So where do we go from here?
COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives for the majority of 2020. With the end nowhere in sight, preparations are being made with how to venture forward.
We do not know how our daily lives will look or in what capacity will we be able to enjoy all of the events and experiences from the past. And when they do return, many will not look to do things the same way that we did before.
The real kicker is that even if everything returned back to normal tomorrow, the way teams, brands, and organizations market will never be the same again.
Amir Zonozi, President of Zoomph, outlines some trends to capitalize on within the digital and social landscape. Many of the campaigns highlighted below have layered their activations with a 360-degree approach aimed at enhanced social media commentary and diversifying ad placement across multiple platforms (OTT commercials, influencer campaigns, etc.)
Some of the most powerful shifts emerge out of necessity. While many trends have been percolating and gaining ground for years, the impact of COVID-19 has all but sent them straight to the forefront. Marketing has been forced to be more targeted, more expansive, and more authentic than ever before. Because so many consumer spending habits have shifted on a dime, we have been forced to adapt to the now as well as what’s to come.
The future of sports marketing will be driven by bringing the experience directly to the consumer.
Let’s make something clear: this does not mean that working towards getting “butts in seats” isn’t important. It doesn’t mean that having people buy your product isn’t crucial to success. These are staples to an organization. But the fact remains we do not know when full seating capacity will be the norm again. We do not know when folks are going to feel comfortable returning to stores in droves and resuming the retail shopping experience as we once knew.
There are so many other touchpoints outside of the big tentpole events to connect with your consumer base. And in
a world where travel is lessened and routine is thrown out the window, this must be disrupted by thinking outside the box and building genuine buy-in from your customers.
Big “Wow” Items
The creativity that marketing teams deploy nowadays is truly something. How do you create that FOMO moment if those “moments” aren’t happening at the same accessible capacity? Create them yourself by championing your brand to both die-hards and casual fans alike.
With CBS now the rights holder for the UEFA Champions League, the network giant teamed up with fellow competition sponsors to offer the contest of a lifetime.
Aligning with PlayStation (PS4), Pepsi/Lays (drinks, snacks, branded bowls, and glasses), and Heineken (Heineken 0.0 products), CBS also coupled together a full year subscription to CBS All Access (where most of the knockout matches were broadcasted), a home entertainment system, and other historic Champions League memorabilia for the mega contest.
Spreading awareness of new programming is no easy feat. The CBS All Access team left no doubt on where to find the crop of matches and really helped someone to enjoy the tournament in style.
Not to be outdone, Heineken, a long-time partner of the global soccer, launched their aforementioned alcohol-free beer Heineken 0.0. In order to help grow awareness of it, the brand launched its own contest targeting MLS fans as they concluded the MLS is Back tournament and progressed into the regular season. The “Stadium in a Box” contest saw 23 winners enjoy a smorgasbord of prizes including a real stadium seat from their favorite team’s stadium, customized and stocked Heineken 0.0 fridge, and a gift card to have their favorite stadium food delivered.
This campaign was extremely authentic. It allowed winners to receive a physical piece of their favorite team. How cool is it to say that you have an actual seat from your favorite stadium in your living room?! The added bonus of this campaign: it only took 10 days from approval to production to campaign launch. A campaign that creativity has to be thoroughly vetted. Yet it is truly impressive how swiftly that turnaround time played into the Heineken team’s advantage in order to capitalize on the return of Major League Soccer.
In another very cool eye-popping experience, Pepsi brought the tailgate experience home. The $5,000 package includes an outdoor projector, speakers, Pepsi branded seating, cornhole, and product.
Conjuring up their version of Tailgate-in-a-Box, the contest will identify 20 winners who will receive their very own ultimate tailgate experience. It’s all apart of the brand’s “Made for Football Campaign” that pivots beautifully to bringing top of mind awareness to enjoying being at home all while building the association between Pepsi and football.
Make it Feel Like You’re There
If you do not end up winning any of the above contests, you can still join in on the fun in alternative ways. Offering slices of a gameday experience has to be turnkey and accessible on a large scale to truly reap the benefits of the staying power from loyal consumers.
One of the most important parts of stadium Americana is the food. Ah yes, the nachos, the pizza, the hot dogs. It is hard to replicate that flavor at home. Fortunately, for LA residents, Postmates teamed up with the Dodgers to offer a bevy of their classic ballpark eats for fans at home to indulge in.
This is a very unique activation in that it involves the use of multiple senses within the immersive experience: the sight of the Postmates and Dodgers branding, the smell and taste of the food. Fans are having to divert their full attention to this activation as it reinforces the team’s brand in the most delicious way.
If you are a fan of the Miami Dolphins, while you have a chance to enjoy a game in Hard Rock Stadium this year, you now have additional options to take in the experience.
The introduction of both the Gameday Theater and Virtual Membership Pass (both presented by Bud Light - natural integration and fit) provides the entire array of options. If you don’t go in-stadium to watch, you can choose a pretty sweet setup to watch the game with your fellow fans. Bean bag loungers, private cabanas, living room boxes, sports bar, or lounge pods.
With social distancing measures implemented along with mobile food and beverage ordering and delivery, it adds up to quite the enjoyable experience. It helps appease those who are still opposed to traditional stadium seating. Truthfully, this is a fantastic option moving forward in general. You can still soak up the gameday experience within a level you are comfortable choosing.
Now the Virtual Membership Pass is the very intriguing wrinkle here. Open only to season ticket members, it will plug additional content including stats, trivia, content, and giveaways amongst other offerings on a year-round basis. This is a fantastic opportunity to serve additional opportunities to your most loyal fans. It’s of those deals that are a no-brainer for now and the future, for a world involving and not involving COVID-19. Fans are always clamoring for more ways to consume their team’s information. The concept is still fresh, it’s new and exciting and it allows the Dolphins to continue to add new developments over time.
Keep Them Hooked
An advocate of your brand should be in tune with you even when the “action” isn’t there. Whether it is additional physical offerings or behind-the-scenes access, now in a world where experiences are less, less, less, viewers at home want more, more, more.
The Panthers rolled out a master-class of a subscription program. For only $65 a month, the Panthers @ Home Membership (presented by Coca-Cola) provides a nice mix of physical and digital collectibles. On the physical side, you receive themed items (not available anywhere else, over $100 retail value) and a chance to win autographed memorabilia. On the digital end, you get some behind the scenes access of film sessions, virtual content, and 360-degree replays. Here’s a look at what they are rolling out for October’s offerings:
PANTHERS TAILGATE-THEMED ITEMS:
Panthers-shaped tailgate serving board (laser-cut, 13.5" x 7.25")
Unique Panthers T-shirt designed by local artist
Panthers 2020 tailgate flag (3' x 5')
Exclusive Panthers 2020 koozie set
Chance to win Panthers autographs
Weekly virtual film sessions with Panthers Legends
Exclusive behind the scenes virtual content
Chance to win 2021 Ultimate Fan Experience
The added perk of this subscription service is that the team can tailor the offerings to the time of the year/current weather season. The start of the season can feature hats and shirts while late in the year can cater to warm-weather apparel and holiday-themed trinkets.
This pandemic has forced the creative hand of many far and wide. While it is noteworthy that not everyone has the resources to pull off these types of activations, the above serves as the bigger picture values of bringing tangible experiences to those away at home.