SBJ/October 3 - 9, 2005/Marketingsponsorship

Entertainment, China on brand leaders’ minds

The annual Street and Smith’s Sports Group’s Sports Sponsorship Symposium was held Sept. 27 and 28 at the Westin Times Square in New York. The event drew executives from throughout the sports industry for discussions of such topics as linking brands with entertainment, getting the most out of sponsorships and the opportunities available in China. Among the highlights:

Panel: “Chief Marketing Officers in the Spotlight: Top Brand Leaders Discuss the Strategic Fit of Sports in the Marketing Portfolio … Where It Works and Where It Doesn’t”

Panelists: Bill Lamar, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, McDonald’s USA; Brad Fogel, chief marketing officer, 24 Hour Fitness; Paul Heffernan, executive vice president/global marketing, design & development, New Balance

Steve Stoute, founder and chief creative officer of Translation Consulting & Brand Imaging and the person behind Reebok’s relationship with rapper Jay-Z and McDonald’s deal with Justin Timberlake, discussed the topic “Linking Brands with Entertainers to Target Urban/Youth Culture” as a keynote speaker.

On pitching Reebok’s Paul Fireman: “I said, Paul, when you go in the closet in the morning to make sure the croc belt matches the brown croc shoes, there is a 16-year-old kid doing the exact same thing. And he is making sure the bottom of his sneaker matches the lining of his hat. He is making sure the toe on his sneaker matches his shirt. Let’s talk to that. Let’s talk to this guy. He likes athletics. He wants to feel great. He wants to be spoken to. Nike is already speaking to him in a ‘work out, try hard’ way. Why don’t we start shifting it over to lifestyle?”

On the problem with Q ratings: “A big, big problem with marketers is that no one uses their gut.”

On the launch of the Jay-Z sneaker: “We sold 10,000 pair in an hour, and that is not an exaggeration. I released [the shoe] like the way you would release a record album. On May 5 at 4 o’clock, go get the new Jay-Z sneaker. By making it entertaining and driving urgency, the sneaker sold like crazy. And what was a marketing model slowly and surely became a real business called Rbk that Reebok looks to.”

On the musicians in Reebok’s stable of endorsers: “We now have a wide spectrum of artists that represent different cultures, that may not be high in Q ratings, but absolutely make deep cultural impact and absolutely cause contagious consumer behavior. When they wear it, other people wear it because they think it is cool.”

On the next big opportunity in sports: “I think cheerleading is a huge opportunity. I think cheerleading is an undervalued asset. Cheerleading takes you in places that are hard to reach as a marketer. Cheerleaders go back to high school. They date the high school quarterback. They are the trendsetters at their high schools. … But there are no Q ratings, so nobody goes to that. The grassroots value of cheerleading is something that we can absolutely take advantage of. It’s not about pompoms. It’s about dance and exercise and gymnastics. It’s about emotions. I believe there are opportunities there.”

Lamar, on how sports fits into the company’s overall marketing mix: “We look at sports in the context of what it means to our customers and how we can have them visit us more often and be more brand-loyal. As we try to connect and be more relevant, we look at passion areas: entertainment, music, fashion and certainly sports. That is how we start looking at a sports relationship. … It’s really about the passions our customers have and how we can — with sports — tap into those passions and be more relevant.”

Heffernan, on the company’s endorsement strategy: “Our ‘Endorsed by no one’ philosophy came as much from the standpoint that we do not have enough money to pay these athletes for their services, but we need to validate the sports-performance arena with athletics. … At the end of the day, we’re not going to make a team or athlete the face of the brand. They validate the brand. They are an important part of the brand, but the hero of the company is going to be our product or our people or our programs, and not one athlete or one team.”

Lamar, on advice for pitching a sponsorship idea: “If you want to have a shot, learn enough about what we are trying to accomplish that the proposal you bring has a chance to fit with our goals.”

Fogel, on the same issue: “Make your first meeting an informational meeting so you can do your homework with the client, because I don’t think you can do enough homework and really understand what our strategy is.”

Panel: “The Super Bowl at 40: How Top Brands Have Left Memorable Impressions on Super Sunday”

Panelists: Ken Kaess, president & CEO, DDB Worldwide Communications Group; John Osborn, president & CEO, BBDO New York; Ed Erhardt, president, ESPN/ABC Sports, customer marketing and sales; Steve Pacheco, managing director of advertising, FedEx

Osborn, on additional benefits of advertising during the Super Bowl: “An often overlooked opportunity is that the Super Bowl is a great opportunity to energize your sales force, because with the Super Bowl comes a ton of added PR. And it is not just external PR, but it is internal excitement that you can rally your system around.”

More Osborn: “The Super Bowl is still really important for some advertisers, but not for all advertisers. I think that is a key point. The Super Bowl is not for everybody.”

Kaess: “If you are off-brand or not brand-building, then I think you are probably wasting your money. One of the bleakest years of all Super Bowl advertising was during the dot-com hype because that was all about just one shot in the can.”

Erhardt, on advice to potential advertisers: “Be a Super Bowl marketer and not a Super Bowl advertiser. … From the day you decide to be in the Super Bowl, you have made a marketing decision. And that starts with the first time somebody in the press writes so-and-so is in, what they paid, what they are doing with it and why they are doing it. … We want people to think about the Super Bowl as a marketing event, not just 30 seconds on one day in February.”

Panel: “China: The Big Picture on Sports in the World’s Largest Consumer Market”

Panelists: Philippe Davy, vice president, marketing, Lenovo; Rick Dudley, president & CEO, Octagon Worldwide; Mark Fischer, managing director, NBA China; Mark Lewis, vice president, GE Olympic Sponsorship, NBC Olympics; Scott McCune, vice president, integrated marketing, The Coca-Cola Co.; Russell Wolff, executive vice president & managing director, ESPN International

Lewis, on what China means to GE: “China for GE is one of the few growth markets left. The example I like to use is that in China in the next five years, they will build 80 airports, and I don’t think anywhere else in the world there is scheduled to be one airport built. It is a market that represents growth we can’t find anywhere else in the world, and because of that it is the most important market for GE right now.”

From left, Ed Erhardt, Ken Kaess, John Osborn and Steve Pacheco discuss the Super Bowl.
Davy, on the diversity of the Chinese market: “We keep talking about China as one large country, but actually what we have learned is that the way to grow is by segmenting. Just to give you an idea. Our plan for this year and next year is about growth in what we call Tier 5 and Tier 6 cities. Obviously, Beijing and Shanghai are Tier 1, but even when you segment Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4, we are now reaching Tier 5 and Tier 6. And this is really white space in China. This is also where a lot of the growth is coming for consumer products. And it is a totally different market because when you go to Beijing and Shanghai — obviously it is a different country — but still it is similar to some extent to the market we are used to. But when you start to go to Tier 5 and Tier 6 cities in China, you need to create specific products. You need to create specific distribution channels.”

Wolff: “The sports fans — in part because of weather, culture, language — are very distinct across China. … You are actually finding hockey fans in Upper Mongolia, where it is cold and they are playing hockey. And that is a total different sports fan than the core soccer, basketball and NBA audience in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. So I encourage everyone not to think about China and say this is what is going on in China, but [as] a huge place that has a ton of regions that are all very different.”

Lewis, on cultivating relationships in China: “I’m struck by the panel in that none of us are Chinese. That is the first hurdle for all of us as Western businesses. We can’t just come in as outsiders. So our first approach to developing business is that we have to develop within our company a strong team of Chinese nationals and Chinese-speaking individuals — maybe they were educated outside of China, but they are considered Chinese — because I think any company that just presents an outside face to China is going to struggle to ever have true relationships.”

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