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Volume 21 No. 2
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Plugged In: Marc Bluestein, Aquarius Sports & Entertainment

Across sports, sponsorship designations range from the “official mayonnaise” to “official oil filter,” but it’s the use of those rights at venue and retail that’s paramount. Marc Bluestein, president and founder of Maryland-based Aquarius Sports & Entertainment, whose clients include AAA and Target, talks about activation, the basis of any sponsorship.

One of our clients is sensitive to making their consumer base younger, so our activation and research is all about indicating whether a younger audience is being impacted. It’s still surprising to me how many marketers are not doing ANY kind of measurement on their activations.

Examples would be?
Take something as simple as photo marketing, which started as “take your picture next to this cardboard cutout.” Everything is instantaneous now. We can have someone take a picture at an NFL game and they can post right away with social media, so that it looks like they are on the sideline with their favorite player or mascot. Technology is changing everything.
Of course, activation is nothing without proof that it’s working: I can’t tell you how many big brands I see that still don’t have a system for measuring results of a marketing activation. Awareness, purchase intent and retail sales are basic, and you can always measure them against a non-activated market for a baseline. Too many really big brands are making decisions about their activation programs based on impressions and anecdotal information.

Will we see sufficient bandwidth at venues to support more robust digital activations any time soon? We recently proposed a game-long digital activation at a venue and were told they only had enough bandwidth to offer us one tweet or one Facebook promo during a game. … It might take a new business model to get it done. We have clients invested in every kind of league and venue, and the capital investment to increase bandwidth up to a standard that’s acceptable are huge — probably cost prohibitive for now.