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Volume 20 No. 42

In Depth

In-venue. Experiential. Social media. Event. Hospitality. Mobile. Retail.

Marketers have many tools at their disposal to activate their sponsorships.

Brands and agencies discuss how some of their most recent ideas came together and how they developed innovative strategies for reaching consumers.

Chase delivers the rewards

State Farm goes to bat


Comcast connects with Hispanics

Mercedes-Benz hits the social highway

NIKE 6.0

Coke, NASCAR get the party started

Hugo Boss likes the look

Cisco brings it home

Nike 6.0 throws the ultimate house party

Bigelow makes tea manly through spots

Taco Bell goes mobile with truck, activation

Head & Shoulders reinvents brand

Beverages, especially beer and soft drinks, have been supporting the sports economy for more than 100 years. However, even sailing aficionados might not remember the connection between tea and American sports. Tea baron Sir Thomas Lipton tried unsuccessfully five times between 1899 and 1930 to win the America’s Cup, gaining fame for his brand, if not his yacht-racing acumen.

The more recent connection between tea and U.S. sports began in 2005, when the folks at Bigelow Tea read a New York Times story about then-New York Yankees manager Joe Torre drinking green tea

Brand: Bigelow Tea

Athlete endorsers: Joe Torre, Phil Simms, Wayne Gretzky, Terry Francona

The goal: Raising brand awareness, and making tea, especially green tea, more relevant to male consumers.

Why it worked: “It was kind of kismet. There was a big move by men toward more healthy stuff, including green tea, and these guys are such authentic endorsers that when they talk about Bigelow, it’s obvious they know and love our brand.” — Cindi Bigelow

after receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Cindi Bigelow’s surname has been associated with tea since her grandmother founded Bigelow Tea in 1945, but after reading about Torre drinking her brand, she had what she described as a “V8 moment.” Men were already drinking tea in greater numbers, and Torre was someone who could elevate the brand’s stature while giving more men permission to drink tea.

Quicker than you can boil water, Torre was in print and radio ads for Bigelow, later complemented by CBS Sports NFL analyst Phil Simms, Red Sox manager Terry Francona and NHL überstar Wayne Gretzky. Bigelow’s spokesmen often make trade appearances, and since those buyers skew male, that’s an effective pitch.

“We don’t exactly have Coke’s marketing budget,” said Bigelow, president of the Fairfield, Conn., family-owned business since 2005, “but the combination of Torre’s fame with the Yankees and all of our guys’ passion for tea and health made it work.”

Bigelow’s sales were up 12 percent last year, and Bigelow is projecting a 7 percent increase when its current fiscal year ends.

“Torre and the rest of our champions have had a tremendous impact, not only on sales but on brand awareness,” said Bob Kelly, the company’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “And it’s really their credibility that’s the cornerstone.”

— Terry Lefton

The Chase Sapphire Card launched in 2009 with the understanding that customers want unique rewards that match their personal preferences.


JPMorgan Chase

Agency: Intersport

The goal: To have Chase Sapphire Card members redeem their reward points by attending one of the company’s featured golf events.

Why it worked: The program highlighted the quality of the Chase Sapphire rewards program by offering unique, “inside the ropes” experiences to cardholders.

“We built a card program that is based on meeting four key needs of cardholders: travel services, flexible and easy-to-redeem rewards, outstanding customer service, and advocacy,” said Sean O’Reilly, general manager of Chase Sapphire.

Chase identified golf as a major interest for many of its customers, so it began exploring ways to use the sport to highlight the benefits of being a card member.

“They needed events that allowed cardholders to engage with the new Ultimate Rewards program, and those events had to resonate with the affluent group of Sapphire cardholders that have very high expectations,” said Dan Jones, senior vice president of sponsorship and event marketing for Intersport, Chase’s marketing agency.

Thus, Chase and Intersport created a one-of-a-kind golf experience starting last year that includes shot analysis, club selection and a general strategy discussion by a golf pro. Three events were held in 2010 at high-end golf courses — one in Northern California, and the other two in the Chicago area. Attendees were given the opportunity to challenge the professional in a closest-to-the-pin competition, with the prize being a Callaway driver.

The program has been such a success that Chase has doubled the number of events to six for 2011. Chase also is creating activations at various PGA Tour events to promote the rewards programs and golf experiences to a broader market.

“The Chase Sapphire golf experience has consistently had high interest from cardholders, and the feedback we receive from card members post-event has been extremely positive,” O’Reilly said.

Intersport’s Jones agreed, saying, “Customers were blown away by the intimate, inside-the-ropes experience that Chase Sapphire delivered them. We captured video testimonials after the event and consumers literally said, ‘I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out if this is real.’”

— Molly Hogan

Fans rarely interact with professional athletes in a one-on-one setting. Cisco Systems’ Umi experiential campaign, which appeared at the NHL and NBA All-Star Games, allowed fans to have one-on-one conversations with all-stars such as Toronto Maple Leafs center Phil Kessel and former NBA players Robert Horry and A.C. Green using Umi Telepresence video technology.


Brand: Cisco Umi Telepresence

Properties: NBA, NHL

Agency: The Marketing Arm

The goal: Promote the company’s Telepresence product to mainstream consumers, specifically families.

Why it worked: “We brought Telepresence into the living room of consumers and helped people understand the environment and the context of where they could use this technology.” — Mike Kisch, director of Telepresence marketing at Cisco Systems

Cisco housed the interactive experience in a large RV where fans could enter a room, turn on the Umi unit and speak with an athlete who was at the team hotel.

“Being able to talk to [an athlete] creates that unique experience which inspires fans to tell their friends,” said Mike Kisch, Cisco’s director of Telepresence marketing. “It’s a powerful experience.”

Cisco’s Telepresence video-conferencing technology can be found in corporate boardrooms across the country. However, Umi is aimed at the general consumer, specifically families. The system connects to a home’s HDTV to allow friends and families to connect and see each other as they chat.

Said Kisch: “We want to bring Telepresence into the living room.”

The Marketing Arm provided staffing for the Umi exhibit, and Cisco developed the RV in-house. In addition to the opportunity to talk with the athletes through the video link, fans could talk with each other over the device, as the exhibit featured a Telepresence screen on the outside of the RV as well.

Cisco rolled out its experiential campaign in October, and it first traveled to malls across the country, where the RV put on 250,000 demonstrations in three months.

The technology maker targeted the fan expos at both the NBA and NHL all-star games due to the family-friendly atmosphere at both events.

— Fred Dreier

Last year, NASCAR wanted to make its championship weekend bigger and better. So, the racing organization decided to have a Coke and a smile — and throw in a beach party, too.


Brand: Coca-Cola

Property: NASCAR

Agency: LeadDog Marketing Group

The goal: Raise awareness and interest of NASCAR’s final race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Why it worked: A free concert attracted a crowd of 18,000 spectators, entertaining NASCAR fans and introducing other consumers to the sport.

With the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR, working with Coca-Cola, other sponsors and LeadDog Marketing Group, cooked up a two-day fan festival in Miami Beach called the “Coca-Cola Fuels NASCAR Championship Drive.”

Admission for all events was free, with an evening Zac Brown Band concert on the beach serving as the main attraction.
Steve Sweeney, NASCAR director of consumer marketing, said the festival entertained diehard fans of the sport while also offering music and attractions to appeal to tourists and others who may know next to nothing about lug nuts and carburetors.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to entertain fans, but get in front of non-fans, as well,” Sweeney said. And, with the track located well outside of the city, putting a NASCAR-themed attraction on the beach helped spread the message of the championship weekend. LeadDog, NASCAR and Turner Sports, operator of, worked on a live stream of the concert to raise awareness nationally.

About 7,000 people attended the daytime events, including a cook-off competition between Miami’s firehouses, driver appearances and autograph sessions.

Other sponsors including Sprint, Nationwide, Camping World and Kraft brought promotional displays, race simulators, games and samples of their products. All four of NASCAR’s automakers (Toyota, Dodge, Chevy and Ford) participated, too.

For the Zac Brown Band concert, Coke and Sprint were among the companies that built chalets to entertain clients. NASCAR later used footage from the concert as part of a promotional campaign.

The event’s enviable backdrop, combined with the well-received concert, has convinced NASCAR and its partners to aim for an encore this year.

“One of the things that makes experiential campaigns come to life is the setting,” said Dan Mannix, LeadDog president and CEO. “So being there right on the beach with the water helped create the uniqueness for it. That’s part of what the allure was.”

— Erik Spanberg, correspondent

School never ends at Comcast since the media and digital company unveiled its La Academia de Comcast caravan last year.


Brand: Comcast

Agency: GMR Marketing

The goal: Promote the company’s Xfinity HD, Internet and phone service, as well as Latino-focused channel lineups.

Why it worked: “A lot of brands will have a presence at those big, 100,000-people events, but not a lot have a separate experience they’re bringing to a Best Buy parking lot. We’re taking it into the Hispanic community.” — Steve Dupee, vice president of GMR Marketing

A 42-foot trailer loaded with kiosks, video games and interactive skills tests (think soccer kicks, football tosses and the like) made its way to 24 cities for the inaugural tour, touting the benefits of Latino-focused channel packages and the company’s Xfinity lineup of HD, Internet and phone services.

La Academia was chosen as the name and theme because the tour aimed to educate prospective customers about everything Comcast is selling, while also reinforcing the skills displays as informal sports tutorials. The company says it’s hard to make direct links with the tour spurring sales, but anecdotal evidence and overall growth in 2010 led to an expanded format this year.

The motivation is obvious, said Roberto Perez, Comcast’s director of Hispanic marketing. There are more than 50 million U.S. Hispanics and there are more multigenerational families than ever before. “So there are different levels of acculturation, and different levels of language,” Perez said.

That demographic shift inspired the introduction of various Hispanic channel lineups to suit the different audiences and preferences. The next logical step was spreading the word, Perez said.

Thus the arrival of La Academia. Last year, the Comcast tour hit festivals big and small while also visiting neighborhood grocery stores and retailers. Attendance for La Academia totaled 52,000. Comcast hired several prominent Hispanic athletes to endorse the program, including members of the Mexican national soccer team, NFL player Tony Gonzalez and baseball’s Hanley Ramirez.

This year, the tour has returned, and three sport utility vehicles with pullout trailers have been added to increase the scope of the Comcast tour while reducing set-up time. La Academia has been to 52 events year to date, with a target of 200 appearances by the end of 2011.

— Erik Spanberg, correspondent

Head & Shoulders is a 50-year-old brand that’s one of 22 Procter & Gamble trademarks with more than $1 billion in annual sales. However, until recently the top-selling shampoo brand was marketed with the same pitch to men and women.


Brand: Head & Shoulders

Properties: Major League Baseball and NFL
Creative agencies: Saatchi & Saatchi (TV/print), Resource Interactive (digital), Upshot (in-store)

Sports marketing agency: Riber Sports Marketing, a Team Epic company

The goal: Marketing Head & Shoulders directly to men for the first time

Why it worked: The 50-year-old shampoo brand had always been marketed in a gender-neutral fashion until 2 1/2 years ago. Sponsorship affiliations with the NFL, and later MLB, and athletes from both sports gave men who considered it nothing more than “my dad’s shampoo” permission to buy and use the heritage brand.

Looking to update the brand, P&G sought to “genderize” Head & Shoulders for the first time 2 1/2 years ago. Women got a fairly straightforward message about product benefits; men saw the venerable brand grab a pricey NFL sponsorship and support that with humorous ads showcasing one of the NFL’s most identifiable manes: the flowing black tresses of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu. That’s worked well enough that the brand now is coming off several record sales years, and many brand equity scores also have increased — quite an accomplishment for any brand, much less a much-tenured brand in as mature and competitive a category as shampoo.

“Using sports, we’ve achieved a fun and irreverent tonality with men that’s allowed the brand to break out of the ‘It’s my dad’s shampoo’ characterizations,” said Head & Shoulders brand manager April Anslinger. It also made consumers look at the brand in a new light. “There was this huge awakening for consumers that it’s for more than just dandruff,” Anslinger said.

Since that notion had long been the biggest barrier to consumers trying Head & Shoulders for the first time, dispelling it was quite a feat. The NFL platform has been followed by an MLB marketing effort this season, with Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Adding MLB and Mauer, and supporting it with a marketing campaign similar to the one used with the NFL and Polamalu, has given Head & Shoulders a year-round sports marketing program.

“We’ve brought the brand to life with some very important properties — NFL and MLB — that are really where our target consumer wants to be,” Anslinger said. “It’s really made our marketing more impactful.”

That’s why a celebrity-based campaign aimed at women is Head & Shoulders’ next play.

— Terry Lefton

Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan. An upscale New York Knicks crowd streaming into the arena straight from work.


Brand: Hugo Boss

Property: New York Knicks

Agency: None

The goal: Increase brand awareness

Why it worked: By awarding a best-dressed fan $500 in Hugo Boss merchandise, the company used its only NBA deal to boost brand awareness in its biggest U.S. market. Said Ward Simmons, vice president of marketing and public relations for Hugo Boss: “Every fan likes to win something and be involved.”

That was the perfect motivation for Hugo Boss to own the third quarter of nearly half of the Knicks games this past season with its “Best Dressed” fan activation. The promotion spotlighted fashionable fans on the team’s scoreboard and, based on crowd applause, awarded the winner a $500 Hugo Boss gift certificate.

The promotion, simple in its presentation yet powerful in its messaging, has grown into one of the team’s most popular sponsor activations and stands as a cornerstone of the company’s branding efforts at Madison Square Garden. Hugo Boss has a multiyear sponsorship with the Knicks that began this past season.

“We have been affiliated with sports and sponsorships in Europe, but since much of our business is done out of New York, the Knicks were a match for us demographically,” said Ward Simmons, vice president of marketing and public relations for Hugo Boss.

In addition to the promotion aimed at fans, Knicks players are shown on the scoreboard entering the arena before the game, and fans are asked to respond by applause in voting on which player is the best dressed. The Hugo Boss sponsorship also includes courtside LED signs during Knicks games, as well as signs outside Madison Square Garden during Fashion Week in New York City.

The “Best Dressed” activation elements increased in-arena brand exposure to young, fashion-oriented sports fans — exactly the kind of customer Hugo Boss aims to attract.

“One of the goals is to reach a corporate male demographic, and the dynamic of the Garden is that it is a well-dressed crowd, and we marry it with the promotion, which fits right in line with showcasing the brand,” said Greg Economou, executive vice president of revenue performance for Madison Square Garden Sports.

— John Lombardo

Looking to build upon plans for its Super Bowl XLV ad — its first for the event — Mercedes-Benz worked with agency Razorfish to develop a program that would introduce a new generation to the automaker.


Brand: Mercedes-Benz

Agency: Razorfish

The goal: Harness the power of social media to reach a younger generation of potential car buyers.

Why it worked: “We got a little cooler and a little hipper and a little more relevant to a set of people we weren’t reaching before.” — Steve Cannon, Mercedes-Benz

“We wanted to create an experience that would grow and engage the Mercedes-Benz community online and position the brand as an inspired, forward-thinking leader in the automotive industry,” said Frederic Bonn, executive creative director at Razorfish.

The automaker created the “Tweet Race to the Super Bowl,” which used posts to Twitter to help send four drivers down the road to the game.

“What we liked about the tweet race was that it was nicely linked to our Super Bowl activation, but it stood on its own. It was a neat combination of ‘Amazing Race,’ meets the Super Bowl, meets social media,” said Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz.

Four drivers — chosen from a field of candidates who applied via Facebook — and a teammate of their choice began the race to Dallas on Feb. 2. Each team, driving a 2011 Mercedes-Benz, started in one of the automaker’s four largest markets: New York City, Chicago, Tampa and Los Angeles.

Each team was also given a Twitter-savvy celebrity coach to help rally team support on Twitter, as well as raise money for charity. Teams and coaches needed to receive “Tweet Fuel” through retweets and hashtags by followers for the three-day trip. Social media-related challenges and help from coaches earned the drivers more points.

The winning team won a new Mercedes-Benz. All contestants, as well as the celebrity coaches, were the automaker’s guests for the Super Bowl.

“It’s safe to say the campaign exceeded our expectations,” Bonn said. “Some 21,000 people actively participated in the tweet race, which amplified into more than 500 million Twitter impressions.”

Cannon said that Mercedes’ Twitter following went from 0 to 77,000 followers, and its Facebook numbers grew by 400 percent.

“There was something very powerful about the idea that a simple tweet could move a car and creating an interactive digital experience that manifested itself on the roads, with real cars and drivers,” Bonn said.

— Molly Hogan

When Nike pushed into action sports in the early 2000s, many surfers, skateboarders and snowboarders expected the brand to impose its stick-and-ball sensibilities on sports that thrived on individuality. Nike executives tried to upend those expectations by making cool, credible product.

NIKE 6.0

Brand: Nike

Agency: BeCore Promotions

Goal: Create energy and buzz around Nike 6.0 and validate the company’s position in the core action sports community.

Why it worked: “The kids had access to the athletes in a relaxed and informal and fun environment, and it had the sense of permanence. It wasn’t a tent or a party or a barbecue. You could come back every day and not know what to expect. The kids really responded to that.” — Kelly Vaught, chief marketing officer, BeCore Promotions

“Expect the unexpected” became a driving principle for the company, and it brought that principle to life last year when it created one of its biggest, consumer-facing activations: the Motel No Tell in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Nike 6.0 rented a two-story, beachside motel four blocks from the Huntington Beach pier and transformed it into an unparalleled action sports hangout where surfers like Kolohe Andino spent the night, made hamburgers and listened to live music from bands ranging from the Polar Bear Club to Mariachi El Bronx.

Throughout last summer, lines of teens wearing board shorts formed outside a small motel at Huntington Beach near a small white, orange and blue sign that said “Motel No Tell.” They pushed inside, where they could play games in a 1980s-style arcade room, design their own shoes, check out athlete hotel rooms, eat free tacos or watch live music. The motel offered a total of 48 events over two months.

“The action sports community is a tight-knit community,” said Kelly Vaught, chief marketer at BeCore Promotions, the marketing agency that conceptualized and managed the motel. “Nike rolled in as the behemoth company. Could they really establish themselves as authentic? That’s what the hotel did. It was open, inviting and demonstrated the technology behind the products and allowed kids to align their own creativity with the brand.”

Nike won’t be running the motel this summer. It launched a “Just Do It” campaign that features its action sports stars and created a mobile activation unit to support it. But last summer’s motel was one of the more critical steps in the evolution of its Nike 6.0 brand. It allowed the company to show that 6.0 was a real brand, deeply committed not just to the sport side but also the music, art and culture, said Zach Boon, Nike 6.0 North American brand manager.

“We were able to bring 6.0 closer to that world and elevate it,” Boon said.

— Tripp Mickle

Last summer, State Farm took a swing at a new promotion as part of its Major League Baseball sponsorship by letting fans go to bat for charity.


Brand: State Farm

Property: Major League   Baseball

Agency: The Marketing Arm

The goal: Create a cause-related campaign connecting State Farm’s sponsorship of Major League Baseball with the favored charities of customers and baseball fans.

Why it worked: The 10-week program generated 1.6 million entries from 120,000 people, and those entries produced 10 weekly winners, whose preferred charities received a combined $209,800 from State Farm. Each weekly winner and a guest received a trip to Games 3 and 4 of the World Series.

The insurance company became a baseball sponsor in 2007, aligning with the Home Run Derby contest at the annual All-Star Game, and wanted to enhance the relationship by adding another charity element.

State Farm hit upon a theme tied to its existing Home Run Derby donation to Boys & Girls Clubs. Each batter in the derby wins donations from the company on behalf of MLB, with varying amounts awarded for each home run depending on the ball used for each pitch. In 2010, the derby generated $573,000 in donations from State Farm for Boys & Girls Clubs.

Unlike the previous years, the derby donation last summer marked the beginning of a charity drive during the second half of the season. Fans could “Go To Bat” on a dedicated website and register for a preferred charity. Then, every week, State Farm selected a random winner and gave a donation to that person’s chosen charity. The amount was determined by the total number of home runs hit in the big leagues during the week, with each homer worth $100.

Charities such as the American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, National Fallen Firefighters and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital received a combined $209,800 from State Farm.

Todd Fischer, State Farm manager of national sponsorships, said the simple notion of “Go To Bat” worked not just for connecting baseball and the philanthropic push, but also reinforced the notion of State Farm agents working for their policy holders on a daily basis.

“This was a great way for us to articulate that and allow consumers to have the power and control to take action on behalf of State Farm,” Fischer said.

The campaign gave State Farm the chance to emphasize its role as a company to be relied on, said Erin Wasson, account director at The Marketing Arm, which worked with State Farm on the campaign. That angle received a boost from a related, monthly Good Neighbor Award run by 24 State Farm-sponsored MLB clubs and honoring community work by groups and individuals.

The campaign also helped the company mine for prospects. Of the 120,000 people who submitted a combined 1.6 million entries, State Farm agents reaped 19,000 sales leads.

— Erik Spanberg, correspondent

With a core demographic of males age 18 to 34, Taco Bell knows well that mobile is a key element of its marketing activation.

Brand: Taco Bell

Agency: Intersport

The goal: Deepening the brand’s connection to its core young, male consumer base, as well as drive sales of its football-themed Touchdown Box value meal.

Why it worked: “This is a brand that’s evolved digitally very quickly. They know their consumers readily embrace technology, so they’re there in a meaningful way.” — D.J. Koeller, Intersport account executive

The QSR chain this past winter sought to boost its partnership with the Bowl Championship Series and ESPN by rolling out several mobile extensions of its BCS-related marketing. In particular, the brand ran numerous mobile ads, particularly on ESPN sites and applications, promoting its football-themed value meal, the Touchdown Box. The $5 package came in two varieties and included a burrito, two tacos, cinnamon twists and drink, with the meal packaging itself convertible into a finger-football field.

“Our insight was to reach fans on the go and connect with them as they checked scoreboards for updates,” said Will Bortz, Taco Bell senior manager of public relations and sponsorships. “We know that mobile is becoming more of an extension of consumers’ everyday lives, and therefore it makes sense for us to have a presence with our sponsorships.”

Taco Bell’s mobile ads also redirect to optimized mobile websites that make store locator functionality a central component, with the clear aim of driving immediate in-store traffic.

Mobile additionally represents for Taco Bell a key means for its consumers to track the Taco Bell Truck. The company’s traveling purple truck traverses the country handing out free tacos, including at many Major League Baseball and BCS events to tie into those sponsorships. The Taco Bell Truck has its own twitter feed, @tacobelltruck, with more than 10,000 followers. The Twitter activation, frequently accessed via mobile devices, in turn represents part of a broader, aggressive social media strategy that includes a Facebook feed with more than 7 million fans.

“Many of these fans share their passion via mobile,” Bortz said of the social media executions. “We frequently look to our sports partners [in this area], as they are frequently on the cutting edge.”

— Eric Fisher