Sponsors Careful Not To Go Overboard When Introducing Marketing Programs On Campuses
Editor’s Note: After the original publication of this story, we received questions about the context surrounding quotes attributed to Hunter Lochmann. We temporarily removed the quotes until we could access audio from the panel discussion in which Lochmann participated. We have updated the item, which you can read below.
College sports provide unique marketing opportunities, but companies have to be careful not to overdo it and turn off fans, said panelists at the ’14 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum. IMG College Senior VP/National Sales Andrew Judelson said companies need to honor the traditions of the schools they are involved with. Judelson: “The college space has exploded with a lot of investment, and we need to be mindful of the tradition and that it is a different landscape than the pros. That’s not all bad. For marketers, it’s a different environment ... and we need to respect that." Judelson then alluded to MillerCoors and brewery Dir of Sports & Entertainment Marketing Adam Dettman, who was also on the panel. “They do it in a very thoughtful way, with responsible drinking,” Judelson said. “They’re always open to dialogue, and if a school feels it’s pushed too far, Adam and his team will pull back. They want to be strategic partners and they’re not in this for the quick buck.” Kabam adviser Chris Carvalho, whose company has the naming rights to Cal's Memorial Stadium football field through a 15-year-deal signed last December, agreed, saying that Kabam has to be mindful of Cal’s traditions. Being a Cal alum, Carvalho said he is aware of those traditions and of what it takes to avoid a backlash from fans. Carvalho: “We had built up a great business, but we didn’t have our brand out there. Cal said, ‘We want to go beyond just a traditional partnership of naming a field. We’d love you to tie in other aspects of it.’ And that got us really excited. So we have 20 Cal students that intern at Kabam. It’s the ties and giving back to the school that we think is really valuable. We’ve done a lot of in-stadium things. We have a large 50-yard-line LED strip. We can message during the game. We found tie-ins when Cal scores a touchdown, and things go up on the scoreboard, explosions that tie back to Kabam. We’ve done a lot of fun things like that. We’ll be doing more in the future. Every indication is we’re really excited about the metrics this year.”
* Dettman, on MillerCoors' tie with collegiate sports: “For us, we’re focused not necessarily on campus or at the school, we’re focused on retail, the larger institutions. We’re trying to tap into some of these alumni areas around the country… For us it’s about trying to reach legal-drinking age fans and alums, and we’ve got 60-plus collegiate partnerships across the country. It’s a platform for us, but when it comes to utilizing that platform, it’s how do we use that in a way where our retail partners can sell beer to 21 and older fans that are enjoying the occasion, really watching it at home on TV.”
* Hunter Lochmann, Chief Marketing Officer, University of Michigan, when the panel was asked how the marketing proposition for schools would change if athletes were paid, said he didn’t think sponsorships were about athletes, who “are there for four years.” Lochmann: “I think it’s about the marks. At Michigan, it’s the block M that has the affinity and power globally, not Denard Robinson. Those are fleeting, four-year relationships. It’s the block M that’s been there for a hundred, 200 years.”
* Lochmann, on why Michigan does not do in-game sponsorships: “We don’t do anything in the stadium. Us and Notre Dame are the two cleanest stadiums in college football, so that makes it easier. But, for instance, we had a Cadillac display this past year outside of the stadium, two beautiful cars with winged helmets on them, and we were getting some grief from our fans on social media about them. ... We're trying to entertain our fans, so we have a new partner that sponsors a dance contest, so it’s about trying to be smart like that. Our fans have told us front and center they don’t want sponsors (in the Big House), though.”
* Judelson, on keeping up with technology: “There’s a shift in where media dollars are going, and we don’t have the current infrastructure to capture those dollars to connectivity. But you look at the amount of money that is shifting out of those traditional medias into not even emerging, but current, technologies, and we need to be able to offer advertisers, sponsors, with the assets they need to market to consumers. I see that as the biggest thing that we collectively need to resolve."