SBJ/May 28-June 3, 2012/In Depth

Activator finds traction with properties, brands

Companies, teams and leagues share many worries in their collaborations, from justifying the investment on both sides to ensuring promotions, ad campaigns and tickets and hospitality proceed without glitches. Real-time demands for innovation and adaptation, as well as scrutiny over detailed measurement of effectiveness, ratchet up the pressure.

For some teams, venues and brands, one solution for endless email chains is the Activator. Turnkey Sports & Entertainment launched the cloud-based Web management system in April 2011, providing instant and constant access to contracts and creative work and security online.

“It is meant to be a place where properties and sponsors can go to manage their relationships, and more specifically, execute and collaborate on all the contract elements,” said Emily Huddell, senior vice president of sales and service for Activator. “It becomes a real-time recap.”

For any subscriber, a dedicated channel contains secure information about all elements of an agreement. Thus, a team, for example, buys separate channels for the sponsors it wants to work with using Activator. A channel costs $50 per month, or $600 annually, allowing brands, venues and teams to build slowly with minimal commitment.

“We’re moving along with the goal of getting all of our complex [sponsorship deals] on board,” said Mike Burch, vice president of national sales and marketing at Speedway Motorsports Inc. “When you have a lot of people that need to be informed, it takes time to get them up to speed. We want to get people out of the email habit.”

SMI owns eight racetracks across the country. Burch said Activator offers an easy way to coordinate hospitality, mobile displays and other elements needed at various tracks throughout the year. It also allows for third-party consultants or outside agencies to be involved. “There can be a lot of cooks in the kitchen,” Burch said.

Nationwide Insurance is the official insurance company at SMI’s tracks in Charlotte and Bristol, Tenn. In addition, the insurer entertains clients and prospects at all eight speedways and runs mobile displays at SMI’s Atlanta and Kentucky tracks.

“In very complex relationships, [Activator] makes a lot of sense,” said Jim McCoy, Nationwide director of strategic sponsorships. “Especially with a property like [SMI] that has eight facilities.”

The Chicago Bears use Activator to improve collaboration with their partners.
The NFL’s Chicago Bears helped Turnkey develop the system and now uses it to work with 30 of the team’s sponsors.

“We said, let’s try and pull together all the information a sponsor would need to apply their own measurement metric,” said Chris Hibbs, Bears vice president of sales and marketing.

Selected categories include TV ratings from Nielsen, attendance reports, audience demographic surveys, and team and corporate impressions across various media, with an emphasis on providing data on a constant, immediate basis. Or, as Hibbs and others in the industry describe it, saying goodbye to the 100-page annual recap issued to sponsors weeks or months after the season ends. By then, it’s too late to make adjustments until the following season, an agonizing delay.

Corporate partners like the convenience of seeing every element in sponsorship agreements and the status of what has occurred to date, said Katie Ranne, manager of partnership administration at AEG. The company began using Activator in January with founding partners of Staples Center and L.A. Live, adding at least one channel per month. Six sponsors have AEG-backed channels on Activator.

Founding partners often work with multiple AEG venues and properties, another example of the system’s usefulness with more extensive partnerships. Ranne said allowing access for sponsors to various logos, photos and other artwork reduces delays, headaches and constant back and forth.

“When investments are scrutinized to an even greater degree, I think it’s important that the properties are coming with tools and resources that help [sponsors] value it,” said the Bears’ Hibbs. “Brands are going to say, ‘We need more from you guys.’ Whether that’s Activator or other things, we’ll see.”

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.
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