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Volume 21 No. 1
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The Gatekeepers: Jackie Woodward

Vice president of media and marketing services, MillerCoors

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?’”

Jackie Woodward
Presumably, very few of MillerCoors’ bevy of sports sponsorships were bought on the basis of filling a salesperson’s quota. A more constructive approach in one of sports’ noisiest categories harks back to elementary salesmanship: Help the client solve a problem and the sale will follow.

“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.

The sponsorships have been leveraged in packaging, electronic media and at venue, and have helped both brands win new retail accounts and grow share within a Hispanic market that is becoming vital in the U.S. as more of that demographic reaches legal drinking age.

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.’’