Jets maintain sponsor dialogue
Nonetheless, Matt Higgins, executive vice president of business, said the team felt a real need to share plans, such as they are, and to do some hand holding. “We’ve got partners contributing hundreds of millions of dollars in one place and there’s got to be positives about gathering them together and sharing where we are with them,” he said.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson makes the rounds at the team’s partner summit.
To some degree, the amount of sponsor anxiety is dependent on the category. Those with retail programs planned were undeniably more nervous than those without. Even so, some of the former were proceeding like it was just a “regular season.” The afternoon before the Jets summit, Pepsi did a shoot with Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in Manhattan for some point-of-sale ads, while Gatorade did the same with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
“We’re planning like there will be a full season, regardless,” said Mark Rooks, director of sports marketing at Pepsi, a sponsor of the NFL and the Jets. “The NFL is our biggest property, so we have to be ready to go for whenever, and, if it’s necessary, we can move programs and support to the [NFL] International Series, Thanksgiving Weekend, or the playoffs.”
Woody Thompson, Octagon executive vice president, posed a question resonating across the league’s corporate patrons when he asked, “Is there any legitimate reason why a sponsor would be at retail with any kind of NFL display if they aren’t playing?”
One of four new promo spots from Jets cable partner SportsNet New York has Jets imagery and footage. Marie DeParis, SNY vice president for marketing and business development, said that spot will join the rotation soon, regardless of the lockout’s status. “We’re all in a waiting game,’’ she said, “so it’s all about adjusting quickly.”
Added Alex Gomez, vice president at Van Wagner Sports, which consults New Meadowlands “corner partners” Pepsi and Met Life, “There’s so much money at stake, we all believe there will be an NFL season. To me, the much more serious question is the labor problem facing the NBA.”
■ NEW, NEW MEADOWLANDS: Thad Sheely, the Jets’ executive vice president for finance and stadium development, detailed $5 million in capital improvements scheduled to be completed for the second year of football at the Jets’ and Giants’ $1.7 billion home field. Some of the needs were discovered by online surveys, fan intercept, and by “secret shoppers” in the building. They include things as vital as a more robust data network, to the more banal, like bird netting. They also include 40 percent more men’s rooms in the upper deck, an area in which end zone fans will also get canopies for protection during rain and snow. Sheely said the Jets are also working on game-day mobile applications, like one through which consumers might be zapped e-coupons when approaching a particular sponsored section or concession area. Payment via cell phone is also on the drawing boards, he said.
■ SOCIAL SECURITY: Every consumer marketer nowadays is being pressured to deliver marketing programs that use social media, so naturally sessions dealing with that topic were the most well-attended during the summit. Jets marketers noted that a weekly Facebook photo submission contest sponsored by Motorola yielded about 20 million impressions and is expected to be replicated by many Motorola-sponsored NFL teams this season. As for what’s next in the fast-shifting social media world, Higgins said he’s closely watching Tumblr, a site that enables simple, short-form blogging. Also generating discussion were “social serendipity’’ sites, like Yobongo, which use GPS technology to aggregate proximate strangers with similar interests, for example, at an NFL venue.
The Jets sold 6,000 cases of their branded Cabernet Sauvignon, but league rules will make it difficult, if not impossible, to extend the product line.
Before quaffing, fans might be interested in Bio Force Pro, a new “full-body fitness machine” being jointly marketed by the Jets with Curtis Martin, the team’s all-time leading rusher, and Fitness Quest International. While he doesn’t have quite as lofty expectations, Higgins took note of the $1.2 billion in sales of Total Gym machines, endorsed by Chuck Norris. A soft launch earlier saw pricing for Bio Force Pro reduced from $1,299 to $899. While it won’t be marketed as a Jets machine, the Jets plan on using their media assets to back the product in about a month, with long-form infomercials from agency Script to Screen — featuring ESPN talent Merril Hoge — slated for late August or early September. The Jets also plan to demo the product at home games.