Choosing the right team for a winning partnership — The business of sports marketing

Megan Wood -   Print  |

Sports marketing allows companies an avenue to reach an extensive consumer base to grow and enhance their brand. Choosing the right partner, though, is critical to ensure both parties are benefiting from the partnership.

Four experts spoke on the "The Business of Sports Marketing" panel at the 2nd Annual Chicago Sports Summit, hosted by Chicago-based Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and sponsored by Oak Brook, Ill.-based Athletico Physical Therapy, on Oct. 4.


The right partner
A successful sports partnership requires specific elements to achieve positive outcomes for both parties.


Wally Hayward, CEO of W Partners, a consulting company building partnerships between brands and properties, outlined four questions his company considers when evaluating potential partnerships:


• Do they have a shared vision and core values?
• Will their aligned brands build tremendous brand awareness?
• Can they create unique assets that are experiential but still enhance their brands?
• How do they tie in the community aspect for philanthropic efforts?


This search for a like-minded partner is a complex process often taking up to two years of research.


David Schwab, executive vice president of Octagon Sports & Entertainment Agency, an 800-person sports and entertainment marketing management business with a brand and talent side, said some brands require a "chemistry" meeting involving talent, the talent management agent and the publicist.


"We know right away if it's a transactional deal or if it's somebody that wants to create a program together," said Mr. Schwab. "It takes a lot to find the brands and the talents and the properties that do have those."


At Nike, the conversation begins with the voice of the athlete. Rami Jabaji, senior brand director of Nike, said they are always ensuring the company exudes an authentic connection with its talent.


"Consumers are way savvier than we give them credit for, and they are immediately able to tell if something doesn't feel authentic," he said. "Authenticity is everything for us."


Mr. Schwab agreed, emphasizing "if you're going to hire somebody, you're hiring them because they have a particular voice and they have an audience. Let them use their voice to that audience."


Winning partnerships
The panelists offered several key sports marketing initiatives that hit it out of the park.


Guaranteed Rate Field
About a year ago, the Chicago White Sox called residential mortgage company Guaranteed Rate with a proposition. Today, the baseball team's stadium dons the name Guaranteed Rate Field.


"There are not that many opportunities to put your name on a stadium in Chicago," said Scott Stephen, president of Guaranteed Rate – Online. "We look at it as a unique opportunity for our brand to send messaging nationally about our marketing and brand presence."


Mr. Stephen noted this partnership implied a message of permanence, stability and alignment of the Guaranteed Rate brand with the White Sox brand.


Michael Jordan brand
When Nike first introduced the Air Jordan 1, it became the first shoe to feature red and black in that pattern. The NBA banned the shoe, which Mr. Jabaji cited as the best outcome for the company's sales. The league fined Michael Jordan $5,000 per game he wore the shoes, which Nike gladly paid.


"I think it is the blueprint for sports marketing," said Mr. Jabaji. "It's an amazing product worn by an incredible athlete wrapped in a beautiful story."


Dannon Oikos Yogurt and John Stamos
Mr. Schwab highlighted how Octagon convinced John Stamos to be the face of Dannon's Oikos Yogurt. During Mr. Stamos' run with Oikos, original Full House episodes on Nick at Nite outdrew late night television.


"That opened the door to Dannon being the Super Bowl ads creating the idea to bring the whole Full House team back together, and now Fuller House has become a spinoff," said Mr. Schwab.


The future of sports marketing
Sports have become a platform for voicing opinions on societal controversies. Mr. Schwab noted having an opinion is nothing new, it's just heightened right now. When a company picks a camp on one side of an issue, it will receive supporters and opponents.


"Different brands are going to choose, do they put their own ethics, morals and business interests first, or do they let the audience choose and put that first?" Mr. Schwab inquired.


In addition, he believes the sports marketing field will see a transition from traditional networks to media partners like Amazon.


"Those media partners actually have a business and retail component that is much easier to navigate with a big property than a traditional media company," explained Mr. Schwab.


But the ultimate goal of sports marketing will remain true to delivering a product intriguing enough to last.


"I like to say we're a combination of art and science," said Mr. Hayward.


More articles on sports medicine:
New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. undergoes season ending ankle surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery: 4 key notes
Michael Jordan gifts Novant Health $7M to develop 2 clinics: 5 things to know
Vail-Summit Orthopaedics enters joint venture with Team Summit Colorado: 4 notes

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