“Sports marketing began in the 1970s as ‘CEOtainment’, according to Shawn McBride, SVP at Ketchum Sports & Entertainment. “[It was] an excuse for corporate executives to socialize at sports events, but the dynamics have changed a lot since that time.” McBride and Brian Calka, director of corporate sales and sponsorship for the New York Yankees, discussed the industry’s growing trends and challenges at a New York AMA / American Marketing Association event Tuesday.
- The cult of the celebrity is on the rise for sports brands. Since sports and entertainment are so intertwined, this phenomenon takes many forms. McBride cited the celebrity softball game in Kansas City and Calka mentioned the rock concerts that Yankee stadium has hosted in recent years. He added ”The Yankees also want to get entertainers to do the roll call for the bleacher creatures and we’re making more of an effort to highlight the stars in the crowd at the games.”
- CSR/Corporate Social Responsibility is more highly associated with sports brands now. A well-known example for the Yankees is Hope Week, Calka noted. “It represents a chance for the players to give back to the local community, and other baseball teams now are beginning to establish their own Hope Weeks.”
- The fan experience is front and center. “Since the customer is in charge, the challenge is to retain the fan base and meet their needs,” McBride observed. “Many fans now may prefer to watch from the comfort of their hi-tech homes.” Teams from hot urban locations with heavy traffic, such as Tampa Bay and Miami, have a hard time attracting fans in person, so teams like the Miami Marlins have built state-of-the-art stadiums. Customer service is a key part of the fans’ experience, and Calka said “the Yankees’ customer service is modeled after Disney and Ritz Carlton. For example, we’ve added brand ambassadors at the stadium carrying signs asking whether they can help.”
- Super fans and bloggers now have prime access. “They used to be considered extremists, but there has been a growing realization that they’re influencers and trendsetters. More sports organizations and brands are embracing them. There is no more denying bloggers access to the press box,” McBride emphasized.
- Tech giants may end up with media rights to sports events. McBride noted that it may only be a matter of time before tech companies such as YouTube, Google and Yahoo bid for rights to major sports events, as they appear to have their sights set on sports programming.
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