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Volume 22 No. 44
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Ideas, insights on sports marketing

Easily the most pervasive topic at our Sports Marketing Symposium earlier this month in New York City was social media. One could argue it was a “Social Media Conference.” What stood out to me over the two days was that social media is a part, not a panacea, of a sports marketing strategy. Other insights I liked:

A SOCIAL STATE: American Express is well-respected for its ability to create exclusive experiences for its card holders, but ALEX CHANG, vice president of sports marketing, access strategy and planning, noted the difficultly in doing that online. Chang: “We’re always about creating a differentiated experience. … In the digital space, though, it is harder, and creating a ‘velvet rope’ is definitely more difficult, particularly given how information is so abundant.”

GM LIKES BIG AIR: STEVE TIHANYI, General Motors’ director of branded entertainment marketing alliances, wasn’t ready to dimiss the impact of big TV ad buys when he outlined GM’s marketing spend. “We will always have an interest in being on air in what are called the more traditional manners,” he said, “because at the end of the day, it still hits an incredible amount of people, a lot of eyeballs, creates a lot of awareness, it can help change opinion and do certain things that are very important to us.” He said radio and print have suffered with money moving into the digital space.

PUPPY LOVE: ESPN Chief Marketing Officer CAROL KRUSE had a great analogy comparing the current love for social media to getting — and caring for — a puppy. Everyone adores their puppy and gives it love and a lot of time. Puppies grow and still need love and time. For marketers, social media is still in the puppy stage: It needs a lot of time and attention that marketers aren’t used to giving. Kruse: “We’re used to launching something and then moving on. We’re not used to that constant care and feeding that comes with a Facebook page or a Twitter feed or a YouTube channel.”

“I, I, E” ON AGENCIES: The agency world was out in force at the symposium, and many audience questions focused on the role agencies should play with brands and partners. Samsung CMO RALPH SANTANA nailed it for me, saying, “Three criteria: it’s insights, ideas and executions. So can you deliver the insights? If you can, then you’re a valued agency. Can you translate that into an idea? Then ultimately, how do you execute it?” He’s right: Insights bring intellectual value. You then need to translate insights into amazing creative activation ideas, which is also not easy. The third part is execution. It’s important — it’s not intellectual nor creative — but it must be done well. Santana boiled it down in three easy terms, but not all are easy to do well.

STRONGEST COMMENT: Longtime sports business executive/current NASL Commissioner DAVID DOWNS didn’t flinch when asked about the prospects of pro women’s soccer, saying, “I’m somewhat skeptical that the United States can support a women’s professional soccer league at the economics it’s going to take to keep the players gainfully employed. I think it is a truism that sports fans tend to be male and not female.”
For full coverage of the Sports Marketing Symposium, including videos and full panel discussions, visit

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at