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Posted: July 14, 2009

Sports marketing: It’s the ticket

How sports marketing can help your business now

Rich Foro

History tells us that during tough times, Americans look to their favorite sports teams and sports heroes for hope and inspiration. Surveys show that consumers remember brands and patronize sponsors that were active during the down times throughout the rest of their lives.

If branding is the essence of successful marketing, then consider employing a strategy of co-branding with sports properties, teams, leagues, coaches, players, celebrities and broadcasters to connect with and activate a target audience -- and survive and thrive during the economic downturn.

Sports are highly relevant to passionate fans, who are part of active consumer groups ready and willing to respond to motivational messages from their favorite icons.

In Colorado, businesses are fortunate to have the many terrific choices available in the marketplace to partner and co-brand with sports. Opportunities span the gamut from grassroots youth leagues, high school sports and activities, clubs, special events -- to major college and professional sports. Colorado sports fans are known for being passionate and supportive of their local franchises. They buy tickets and merchandise, attend games and events and tune into local sports media coverage on a scale much greater than our market size warrants.

Consider the following:

It’s a buyer’s market!
Colorado has been oversaturated with sports and considering the current economy – now is a great time to negotiate a co-branded partnership. Make sure you get help from sports marketers who understand the ins and outs of how to negotiate a comprehensive value-added sponsorship. Pricing and inventory control vary greatly from franchise to franchise. Some outsource their marketing, as is the case for most college athletics programs, while professional sports properties prefer to control as many of their assets as possible. Others employ hybrid business models contracting with their local radio and television partners to handle sales and marketing. No two deals are structured exactly alike.          

Content is king
A marketing strategy utilizing co-branded content can help build your brand and drive business through integrated promotions that connect consumers with your message through a variety of relevant delivery platforms. By aligning with sports, it’s easier to identify with and focus in on a specific audience.

Media fragmentation is at an all time high, which can actually favor businesses interested in buying sports sponsorships. Traditional media such as radio, newspaper and local television are losing audience to cable, satellite, Internet and mobile platforms. Sponsorships are negotiable, rates are dropping, promotions and value-added elements are becoming standard play in almost every deal. In some categories, trade and barter can extend the scope of sponsorship on both sides.

The formula for success is in knowing how to seamlessly integrate and connect a unified co-branded message using both traditional and new media. Sponsors can be in control now more than ever before through websites, Facebook, Twitter and mobile marketing vehicles, while using traditional media like radio, television, print, signage and event marketing to connect the dots and complete the campaign. Sports also provide a natural special events marketing platform.

Stadiums, arenas and venue marketing offer effective activation elements not available in most traditional advertising buys.

We live in sensitive times, but an integral part of sports marketing has always included the advantage of being able to package high-profile merchandising opportunities into a deal. If used ethically and properly, valuable assets such as VIP passes, tickets, suites and trips can benefit a business in several different ways including contest giveaways, promotions, client hospitality and employee incentives to boost morale. 

Let us not forget star power!
There are many positive role models associated with sports that can be very effective spokespersons in the community -- especially in the age of social networking.

So get in the game Colorado and take advantage of the many excellent sports marketing   opportunities available in our state to boost your business! Now may be the best time to jump in.

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Rich Foro is owner of RF Sports Marketing & Communications. FR Sports is a full-service sports marketing and consulting company that specializes in working with sports and entertainment properties, celebrities, media, sponsors and communities planning and executing sports - and entertainment-related programs.  For over 20 years, Rich was sports marketing director for KOA Radio and JACOR Sports Network.  Rich has a vast experience and contact with professional, collegiate and high school sports locally, regionally and nationally. He can be reached at richforo@comcast.net.

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