SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/Franchises

Cowboys sell ‘experiences’ on LivingSocial

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The Dallas Cowboys are selling behind-the-scenes access to the team through a new deal with social commerce website LivingSocial.

The partnership, which the parties are scheduled to announce Tuesday, includes traditional sponsorship elements like signs and the use of the team’s marks, but it will feature opportunities billed as “unique experiences” that would be made available throughout the year.

Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
LivingSocial will start offering these Cowboys-based experiences this week. Among them are access to the Cowboys’ war room for the draft, a chance to try out for the team’s cheerleading squad, attending a cheerleaders photo shoot, shadowing a team reporter and even appearing in Dallas’ official team photo.

“We are trying something new we think could be real important and significant for sports teams in the future,” said Alec Scheiner, a Cowboys senior vice president. “There are
A cheerleading tryout or a seat in the team’s draft war room are among the opportunities available.
some things fans can’t get enough of — the behind-the-scenes access.”

The deal is believed to be unique in the NFL, if not across sports, based on its depth. LivingSocial has had more limited deals with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos in the NFL, and with D.C. United in MLS, among other teams and leagues. None of those deals, however, approaches the nature of the formal relationship the Cowboys and LivingSocial are slated to unveil.

Alex Michael, LivingSocial’s general manager of live events, said the Cowboys deal will stand out because of “the volume we are going to do here, and all the assets.”

Michael pegged the number of available experiences at dozens, though Scheiner described the amount as a dozen over the course of a year. The agreement is for multiple years, and the sides declined to disclose terms.

LivingSocial, which touts 60 million members globally, is one of several websites that makes daily offers in specific communities. The deals are typically built as revenue-sharing agreements, and the offers can range from meals and entertainment to spa trips and eye surgery. For the participating companies, the site allows them to reach an audience that might not be familiar with their particular products, in turn creating new patrons of the company. In sports, some teams have used such sites to move lower-tier ticket inventory, but with that comes the challenge of not training consumers to be interested only when prices are slashed.

“I’ve seen teams do it with tickets,” said Lou Imbriano, a former New England Patriots chief marketing officer. “The problem is these sites are known as ‘discount’ sites, and that is not something a big league team would necessarily want to associate with their brand.”

LivingSocial, specifically, is striving to distinguish itself from the competition by offering events and experiences. The company hired Michael last year from MSG to bulk up its offerings in sports and entertainment. The Cowboys deal is the first major fruit of that effort.

There are some game tickets available through the Cowboys’ LivingSocial effort, but they are for non-Cowboys games at Cowboys Stadium. Last week, tickets for Saturday’s Alabama-Michigan game at the stadium appeared on the site, the first evidence of the new partnership.

The Cowboys will cap the number of sales for each experience, with access offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

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