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.
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.
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.