Cuan Petersen says one reason he regularly swims 2.4 miles, bikes 112 miles and then runs 26.2 miles as a competitor in the Ford Ironman Series is so he can keep up with his wife, Fiona, a world champion triathlete. “I ‘participate’ in it, anyway,” Petersen said. “‘Racing’ is for those who get top 10s … like my wife.”
Since joining Oakley in 1996, the South African native has maintained the focus of a triathlete. He has, at various times, managed the company’s marketing efforts on four continents, and has led its Olympic-related efforts since the 2000 Sydney Games.
Last fall, the company signed a sponsorship and licensing agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee that will allow it to outfit members of Team USA with its eyewear during Olympic competition. Oakley will release a line of Team USA eyewear in October.
The deal was significant because, despite having marketing deals with more than 600 athletes, Oakley wasn’t a sponsor of the USOC or any other national Olympic committee. As a result, Petersen said, Oakley has always had to stop promoting its Olympic athletes at retail two weeks before the Games in order to comply with International Olympic Committee rules.
“This [USOC] deal allows us to talk and boast and brag a little about our Olympic achievements,” Petersen said.
Oakley took another step toward increasing its exposure in traditional sports in December when it signed an apparel and eyewear deal with golfer Rory McIlroy. Petersen said that quantifying ROI for signature deals such as the Olympic athletes and McIlroy is easier to do than measuring exposure of a title-sponsored event.
“Our golf sales have been unbelievable,” Petersen said. “Just walk into any Golf Galaxy. The response to Rory’s ‘Dominate Distraction’ campaign has been phenomenal.”
■ Strangest pitch received: A call from South America with an offer to put the Oakley logo on the towel of a racing horse. The pitch included creating custom-made sunglasses for the horse.
■ What properties could do better: “A lot of properties just completely ignore the ‘partnership’ part. Rather than ‘How can we grow this relationship together,’ it’s just ‘Where’s the check? Now watch us grow.’”
■ What brands could do better: “A lot of brands are missing the relationship side. We consider our athletes as family. We make them feel at home. They are wearing our products because they feel that they are great products, but we take care of them like family.”
The first time David Palmer brought multiple brands together was for an NFL sponsorship signed in 2009. Febreze, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Old Spice, Prilosec OTC and Vicks were among the brands that participated, and Palmer compared coordinating their involvement to “herding cats.”
“When I came into the role here at P&G, the sports marketing department was in its infancy,” Palmer said. “We learned a lot from Gillette, and the sports sponsorships they’d done in the past.”
“We’re really now trying to go to market as Procter & Gamble and really leverage scale,” Palmer said during a SportsBusiness Journal conference last year. “We see a lot of synergy between our brands, and the advantages we can have talking as one. It’s a big step for us as a company, and a real leap of faith.”
That broader thinking is apparent in not only the NFL deal but also
Palmer says the new strategy makes P&G more “choiceful” in its sponsorships. He added, “It’s not just go out and sign partnerships and go. There has to be an opportunity to drive scale while linking to our purpose. One thing we like about the International Olympic Committee partnership is their idea for improving life through sport. That fits well with P&G’s purpose of touching lives and improving life.”
■ Where properties could do better: “We’re looking for scalable innovations. We don’t want to just be pitched, ‘You get the rights to use my logo.’ We want to understand marketing programs, their purpose and how it’s a fit with P&G.”
■ Recent program that provided the best return and why: “The obvious answer to that would be our partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee. We learned a lot and were on to something that was purpose driven that met not only the needs of the company but the needs of our brands. We expanded that into a global partnership very shortly after receiving those results.”
■ The onset of social media means they can: “For us it means that we have the ability to reach more consumers quicker and faster than the traditional old guard TV and print. It helps drive real-time immediacy.”
Gillette has been leveraging Major League Baseball and other sports for more than 100 years, since the New York Yankees were called the Highlanders and the company was called the Gillette Sales Co. MLB likes to call the blade and personal care products marketer its oldest corporate sponsor. In truth, its 72-year-old relationship is more media based: Gillette used to buy out World Series radio broadcast ad inventory in the 1930s and ’40s — the equivalent of buying every Super Bowl commercial pod today.
While there was a time when branding was paramount, that requirement has gone the way of the straight razor. Today, the field of play paramount to Gillette is the sales floor of its biggest trade customers: large mass merchandisers and chain drugs.
So while Gillette’s MLB, NASCAR and NFL affiliations are supported through electronic media and venue signage, their real efficacy is in convincing retailers to stock their products and build incremental displays in their stores. Anyone pitching branding as a primary element need not apply.
“We index fairly high among any teen-adult consumer group and our market share is substantial, so it’s not like we have this desperate need for more
Gillette has been owned by Procter & Gamble since 2005. Those pitching sponsorships for events taking place in the next few months should be advised that Gillette’s promotional calendar is planned 12-18 months in advance. Via also gets many media-heavy sponsorship proposals, when media buys are handled out-of-house.
■ Strangest pitch received: “Not so many. We get more unsolicited proposals for athletes than anything else. But those are chosen as a tactic that follows a strategy, not vice versa.’’
■ What properties could do better: “Better integration. We would all like to have better one-stop shopping and have more programs with meaningful retail ties.’’
■ The onset of social media means they can: “Like everyone, we’re still figuring it out. We released a viral video recently with Evan Longoria that seems to have gotten a lot of attention. One of the oldest laws in marketing is ‘Be where your consumers are,’ so you have to respect how much time people are spending with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. We’ll be there, but we’re still learning.’’
Beer is the economic lifeblood of sports, and as such, MillerCoors receives more than 1,000 annual sponsorship solicitations. After many years as a client-side marketer, MillerCoors’ Jackie Woodward still gets calls from Willy Loman-types, no doubt clutching their sponsorship decks, while offering little rationale to buy.
“It still happens after 20 years,” Woodward said. “Probably every week, I answer the phone and there’s someone on the other end saying, ‘Hello, this is Mr. X representing Y. We need to fill our beer category. Can you help me?’”
“What you’d like to hear is someone at the other end of the line saying, ‘I have a solution that will help you sell more beer,’” Woodward said. “That just doesn’t happen often enough.”
As an example of a recent sponsorship platform that is achieving those ends, Woodward pointed to Coors Light’s sponsorship of Mexico’s Primera Division soccer league, and Miller Lite’s sponsorships of the CONCACAF Gold Cuptournament and the Chivas club, one of Mexico’s most popular soccer teams.
In keeping with the theme of elementary education, marketers at MillerCoors have their version of the three Rs: “reach, retail and relationships.” Call it the A-B-Cs of MillerCoors marketing. You might want to brush up on them before calling the brewer.
“There are three ways for us to grow: by making rich consumer connections, by getting retailers’ attention through activation tools, and by creating integrated platforms to drive the first two,” Woodward said.
It’s as simple as getting beer on the retail floor and driving demand to induce consumers to remove it.
■ What properties could do better: “We are always looking for a better level of integration and we are looking at the NBC/USOC model with great interest, because that could be a model for the future. We are always working to create more rich consumer relationships, but we need our sponsorship partners’ help.’’
■ The onset of social media means they can: “We approach it with some caution, because we are a regulated category, but we are increasing our digital [marketing] spend by 50 percent. The biggest opportunity we have is increasing and amplifying what we have in other media.’’
Since stepping into Pepsi’s top sports post in 2008, Jeff Dubiel has received more than a few peculiar sponsorship pitches. There was the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament and the arm wrestling competition, for example, as well as the Lingerie Football League, which queried him this month.
“We get about 50 strange ones a week,” Dubiel said.
Dubiel applies the “right fit for the brand” sniff test to potential partners. An attractive sports partner provides Pepsi ample opportunities to connect directly to fans. In fact, the National Rock, Paper, Scissors College Competition passed that test and landed a deal with Pepsi’s AMP brand.
“I’m always asking myself ‘How does this fuel a social connection between fans that gives them something they can’t get from other brands in the sport?’” Dubiel said.
And while it’s been 27 years since Pepsi launched its “New Generation” campaign,
Pepsi brings its on-site experiential marketing campaign to major partnership events, and rounds out its partnerships with media buys and in-arena signage. The brand also reaches out directly to fans with its Pepsi Refresh program, which provides grants to community initiatives and organizations.
In March, Pepsi slipped to No. 3 in the U.S. soda market, behind Coke and Diet Coke. Dubiel, however, said the primary challenge facing Pepsi now is the flat market for all carbonated soft drinks. “I’m optimistic,” Dubiel said, “that it’s an opportunity to reinvigorate the entire category, not just Pepsi.”
■ Where brands could do better: “Growing the overall soda category.”
■ The onset of social media means they can: “Create reach and affinity in Gen X and millennials like never before. But nobody really knows how to control it yet.”
The Gatekeepers: John Price
Not surprisingly, one of the important things to know when pitching a company that markets grass seed and fertilizer is the seasonality of the products sold by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.
“We have almost universal brand recognition, so increased awareness is almost a moot point,” said Scotts’ John Price.
Very few of those calls come from people who have bothered to examine Scotts’ efforts online or inside a home improvement retailer. It’s all about educating, somewhat endemic to the do-it-yourself industry, but even more so in lawn and garden.
MLB’s verdant fields are an ideal connection between Scotts and consumers, but
“Lawn care is a category that’s confusing to most consumers, so our strategy is to connect, educate and demystify,” Price said. “We want to be the brand that connects homeowners with nature. If we can amplify that experience in an endemic way, then we’re doing the right thing — and that should increase sales.”
That can mean Internet instructional videos, printed booklets leveraging MLB grounds keepers, local sweeps, sponsoring in-store balloting for the MLB All-Star Game at more than 1,700 Lowe’s stores, a field refurbishment program, distributing prints of MLB diamonds with coupons attached to those touring fields, or sponsoring MLB grounds crews.
“We’re building consumer connections,’’ Price said. “Our brand name is already pretty well built.’’
■ What properties could do better: “Aside from lowering prices (laughs) … they should make it easier for us to activate. We try to build integrated marketing programs, but the fragmented nature of some of these properties makes it really hard and puts the onus on us to integrate.’’
■ Recent program that provided the best return and why: “We’re in the second year of sponsoring MLB All-Star Game balloting at Lowe’s. It’s increased our sales to that important customer, done the same for them while building their store traffic, underscored our overall sponsorship with MLB and its teams, and gotten the word out about [All-Star Game] balloting per se. So I’d say it’s worked every place we wanted it to.’’
■ The onset of social media means they can: “It’s now an important way for us to tap into consumer passion points, engage consumers and educate them. But Facebook is not your company microsite, so whatever you are doing won’t work if you come off too corporate — too serious and too commercial won’t work there.”
Farmers Insurance’s push into sports sponsorship began two years ago after Paul Patsis was named president of market management. His move into that role coincided with the company’s desire to increase unaided consideration of Farmers.
To achieve that, Patsis oversaw Farmers’ new agreements over the last year with: the PGA Tour to title sponsor an event at Torrey Pines; AEG to be the naming-rights partner of a planned NFL stadium in Los Angeles; and Hendrick Motorsports for six NASCAR races on the No. 5 Chevrolet. All of the deals were driven by one goal.
While a sponsorship’s ability to raise awareness is a priority for Farmers, Patsis says the company also looks at other factors before committing to a deal. Key among those is sponsoring a property that shares Farmers’ value system and provides a platform for giving back to the community. Patsis said Farmers was attracted to Hendrick, for example, because the NASCAR team is a winner, values its employees, emphasizes teamwork, and does a great deal of charitable giving.
Similarly, Patsis believes the deals with the PGA Tour and AEG allow Farmers to give back to the community. The deal with the tour provides a platform to promote Farmers’ “Blessing in a Backpack” program, which helps feed elementary school students, while
the one with AEG helps bring business and jobs to the city where Farmers is based.
“It’s not about plunking money down,” Patsis said. “It’s about being an active participant and being a company that’s involved in every aspect of something.”
■ Where properties could do better: “I think an area where we can all strive to do better is to be outside in. That means really put the fan first. If they put the fan first, it will translate to success. In the end, whatever business you’re in, it’s all about the customer and you ought to be customer-centric.”
■ Where brands could do better: “Brands have to tie their brand positioning to a strategy. Too often the approach is to go to an ad agency and ask for ideas and then pick the best ideas. I think the structure should follow the strategy.”
■ Recent program that provided the best return and why: “Certainly our University of Farmers advertising campaign has done great things for us. The reason why is it fits with the strategy for that brand because it’s about delivering insurance services through our exclusive Farmers agents.”
Phil Pacsi’s degree in chemistry might appear unorthodox for the top marketing executive of Bridgestone Americas’ tire operations, who oversees sports marketing for both the Bridgestone and Firestone tire brands.
Pacsi spent the first half of his 28-year career with Bridgestone developing fabric and rubber compounds in the heavy-duty materials development department before joining the marketing division in 1994. The engineering background, Pacsi said, helped him develop his marketing philosophy, which is to stress the brand’s tire performance in all driving conditions to as wide an audience as possible.
Bridgestone is partnered with the NFL (including an ownership role of the Super Bowl Halftime Show), NHL (including the Winter Classic) and PGA Golf. The Firestone brand sponsors the in-stadium balloting for the MLB All-Star Game, and is the official tire of the Izod IndyCar racing series.
At events, Bridgestone’s engagement marketing invites fans to play interactive games that incorporate the company’s tires. NHL fans, for example, must shoot a puck through a tire for a chance to win a set of Bridgestone’s latest all-weather product; NFL fans receive a similar award for tossing a football through tires. Company reps also talk with participants about each tire.
“We bring the tires into a situation where most people wouldn’t think about connecting with them,” Pacsi said. “I call
Pacsi said the brand’s success in sports at the national level has highlighted a need to extend into local markets, where Bridgestone’s marketing team sees the most growth potential. The brand owns the naming rights to the Bridgestone Arena in the company’s corporate hometown of Nashville, however the brand leaves local activation with sports teams up to its retailers.
“We can get further with our consumers if we do a better job locally,” Pacsi said. “We just need to work closer with our local retailers to do more.”
■ Strangest pitch received: One company that claimed it would provide an exclusive opportunity for a partnership. Unfortunately, the sender had included marketing reps from all of Bridgestone’s major competitors on the email as well, which lessened the attractiveness of an “exclusive” deal.
■ The onset of social media means they can: “Keep our message fresh.”
The Gatekeepers: Suzy Deering
Through all her years of working in sports marketing, Suzy Deering has developed a few pet peeves. No. 1 among them is the word sponsorship.
“We’re in the partnership business and out of the sponsorship business,” said Deering, who oversees partnerships at Verizon, the third biggest advertiser in sports. “I’m not looking for someone who says, ‘Your logo can be in these 17 places and you’ll have access to tickets.’ We’re looking for engagement and access.”
Deering revamped Verizon’s strategy so that all partnerships were managed centrally and the company allowed many of the sponsorships to sunset.
In evaluating new opportunities, Deering says content is king. She points to the company’s partnership with the NFL as an example. Initially, the league wanted to sell Verizon a deal that mirrored its previous wireless category agreement with Sprint, but Verizon wanted content it could own exclusively. The result was a four-year, $720 million deal that gave Verizon subscribers exclusive access to the NFL RedZone channel.
“We flipped the paradigm on its head,” Deering said. “Sponsorships were rights to marks and hospitality and signage. First, for us, is content. All the other elements are important, but they’re not why we’re going to do a deal.”
Deering said Verizon isn’t actively looking to sign any new deals. She anticipates the company will let more of its existing sponsorships sunset and focus on fewer deals with greater reach.
“Less is more because we can be very, very focused and actually accomplish more to leverage what’s in our strategy versus having a bunch of little things hanging out there that you can’t really get behind.”
■ Strangest pitch received: “I have had people who have told me they have long commutes, and we should sponsor their car to get all the eyeballs on the road.”
■ Where properties could do better: “First, understanding who they’re going after and have a better understanding of what that brand’s objectives are. Properties now think that we’re still checkbooks. That’s not the case. They’ve got to work harder for the money.”
■ Where brands could do better: “Brands should stop talking and start acting. They continue to buy what they don’t want. They’re hard choices to make internally. Some may say, ‘That property is so important because it’s X team.’ When you step back and say, ‘What’s it going to get us?’ those are hard choices, and I take pride in making those hard choices and saying, ‘No. You’re not a good fit for us.’”