By Jason Teitler, Chair of Burson-Marsteller’s Sports and Entertainment Marketing Specialty
Success on the football field requires a skillful combination of strategy and creativity—predictability ends in stagnation and failure. Off the field, this holds true for the approach brand marketing teams should take when exploring and securing sports sponsorships. By overlooking the creative power that can be generated by incorporating multiple disciplines into a marketing strategy, a brand can be defeated before the game even begins.
Let’s take a step back. To win, or even get into the game, a brand has to make sure it’s cleared for contact. The world of sports marketing is hardly inexpensive, and brands should consult research and analytics experts to confirm their audiences harbor sports and entertainment passions. Once their audience’s interests are confirmed, brands generally proceed to negotiate with an entertainment property such as the NFL, often lacking the elements of a balanced attack—particularly when it comes to the power of communications. Like many football franchises, lacking a diverse offense—aka relying on marketing alone—is a formula for failure, especially during the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is the pinnacle of sports and entertainment spectacles—one of the most crowded and intense global media environments of the year—and requires potent strategy, driven by evidence, to make a true impact. Like most NFL teams, especially those in the Big Game, a balanced attack is the only approach to consider. While earned and social media often make it into the game, they are usually activated later in the process, once assets have been negotiated and a sponsorship is locked. To be competitive and have a shot at meeting, let alone exceeding expectations, it is imperative for a marketing team to recruit internal or external communications specialists to strengthen a brand’s roster for the full journey – from the first steps of negotiations to the activation of the secured sponsorship. A Super Bowl coach wouldn’t forget to sub his best wide receiver into a game, and in the same manner, leaving the benefits of earned-media on the sidelines can be extremely costly for a brand.
A carefully crafted and meticulously implemented communications campaign is the perfect accompaniment to any Super Bowl marketing campaign, from major NFL sponsors such as Pepsi, Papa John’s or Verizon, to brands who have partnerships below the NFL level (a team sponsorship, for example). A comprehensive communications campaign can be even more valuable for those brands that lack sponsorships but do have assets such as a relationship with an active or retired NFL player, and ultimately, it can be most powerful as a lead discipline for a brand without any sponsorship assets wanting to build a dialogue with fans.
Changing fan behavior starts with understanding fan behavior—the best way to get an advantage is by working with communications experts with an evidence-based approach. At the end of the day, it’s all about how you communicate, whether you’re a QB on the field directing the offense, or a brand navigating the high-stakes game of Super Bowl marketing.