Barges moved up and down the Mississippi River. The DirecTV blimp flew overhead. Sounds of music and partiers in the French Quarter wafted through the air.
|Staff writer Michael Smith talks about how Allstate capitalized on its title sponsorship during the week of the championship game.|
Unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, where the NCAA controls the Big Dance and Bracket Town and sells space to its corporate partners, the BCS leaves on-site acquisition and activation up to the title sponsors. Allstate initiated all of its own activation at the BCS championship game.
Allstate is the title sponsor of the Sugar Bowl and also the BCS title game when it’s in New Orleans every four years. The title sponsorship of the championship game rotates with the change in site, so Discover, title sponsor of the Orange Bowl, will be the BCS title sponsor next year when No. 1 plays No. 2 in Sun Life Stadium.
AT&T, Buick and Dr Pepper were among the six sponsors that bought into the fan fest and activated with fan interactives and autograph signings by former LSU and Alabama greats. Terms of the sponsor deals with Allstate weren’t available. Allstate also arranged for concerts by Cee Lo Green and The Neville Brothers. Green’s concert was streamed live on Allstate’s Facebook page for the first time.
|Allstate rented the fan fest area and sold space to other companies that wanted to take part.
Allstate has activated with smaller footprints at the MLS Cup, where it is the league’s official insurance, and at a handful of U.S.-Mexico friendly soccer matches, but they don’t approach the scale of the fan fest in New Orleans.
“This is completely our own initiative,” said Pam Hollander, Allstate’s senior director of sponsorship marketing. “We go out and solicit the footprint space to other companies.”
Hollander and her team of eight executives from sponsorship marketing spent nearly two consecutive weeks in New Orleans as Allstate sponsored the Sugar Bowl, then the championship game.
BCS game title sponsorships are sold through ESPN, the BCS’ TV partner, and they’re heavily loaded with media. These four-year title sponsorships are believed to be in the low eight figures, industry experts said.
But Allstate has worked over the past six years to make its activation on the ground in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl — and the BCS title game when it’s in town — more robust. In all, Chicago-based Allstate had close to 400 executives and agents through New Orleans for the games, a number that has gradually increased over the six years of the sponsorship.
Most of those agents were awarded a trip to New Orleans as part of sales incentives the company established. Agent incentives and the fan fest were two of the most important activation elements on the ground in New Orleans.
Allstate’s primary return-on-investment measurement is how many leads it can generate. Some of the agents worked the fan fest and answered insurance-related questions for the fans.
“We look at a lot of things, from impressions to TV ratings, but lead generation is the monster for us,” Hollander said. “And what we’ve learned over the years is that the leads work for us.”
While Allstate’s activation elements were clear to see on the streets of New Orleans, the part of the job that flies under the radar is coordinating the different agencies assisting the insurance giant.
Hollander runs the point for a team that includes IMG on strategy and contract management, Octagon on activation, Leo Burnett for advertising, Starcom for media buying and Taylor for public relations. Many of those agencies also have post-event responsibilities. Taylor measures PR and news impressions, while Performance Research tracks attendees, viewership and other sponsorship analysis, and Octagon measures the leads generated by the fan fest.
Octagon takes charge of the fan fest, while IMG makes sure that Allstate receives everything that is written in its title sponsorship contract with ESPN. That routinely puts those rival agencies in close contact.
“The job title and the name of the agency have to be checked at the door,” Hollander said. “It’s all hands on deck and it’s important for each agency to know what the other is doing, through weekly all-agency calls.”
And, of course, Allstate incorporates the field goal nets program, now in its seventh college football season, into its activation.
Goal posts with Allstate nets were set up on both ends of the fan fest. Just down Decatur Street from the fan fest, Allstate played off its “Mayhem” ad campaign by smashing a goal post through the window of a car, saying that “Gameday parking is mayhem.”
That seasonlong ad buy with ESPN complements the field goal nets program that now reaches across 71 schools, as well as the Sugar Bowl and BCS title sponsorship.
“We set out to become part of the fabric of college football and we’ve done that,” Hollander said.