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Volume 21 No. 2
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A-B makes Bud Light the key to unlocking in-venue content

Terry Lefton
Athletic footwear and “tools of the trade” like balls and bats notwithstanding, we’ve long opined that beer is actually the most endemic sports sponsor. Add the non-exclusive nature of some, but not all, beer sponsorships, and we believe we’re safe in positing that Anheuser-Busch has the broadest commercial footprint across professional sports venues in America.

So when we heard about A-B testing new technology to leverage those relationships with stadiums that house the NFL, we were intrigued. When we discovered it involves proprietary in-stadium content, our news Geiger counter started ticking as if we were in Chernobyl. Enhancing the in-stadium experience tops the to-do list of every team and league marketer — except perhaps those at the NHL.

The test program with the Patriots and Dolphins offers proprietary content to stadium-goers.
So at the risk of burying the lede: Anheuser-Busch is testing a system at the home fields of the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins through which consumers can access proprietary NFL content on smartphones after downloading an app. Said content includes history features on the teams, trivia contests, all-access stadium tours, and the ability to integrate your own photo with those of team mascots and cheerleaders. But that content can’t be “unlocked” until consumers use their phones to scan a Bud Light image on stadium signage or from collateral given to fans entering the game.
A-B uses scoreboard announcements, team website ads and other assets gained through its team deals to drive awareness of the program.

Paragon Marketing conceived the concept for A-B and is developing the content and managing the relationship with technology provider Blippar, which labels the system “augmented reality.” Blaise D’Sylva, A-B vice president of media, sports and entertainment marketing, calls it an intriguing test.

“We’ve been looking for better ways to engage fans in stadiums and better leverage our NFL connections with them,” said D’Sylva, who added that A-B also has tested the Blippar system at retail, using NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick at Wal-Mart stores in the Southeast.

A-B is testing the in-stadium tech play for a season at the Patriots’ and Dolphins’ home fields before deciding if it makes sense to install it elsewhere within its massive portfolio of sports properties. Key metrics being considered are the number of app downloads and the amount of time spent with the content, which we’re told has impressive stickiness thus far. Those factors will be weighed against the combined costs of the technology and producing the content.

For now, this program is at NFL venues only. However, given A-B’s vast real estate within MLB venues, “there could be even more of a play there, while our NFL experience with this has been mostly pregame,” D’Sylva said.

Like so much digital marketing, the rules are different. This is less of a “buy beer” message and more about driving home an association — in this case, A-B’s pricey NFL league rights, along with its 28 team deals and 11 exclusive NFL relationships.

“Everyone is trying to find a way to make that second screen pay off,” D’Sylva said. “This is our play and it’s being tested against some of the biggest NFL fans and some of our most important consumers.”
> SEASONAL GREETING: Retailer Finish Line, Coke’s Powerade isotonic, Dodge Ram Trucks, Ketel One Vodka and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish are lead sponsors with multiplatform buys for Sports Illustrated’s 2012 Sportsman of the Year award, to be announced today and celebrated at a Wednesday fete in New York City.

SI hooked Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish brand.
“Franchises like Swimsuit and Sportsman have helped us grow our multiplatform side, and Sportsman really is a stake in the ground for the SI brand,” said Mark Ford, Time Inc. executive vice president and sports group president.

Sportsman of the Year sponsor activation includes Powerade’s Underdog high school football platform, which included 10 webisodes on; Dodge having a vehicle on site at the Sportsman of the Year party; a 150,000-run custom publication highlighting “Enduring Sportsmen” as a December gift-with-purchase for Finish Line customers spending more than $75; and Goldfish staging a Sportskid of the Year contest with SI Kids.

As of press time, ad pages for the planned 156-page Sportsman of the Year issue, which has a cover date of Dec. 10, were at 57, an increase of four from last year and the most since 2008. Does that mean the recession is a distant memory?

“The recovery is ongoing,” Ford said. “On the print side [where 2012 looks to be flat from 2011], we are still under demands from marketers for more accountability. [Category-wise], domestic auto advertising is still lagging, but our digital is up, our experiential is way up [175 percent increase over 2011]. So, we look at the total pie and feel pretty good.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at