports executives — is certainly not highbrow. It's simply a case of juicing up a basic package to make it a more attractive buy.

Some of these value-added ideas used by publishers could be easily transferred to the sports marketing industry:

 Partner with other local events. The notion of sharing sales prospects with competitors might make sales executives wary, but it could create enough critical mass to make a deal attractive to an advertiser.

  Create more "touch points." There's a near universal need by companies to create points where they can interface with customers. Sports properties can offer this via concourse displays or sampling events, but these programs reach a fraction of the fan base of the team and the potential customer base of the company.

The solution here is to create more out-of-venue events and offer advertisers a chance to participate in these programs. Such events often take the form of grassroots programs or community events.

  Offer marketing services. This is a good tactic no matter if it's a seller's or buyer's market. Many companies — especially first-time sponsors — shy away from deals because of concerns about their ability to use and execute elements of a sponsorship deal. It can be tremendously valuable, therefore, if a sports property can offer to help the company handle some elements.

While setting up a sweepstakes program is a familiar activity for an event, it might be new territory for many companies. Companies may have outside agencies that could handle such work, but they're not the ones trying to land a sale. Offering some additional marketing services might be enough to close a deal during a tight market.

Alan Friedman (alanf100@excite.com) is founder of Team Marketing Report.

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