How Todd Ballard and GoPro Are Approaching Their Partnership Strategy

With the rise of social media – snackable, engaging content has becoming king in our daily lives. But not all of us get to craft a content-centric sports and entertainment marketing strategy for the growing, international challenger brand GoPro, like Todd Ballard – Vice President Global Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Having run his own agency, NXTagency, Todd is familiar with the world of action sports and he has leveraged his knowledge of activations to take GoPro to the next level.

Todd has grown professionally within GoPro and evolved the company’s marketing strategy through brand-to-brand partnerships, league level sports sponsorships and more. It takes finesse to manage this evolution as a brand goes global and he has managed it in a way where properties, brands and athl

etes are clamoring to partner with his team. GoPro continues to stay ahead of the curve, providing products and services that capture their core demographics while finding a way to play in the digital/social space in an authentic way. This business strategy has put GoPro in the driver seat for who they align with across sports and entertainment, and more importantly, allowed them to reframe what the term “partnerships” truly means.

You ran your own agency for over 8 years, what attracted you to GoPro and the brand-side of the business?

I came from an action and motorsport background. When I first met Nick Woodman and was introduced to the GoPro line up for the first time, I saw different use cases and ability to capture unique athlete and sport perspectives. Nicks energy and passion for the brand ultimately drew me in.

You have been a part of many new partnerships for GoPro including the NHL League deal – how do you identify new opportunities and what are your “must-haves” in these partnerships?

We look for partners who are willing to be innovative with us. Typically in professional sports, everyone is used to working with a set way of doing things and with that comes set perspectives. When GoPro first came into the space, there was a lot of resistance to put cameras on helmets and equipment. We look for partners who can change the way sports are viewed. Tour De France gave us access to athletes and the ability to put GoPro cameras on bikes. Where weight has always been a major factor in professional cycling, the fact that they allowed us to mount cameras on bikes shows they really wanted to work with us in an authentic way. Capturing unique perspectives creates amazing content that we can share with our viewers around the world.

The brand world is evolving where head marketers like you are looking for tangible ROI for their marketing/sponsorship spends – how do you measure your partnerships?

We want to create incredible content and engagement that follows through the distribution of stories across our channels and partners channels. We’re working on more ways to attribute these content goals to actual sales. We look to work with with partners who give us the opportunity to leverage their properties with the sales side of their business. We work with our partners to host retailers at their events, granting access and once in a lifetime opportunities. We also look for partners to amplify our organizational messages through product launches and overarching campaigns to their fans.

Effectiveness? What role does the property/team/event have in this recap process?

We’re leaning more on the properties to show and report the value they’re getting working with GoPro. But we feel it’s important to gather our own independent data as well.

GoPro is a challenger brand and I’m sure you’re approached all the time for new sponsorships - What advice do you have for those looking to connect with you and start a dialogue around a GoPro + {Insert XYZ Brand/Property/Team} opportunities?

First and foremost, it’s important to be patient, expect a long lead-time. A new property, brand or team should expect an 18-month vetting process to see if there is a natural organic integration of our product into the overall property.

In your opinion, what has been your most successful GoPro partnership to-date and why?

We have quite a few great examples. The Tour de France, Street League, Supercross, X Games – all of these properties have a natural integration of our technology into the field of play. GoPro brings fans inside the ropes to see things they never have before, creating unique content not only for broadcast, but content we can distribute across our social platforms. As we expand globally, we’re searching for properties that can offer a global footprint so we can tap into new target markets.

How important of a role does athlete endorsements play as part of that marketing strategy?

Athlete sponsorships have been a critical key to the overall success of GoPro. We invest a lot of money into empowering our athletes to become better storytellers. We hand select athletes who may not have the biggest names or win every contest, but athletes who are the best storytellers and who have the most engaging content. We leverage athletes to amplify product launches and marketing campaigns. We feel our stable of athletes is made up of the World’s best content creators and social influencers.

We’ve seen GoPro signing more brand-to-brand partnerships recently with Ford, Microsoft and Marriott – what’s the strategy behind this and how do these partnerships compare with the sports teams and leagues/associations?

This all goes back to organic camera integration – whether it’s resort partners like Vail Resorts or auto companies like Ford or BMW. These partnerships are all ways to touch new consumers through our innovative cameras technology.

Lots of young sponsorship professionals are looking to make their mark in the industry - what is your advice to these promising rising stars?

I feel strongly that it’s all about building meaningful relationships with people. Building trust is critical to success. It’s important to get back to people, respond to phone calls or emails promptly. At the end of the day, the alliances you make are ultimately with people not companies, because people leave companies. Do what you say. Be on time. Be present. Be kind. Be humble. I always push with my team to remember where our roots came from As

we grow as a global brand, we all need to remember how we got here in the first place. We want to work with the people we like being around. Our best partnerships come from our partners who enjoy being around us. It’s honestly helped us to make better deals based on the relationships we value.