- Marketing founder of the EA SPORTS brand.
- EA Sports brand grew from $0 to a global #1 position with $1B in sales
- Developed strategy resulting in the iconic "It's in the game" tag line
- Brand/product marketing responsible for developing over 200 brand-defining TV commercials.
- All 8 Best Practices
- Pre-Call Discovery Process
- One-on-One Call with Expert
- Session Summary Report
- Post-Session Engagement
Sports Marketing as a Brand Building Tool
- Companies seeking to use sports marketing do not establish a clear strategy from the beginning.
In sports marketing, you need to have a strategy that is your foundation and your road map going forward. Go back and refer to that strategy for every single decision you make. Ask the question: “Is this on strategy?”
If there’s a very clear strategy of product positioning, if the target audience, key messages, style and tone are all clear up front, then it’s easy to go back to that strategy and say, “How are we doing? Is that league a good fit with us? Is that sport a good fit? Is that athlete, or coach or event a good fit? ” All that comes back to having a clear, smart strategy. If you don’t know where you’re trying to go, how do you know when you get there?
I like to talk about the "brand bank." Just think about a little piggy bank. Everything you do with your marketing, you’re either making a deposit or a withdrawal from the brand bank. If you do a great job, you make a nice deposit. But if you stray from your strategies, or if you confuse, or if you don’t execute well, then it’s a withdrawal from the brand bank.
The brand bank equals your brand image. It takes a long time and a lot of focused work to create a strong brand image, and it can be screwed up in a few bad decisions. When that happens, you destroy all the good will you’ve built up.
- Companies make the wrong licensing decisions.
- Licensing decisions are complicated on multiple levels.
First, you have to decide: What are the right sports events or players? Second, how do you secure those rights without getting over-committed, paying more than market value? Finally, how do you know if you should walk away because of bad finances, a bad fit or an ineffective partner organization?
With the NFL, you have to sign a deal to for rights to the teams and the stadiums, and all the team logos and marks. Then you have to sign a deal with the Players Association if you want to do work with the players. But that's not all. You may think you have it sewn up with the NFL and the NFL Players Association to be the official beer of the NFL, but the Dallas Cowboys or the Denver Broncos have their own official beer. Now you have to buy individual team rights to pour beer
in those stadiums.
Having a strategy is not enough. You also have to ask these questions:
- Are these people good partners?
- Are we getting a fair price?
- When do we walk away?
- Is this a short-term decision or a long-term decision?
- Companies have trouble determining the correct marketing budget mix for their strategy.
- The traditional model was in place for 25 years: Television dominated, with print and radio support. You could supplement this with big events. The landscape was fairly well-defined.
With the advent of the Internet, smart phones and all kinds of streaming content, all of a sudden the mix has changed. The customers have changed and the way they consume media has changed. Now, the landscape is far more complicated and so is your budget mix.
In this environment, people who are very smart with social media have a chance to ambush the big guys because of the power of social media, blogging, and Twitter. You have to establish a dialog with your customers to figure out what’s going to most effectively build the relationship you want with your target audience.
- Companies don't understand the right way to make advertising fit into their overall sports marketing strategy.
- If you're going to be involved in sports marketing, style and tone is critical. You have to understand your limits and your opportunities. You can waste a lot of money and get no attention if you choose the wrong sport or the wrong league or the wrong team or the wrong athlete to focus your sports marketing on. You have to find opportunities you can own.
It's important to answer the following questions:
- Where does advertising fit into your overall strategy?
- How much should you spend on advertising?
- Who do you want to work with to develop your advertising?
- How do you find your partners?
- How do you figure out who you are?
- Where does advertising fit into your overall strategy?
- Companies have difficulty creating the right kind of strategic relationships.
- The real opportunity in advertising is the creative process, and the real danger in advertising is being passive and just checking the box to say that you're doing it. That's not enough. Advertising is ineffective if you're just doing it. You have to aim to make it magical.
You have to find strategic partners who can help you make the magic. You have to find kindred spirits that you can scheme and dream with. When it happens, the upside is tremendous.
At EA Sports, we were lucky to find great partners that stayed with us for 15 years. They helped us create the style and tone and voice for the brand that then became the overlay for our partnerships with the NFL, the NBA, college sports, soccer and all of sports. These relationships helped make our customers feel we were cool people, and that we were the best part of their day. Our customers knew that if EA Sports was a person, that person would be knowledgeable, fun and great to hang out with. That was the brand relationship we tried to perpetuate with every touch, and advertising and the people that made it was a critical part.
Advertising is the largest single line item in the marketing budget. So pick your partners carefully, understand your strategy and understand your brand very clearly. Find partners who understand the audience you’re trying to reach, what the message is, what the style and tone is and create things that make that come to life. That’s the magic.
- Companies are struggling with how to make the best use of social media.
Senior management and the people who have been there awhile are the least equipped, in most cases, to understand the challenges and upside in social media. The youngest people in the marketing organization are probably the best equipped.
But it still is the responsibility of the marketing and company leadership to make decisions, and not hand it off to the kids or to an outsourced company, to tie it back to the marketing strategy.
The challenge is to say, “Here’s what we’re trying to accomplish, here’s who we’re trying to reach, and come back to us with recommendations to make this become a reality. Help us build our brand, help us build those relationships in new and interesting ways that are different from the traditional ways.”
It’s not getting easier. It’s just getting more complicated.
- Companies don't establish and nurture strategic partnerships with other companies.
Frequently, there are companies that share the same target audience and similar marketing philosophies and tap into the same consumer lifestyle. They’re going after the same audience and going in the same business direction.
If you can find those companies and build relationships, you can put together programs as partners that are absolutely delightful from a consumer perspective and work far better than anything either company could have done on its own.
At EA Sports, we found a kindred spirit at ESPN. That culminated in a 15-year business agreement that involved hundreds of millions of dollars. But the real point was that we shared the same audience, we shared the same passions. They were looking to leverage things that we had to offer, we were looking for things that they had to offer.