SBJ/April 7-13, 2014/People and Pop Culture

Plugged In: Bob Weber, Smithfield

Bob Weber spent 28 years in the publishing business before joining Smithfield in 2011. Now, as senior director of business development for the $20 billion company, he manages Smithfield’s NASCAR program with Richard Petty Motorsports. The company recently renewed that sponsorship through 2016, increasing its spending in the sport by more than 50 percent. Weber’s responsibilities include ensuring that the sponsorship raises brand awareness and increases sales for Smithfield.

Understanding what that DNA is [for a brand] isn’t an empirical thing. The artistry of creating a brand is the unquantifiable. How do we touch a consumer in a special way? There’s an artistry that comes with that. Getting to that next level so that you can breathe life into the brand is tough to get people to understand.

The state of sports sponsorship:
A lot of us look at sports marketing as a sexy asset. The name of the game is: “Give me your money, I’ll put your name on the side of this thing, and let’s go to lunch.” We’re really looking for a return on investment. The onus is placed on the franchise or stadium to show me how [a sponsorship will] work because if it doesn’t, guess what, I’m gone in two years. You see a lot of that in sports these days. There’s a litany of two-years deals [in NASCAR] because they’re all focused on race results and the car finished 29th. The goal is to find another metric.

Ways to deliver: My philosophy [as a former publisher] comes from the media side of things. My mantra is, “I’ll level with you: Selling advertising for a living really sucks. It’s a nasty job. But, if you allow me to come be part of your business and become part of your marketing team, that’s when my job becomes fun.”

What NASCAR does for Smithfield: The NASCAR fan consumes 15 to 40 percent more of the type of products we make than the average American, depending on the product. We know the fan buys sausage. We know they buy bacon. We know they buy pork. How do we get them to buy us? We believe in the NASCAR pitch that consumers believe buying sponsors’ products keeps them in the sport and keeps the sport effervescent.

Finding a path: [Smithfield CEO] Larry Pope has been the visionary. He’s wanted to drive our company … by building our brands so that people believe in the quality of our products. Our involvement in NASCAR is an opportunity to build our brands.

Advice for aspiring marketers: My guidance and counsel to people who worked for me at a couple of magazines was, If you ever wonder what to do every day when you come to work, make believe it’s your company. What would you do? Would you read the paper? Would you have a cup of coffee? Or, would you think about the business and what to do next? That’s a riveting concept for people. It bred results

— Tripp Mickle

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