Brands & Sponsorship, Digital & Media, Future Trends | May 29, 2018
STEM sells for Nascar, putting the ‘unique’ in uniquely expensive, tapping sport’s emotional core, and more.

Day four of Leaders Week, New York, this year saw the Microsoft Conference Center play host to The Ultimate Fan Experience, a full-day programme dedicated to the latest techniques and tactics for delighting, surprising and monetizing sports fans – inside and outside the venue.

By James Emmett and David Cushnan
  1. STEM sells

Nascar’s Chief Marketing Officer Jill Gregory and New York Jets’ Senior Vice President of Marketing & Fan Engagement Seth Rabinowitz paired up for a session, steered expertly by Omnigon’s David Nugent, centred on how to engage the next generation of fans. The key number for both, it seems, is 12. If you can keep a youngster’s attention into their teens, they agreed, you’ve very likely got a fan for life. Before hot-footing it to JFK to catch a flight to Charlotte for Nascar’s showpiece Coca Cola 600 race, Gregory underlined the role STEM –  science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is playing in engaging youngsters in a sport where much of the action happens under the bonnet. Mobile-focused, the Jets, meanwhile, remain somewhat restricted in the game footage they’re allowed to post on their own social channels, with the majority of video rights held centrally by the NFL; indeed, as Rabinowitz himself pointed out during the session, the team’s content focus is Monday through Saturday, with the league effectively in charge of Sundays.

  1. Build > organize > monetise

Rudi Vidal has spent four years kneading a US fanbase into something worth baking for FC Bayern Munich. Fresh on stage at the Ultimate Fan Experience from a breakfast event to announce the launch of a new Bundesliga office in New York, FC Bayern’s Americas President has overseen a process of organization, seeding major activation across the country through a network of fan clubs, the number of which has risen from eight when the club launched in the US to 138 today. With that network now established, Vidal and his team plan to move through the gears to monetization.

  1. Put the ‘unique’ in uniquely expensive

The beer category sponsorship at any major market franchise is as sought after as you’d imagine. But the prestige that comes with being the official beer provider of, say, the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium, comes with a frothy head of reputational jeopardy. Major market teams almost always exercise their prerogative to charge major market prices for their concessions, and the Yankees have the most expensive beer prices in the country. No-one likes to feel overcharged for a brand of beer they may not necessarily have chosen if there’d been a full range on offer. Budweiser parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev has a neat solution for this. Nick Kelly, Head of US Sports Marketing at the brewing giant, explained how hard the company works to create exclusive products for Yankee Stadium: “We create beers that are only available at Yankee Stadium. We try to create a more premium experience to counteract the pricing. It’s the only way to justify the costs.”

  1. Sport – where ‘cool’ is hotter than cash

CBS Sports Creative Director Pete Radovich is, it’s clear, one of the coolest cats in sport. The 36-time Emmy winner has cracked that particular awards code. Emmy, it seems, is short for emotion, and he makes sure to pack as much of the stuff as possible into everything he produces. He’s made a specialty out of the big game ‘tease’ video, imbuing the prospect of sporting contests with something grand, transcendental and elemental. There are still legions of sports fans around the world who get excited by the Al Pacino dressing room speech in Any Given Sunday. Well, that’s not a patch on Radovich’s work – especially his latest and greatest piece with John Malkovich. Radovich combines an ear for music, an eye for a twist, and a Rolodex full of A-listers to create work that he’s satisfied to describe simply as ‘cool’. And the producer in him couldn’t hold himself back: in sport, if the idea is cool enough, the stars will do it for next to nothing.


  1. The tide has turned

It’s no surprise but it’s at least some comfort to hear rights holders confirm that, despite TV advertising budgets remaining high, sponsor brands are far more focused on steering their partners towards effective social activation strategies. Fresh from successful PyeongChang campaigns on and off the pistes, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Georgia Sapounas and the US Ski & Snowboard Association’s Dan Barnett were both happy to detail the ‘social-first’ thinking that went into much of their commercial work at the Winter Games. “Instagram was the number on engagement platform for us by some distance,” said Sapounas, “especially Stories. And we’d prepped hundreds of pre-cut videos ready to be interspersed across all our platforms.” Like Radovich’s work with CBS, the real skill comes in mixing sport with fundamental emotion: cameras trained on faces for ‘medal moments’, because raw emotion is what cuts through on social. The sport itself can be left to others. According to Barnett, when you have stars like then-17-year-old snowboarder Chloe Kim, “her fans would rather watch her go shopping in LA than do the halfpipe.”

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