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  • Carson McKee

Immediate Impact Opportunities in a Fan-less State of Play

As the NHL and NBA plan their return to play scenarios, it looks like fans aren’t going to be in arenas any time soon. With the likelihood of games being played in hub locations without fans in attendance, how can teams and their corporate partners keep fans engaged?


Teams and brands should be looking at Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) activations. Right now.

What is DTC?


Direct-To-Consumer means that you are approaching/servicing your end customers directly, without a 3rd party in the middle. Like Amazon. Amazon is the largest DTC retail platform on planet Earth. It sells directly to its audience via the website or app.


Over the past several weeks, a number of brands – both large and small – have either had to or are exploring DTC possibilities. The most notable new player in this space is PepsiCo, have just launched two new DTC sites:


PantryShop.com: A bundled approach here where “consumers can order specialized bundles containing PepsiCo’s top-selling products from brands like Quaker, Gatorade, SunChips and Tropicana, within categories such as ‘Rise & Shine,’ ‘Snacking,’ and ‘Workout & Recovery.”


Snacks.com: Where “consumers can choose from more than 100 of their favorite Frito-Lay products from a variety of iconic brands like Lay’s, Tostitos, Cheetos and Ruffles, as well as dips, crackers, nuts and more.”


When a large player like PepsiCo makes a move like this, everyone should take note. There’s widespread disruption in retail right now and a lot of opportunities are present. This should be at the top of the priority list just about any brand right now. This is your new normal settling in.

What Would a DTC Sponsorship Activation Entail?


Start with the fans. Think about them, largely under various states of lockdown, many likely experience unprecedented financial stresses. Sports used to be part an escape – a release - but also a motivator, a belief driver in a truly community-focused, bonding endeavor. All of that, is currently mothballed right now. Whatever the return to playing and related timelines look like is speculative at best – but certainly won’t be the same as it was.


But the need, desire and feeling in your fan base is still there, dormant. Lost in the pause. They are stuck at home. And your partnership’s ability to drive affinity and loyalty has never been stronger.


Exploring co-branded DTC offerings could be exactly what your fans need right now. It’s time to think outside the box of sponsorship inventory and create a new box – one that gets delivered to the homes of your fans.


This is going to look different for every team and their partners, so here’s how to start:


1. Evaluate your partner’s capabilities: Who is more able to facilitate a DTC offering right now? Do any of your current partners offer the structure to execute quickly – or – on the business development side, are their partnership opportunities present with players in this space that you can reach out to now?


2. Determine Crossover Potential: What can your team offer that your fans want or would benefit from? What fun or innovative partnership bundles can you come up with? Focus on fun, cool ways to delight your fans. You might even offer a tiered approach.


3. Explore Community Impact: Any potential offerings should look to include a direct benefit to essential services or some form of local COVID-19 relief or support. This is also a chance to continue the efforts of community work when it counts the most.


4. Prepare to collect user data: By having fans “sign up” for a DTC offering you are going to be able to collect user data via opt-in. Have a plan for where this data will go and how it will be used in the future.

DTC partnerships make so much sense – not only in the current state but as an evolving piece of sponsorship execution. It’s time to start evolving and adapting partnerships and this is a solid place to start.

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