@ Sports Marketing 2.0: For Brands, Targeting Matters — But Size Still Matters More

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Many conferences with “2.0” in the title invariably feature marketers venting their frustrations about their desire to target online communities, while expressing discomfort with the lack of control such sites have over members’ individual comments and content. Panelists at the Sports Marketing 2.0 Summit offered their own take about dealing with big brands:

Pat Coyle, executive director-Digital Business, Indianapolis Colts: Despite offering tighter control than individual fan blogs devoted to sports, brands still want to know: where’s the mass? Coyle spoke about advertisers’ views toward the social net he’s set up for the Colts: “We thought we were doing pretty well with 20,000 members, but the big brands have judged us too small.”

David Birnbaum, founder, CEO of Takkle: The high school sports community has benefited from its partnerships with larger media companies like Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated magazine and marketing partnerships with firms like Wasserman Media. All that, plus a wealth of data, if positioned just right, can make the demand for higher pageviews diminish. “We capture very valuable information: what kind of sports they play, their positions, the sneakers they wear, where they live. P&G wanted to created an online video contest. They could have gone to MySpace, but P&G wanted to target cheerleaders and so they came to us. They knew that they wouldn’t have to do any sifting if they came to us.”

Buck Krawczyk, VP-marketing, Powered: The Austin, TX-based tech branding firm had worked for a digital photography clients and offered consumers online instruction on how to best use the related products. The users were so excited by an online demonstrations, that when the instruction ended, many banded together and set up a Yahoo group of their own – away from the client’s ability to target consumers on their own site. “Ultimately, conversion to purchase is a high motivator. That’s what our brands look for. That’s why we were so disappointed when our audience went over to Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO). It just got a way for us. So our job is to keep them in the fold.” In the end, Powered decided to make the online classes it offers open-ended, so that users will still hang around.

Ed Sullivan, CEO, Infield Parking: A Nascar social net site started by Sullivan and race car driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Infield Parking attracts racing fans who have more commonality as a group compared to other sports sites. Part of that is due to the overarching Southern culture that most Nascar fans are immersed in. Sullivan: “Nascar fans identify with each other, they have a chip on their shoulder. When we formed this, [Earnhardt Jr.] felt that he could do this with less risk than other drivers could and help drive mass to the site. Dale liked the control – on MySpace, he’d be taking down fake Earnhardt profiles. And that ability to create a niche within sports makes us stand out to brands. If you want Nascar, this is it.”

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Pat Coyle

Actually the jury is still out on the Colts social net as far as sponsors are concerned. We have had success in doing small deals with larger brands, the challenge is to get brands fully engaged in everything our community has to offer. It takes work to engage in a community, and because we are small compared to the giant Web portals, it is sometimes challenging to get their attention. Still, there are 10 million Americans 12+ who rank the Colts as their favorite team. That's a fairly large "niche" affinity group, and we're confident we'll find brand partners who want to reach that audience.

And regarding the event, I'm surprised you didn't mention that it was the result of collaboration between teams, leagues, app providers, agencies and marketers…and we're continuing to collaborate on a community site: http://www.sportsmarketing20.com. We're using community to market community.

Thanks for covering the event

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