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Volume 26 No. 60

Brand Engagement Summit

Graybill, Madkour, Besser and Lefton talked sponsorship and analytics, among other topics

Day 2 of the '19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit on Thursday began with our first live "Deep Dish" morning show, where Intersport's Charlie Besser and Brian Graybill joined SBJ's Abe Madkour and Terry Lefton to chat for 30 minutes about the state of sports business, sponsorship and marketing (check it out here if you missed the live version). The four panelists discussed Heineken USA CMO Jonnie Cahill's remarks to open the conference on Wednesday, where he impressed upon the execs in the audience to not focus so much on impressions. Lefton said of his takeaway from Cahill: "The focus on metrics and analytics has pushed it. I think ideally, it's a blend of black magic and science. And we're still trying to find the equilibrium. And with the advent of the analytics guys, we're sort of being pushed and we're finding somewhere in the middle." Besser believes analytics can "become a crutch and it can be a reason to not do things." Besser: "Trying to create joy, that's the fun stuff and that's where the art meets science and that is what separates the great marketers from the pretenders."

HAVE SOME FUN! A panel on Wednesday looked at the success of the Browns and the Bud Light Fridge this past season, and Graybill during "Deep Dish" said of the effort from A-B InBev, "It was fun, because obviously it leveraged their partnerships and their IP with the NFL and the Browns, which is important. Not every brand -- despite having the use of the marks or the access to the marks -- does a particularly good job of developing them. But it was a great idea and something that would never pencil out theoretically on paper." Besser said of the industry becoming too stat-focused: "That would clearly be no fun."

WHAT’S NEXT? Lefton said he is watching CBD/pot and jersey patches. He said of the growing CBD sponsorship category: "There are deals with people like Martha Stewart. Is that mainstream enough for you? Three PGA (Tour) golfers, three cars in the Indy 500." Besser added, "We have unleashed our sales force to make sure that they're talking to all of the CBD manufacturers." Besser also noted he's watching compensation for college athletes. Graybill is still watching the rollout of sports betting and how legislatures continue to move on the issue.

Tim Clark (l) said it is “not just good enough to have a lock-up with content” with brand partners

The first panel to start Day 2 of the '19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit revolved around tips for driving brand value through authentic and engaging experiences (i.e. breaking through the noise). NASCAR Senior VP & Chief Digital Officer Tim Clark said it is “not just good enough to have a lock-up with content” with brand partners. Clark: “It's got to be an authentic and engaging piece of content.” Allstate Dir of Consumer Marketing & Sponsorships Dan Keats added, “It's got to be able to tell our brand story the right way. Yes, we have to walk the tightrope a little bit in terms of what's going to be compelling to the consumer. And also, is it going to tell our brand story in an authentic, relevant manner? ... Just having Kirk (Herbstreit) deliver some content is great, but how do we get him doing more things showing off his expertise, so that we can, again, further enhance our brand story through that.”
INSIDE THE HELMET: Xenith VP/Brand & Experience Tammy DeMarco noted her company, a helmet manufacturer, recently signed a deal with IMG Academy in Florida and will be “developing product with them for the next five years, co-creating content, making sure that everything we do is authentic to the athlete.” DeMarco: “What's your hype music you listen to before a game? What are you training to? What are you doing in your workout? What are you eating? Those are the questions that our community is looking for, so it's much broader. It's more about what's happening in the ecosystem than just on gameday.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE: Clark said of how he wants to work with brands in NASCAR, “I don't want you to have to go make a phone call to a broadcast partner and then make a phone call to the track and then make a phone call to the brand department and the partnership marketing department or the team." He added, "Our new sponsor model is designed to attack that. So one investment for this premier set of sponsors allows you to make one investment and then get a connected sponsorship experience across digital, social, venue, broadcast, which I think is probably going to change the trajectory of the sponsorship model for us in a positive way.”

Kenney said fans now want more out of their experience than simply watching the game

The Cubs on Thursday announced the start of their third annual celebrity chef series, in which acclaimed foodmakers from around the city spot up for a homestand at Wrigley Field to serve their take on ballpark food. Maker’s Mark is on board as presenting sponsor. It’s a perfect example of how the Cubs, Hickory Street Capital and Marquee Sports & Entertainment Group used data to find ways to wring more revenue out of the limited space at Wrigley. “That all came out of the research,” said Cubs President of Business Operationis Crane Kenney on Day 2 at the ‘19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit. “We have really sophisticated fans, they know a lot about baseball, they also know a lot about the culinary arts. When they come to Wrigley, they want to do more than come and eat a hot dog, drink a warm beer and watch a bad baseball team. Fortunately we’ve fixed most of that.”

ALL ABOUT RESEARCH: Throughout the course of their overhaul of Wrigley Field and its immediate surroundings, the Cubs and their partners were challenged by basic math: How to generate enough revenue to justify an extraordinary cost in a tight space? The answer was to rigorously research fan interests and let the data point the way. Now, more than 240 special events in the Gallagher Way Entertainment District fill the schedule, from concerts to movies to free yoga classes and more, complimenting the regular baseball schedule and in-venue improvements. When fans like an idea, sponsors follow. “One of our fastest growing revenue lines is what we’ve done on our sponsorship side outside,” Kenney said. Marquee Senior VP Cale Vennum said data showed how Chicagoans differ from fans in other places. “We found what was different about our fans,” he said. "And not just a cookie cutter millennial approach.”

Shaw said Puma at this time is planning to bring a Cloud9 collection to market in September

Executives from Puma and Cloud9 appeared on Day 2 of the ’19 Intersport Brand Engagement and Content Summit to talk about their new deal. After originally signing a short-term deal in January, the two companies just this week agreed to a much broader deal. Puma Head of Digital Marketing & Esports Matt Shaw said the new multiyear, eight-figure deal “puts us in a position to create a lot of really awesome, meaningful experiences and product that we’re excited to bring to market. That’s going to include fanwear ... for Cloud9 fans. That’s going to be a street-style based product and also performance-based product, so we’ll be making jerseys, as well.” Cloud9 Exec VP/Commercial Partnerships Jordan Udko said the deal is a way to “expand our presence beyond esports and to affect a broader culture.” Udko: “We’ve got fans globally. Certainly we’re a very strong presence in the United States, but everywhere from Northern Europe all the way down to Brazil. We feel like Puma could help us get a greater presence and gain greater fans, not just in esports.”

READY TO LAUNCH: Shaw said Puma generally operates on an 18-month design timeline, but is planning to bring a Cloud9 collection to market in September. “That’s going to be a relatively limited run,” he said. “It’ll be available on and on, and there will be a couple of different styles.” After the limited collection in September and another product drop in the spring/summer of '20, Shaw said by late next year “we’ll be in our full sort of design swing.” Shaw: “Our ambition is very much to design apparel that will be distributed globally and to do so in relatively short order.”

Reinsdorf said he expects his club to be ready to seriously contend next season

On the eve of the Intersport Brand Engagement Summit, the White Sox hosted many conference attendees in the Terrace Suite at Guaranteed Rate Field for what ended up being two games against the Royals. Following a walk-off win in Game 1 for the White Sox, Owner Jerry Reinsdorf visited the suite for a Q&A with SBJ’s Abe Madkour.

  • On his club’s rebuild: “It’s a process that we've been going through. We decided a few years ago that we didn't like being in the middle. We didn't like being mediocre, and the only way to get good was to get bad. So, we went through that process and I think we're making progress. You know, last year we lost 100 games, which was not a lot of fun. But, we are a better team this year. We'd be even better if we didn't have some injuries. But, we're on our way and I think by next year, we'll be playing meaningful games in September.”

  • On how his fan base is handling the rebuild: “White Sox fans are really, really smart. They follow the game, they're into it, and they realize that we're on the right track. They realize that there's a lot of talent already coming here, there's a lot of talent in the minor leagues. They're aware of it. They read about it. They hear about it on talk radio. The mail that I get is consistently saying, ‘Stay the course.’ ... They are (patient) as long as they can see that there's a plan and they can see it.”

  • On the state of MLB: “The game is healthy. I think there's some things that can be done maybe to speed up the game a little bit. But I don't think that people really care about how long the game is if it's an exciting game. Now, if it's a 2-1 game and it takes three and a half hours, there's something wrong. But if it's a 10-9 game and it takes three and a half hours, it's exciting, I don't think people complain.”

  • On ways to speed up the game: “I like the idea of having the relief pitcher have to pitch to more than one batter. I think that will speed things up. I don't like the idea of it being three batters, right? I hope we settle on two. It's our call. I mean, if the unions left it up to us, we can go to two, we can go to three. I understand two, because it does slow the game down a little bit when you bring in a guy and then you change pitchers for another guy. But, if you make them stay in for three, I think you're fundamentally changing the way the game's been played. Suppose that you bring in a pitcher, he puts one guy on. OK, not so bad he has to face another guy. But, if he's put two on, right? A manager should not have to leave him in. The pitch clock is okay. There's no reason when there's nobody on base for a pitcher not to be able to pitch in 20 seconds. I think it's more problematic if there are men on base. You have to give the pitcher time to think and to gather himself. But, when nobody's on base, you don't need more than 20 seconds."
  • On how the profile of MLB owners has changed: “When I first got into it, it was just a bunch of baseball guys. It was guys like Calvin Griffith who had spent their whole lives in baseball. They weren't businessmen. They generated all of their income merely from tickets and concessions. They didn't know anything about television. They certainly didn't know anything about cable television. So that's changed now as the values have gone up and teams are selling for a billion and a half or two billion dollars. You're getting a different type of owner. You're getting somebody who's made a lot of money doing something else and for whatever reason wants to own a team. Instead of lifers, you're getting people who made their careers doing something else, now they're in baseball. So, one of the big differences is that most of the owners, and this is not a knock on them, it's just a result of their backgrounds. They don't really understand like the old guys did how the game is played. They don't understand. You know, most of them don't understand the difference here between a four-seam and a two-seam fastball or defensive positioning -- that sort of thing. But they know an awful lot about the internet, they know an awful lot about cable television, they know an awful lot about how to sell advertising. So, they're just different.
  • On MLBers showing personality: “I love it. I mean, that's why the NBA's so popular. The players have personality and they show it and people like that. There's no reason why baseball players shouldn't be able to show their other side and show the excitement. We ask the fans to get excited, why shouldn't the players be excited?”