Promotion Campaigns

How to promote the brand of a league, team, player or you

Sports properties are brands. Each league, team and player is branded (i.e., has a name by which each is identified). Brands that market through sports and entertainment partner with leagues, teams and players, frquently using branded content (e.g., The Verizon Halftime Report) to enhance the value of the brand in the minds of fans. Their relative positions in the marketplace are determined by fan perceptions of each brand. You, for that matter, are a brand with various media channels at your fingertips. When planning to promote your brand, it's always wise to take an inventory of what you have to offer, the competition, and what your customers want.[1] 

Based on the situation analysis, the promotion campaign offers a unique solution based on a key consumer insight that identifies the consumer's problem. This is not the company's problem, but the consumer's problem with the company. All problems are stated in consumer (fan) terms. For the campaign to break through, the solution must be unique. The campaign would not make sense for another brand, because each brand occupies a specific space in the minds of consumers. Promotion campaign strategies include a situation analysis and problem definition, followed by these five steps. In collaboration with the client, the account manager or account planner for the agency is responsible for the creative brief that outlines the creative strategy to guide the execution of the campaign. 

1 Who: The target audience with the problem.  Identify specific characteristics that allow us to know how to talk to them (#4) and reach them (#5).
2 What: Measurable objectives.  Specify key performance indicators (KPIs) based on brand asset values (BAV) and brand actions.
3 Why: The big idea.  The succinct expression of the solution to the piercing insight that connects the brand to the consumer problem.[2]
4 How: Creative executions.  What the customer sees: The actual design of the ad, press release, direct marketing piece, sales promotion, social media posts & hashtags, and experiential/activation plan.  
5 Where/When: The media plan to reach the audience.  The specific named communication channels (TV, radio, print, digital, experiential) with specific times (month, week, daypart) and frequencies (how often) with beginning and ending dates, and budget.

As with any plan, we evaluate whether or not we achieved what we set out to do. You wouldn't train for marathon, take a class, or play a game without determining the outcome. In the same way, we must check the score of our promotion campaigns with consumer and media measurement tools.

MLB Campaign: "This Season on Baseball"

Source: Sports Business Journal

MLB TV ratings for national broadcasts have generally declined, as more viewers shift to RSNs (Regional Sports Networks) to view favorite teams. Fox weekly broadcasts and ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball (SNB) have steadily dropped, with the 2016 World Series an exception to the the overall decline in viewers in the past decade.

After some intense research involving observation and Google searches,[3] we determined that younger, casual fans view baseball as: boring. Additional research suggests MLB lacks a well-known face (or faces) to market the sport, comparable to the NBA's LeBron or NFL's Tom Brady. Among casual fans who rarely watch MLB games (Step 1: Who), the goal (Step 2: What) is for them to see MLB as "must-see entertainment with new heroes, stars and stories developing every day" that makes them excited to watch more frequently.

The solution (to Step 3: Why) offered by Anomaly, MLB's creative agency, is to focus on the "drama that comes through the season" featuring Mike Trout and a host of other players casual fans don't recognize.The succinct expression of the solution to the piercing insight that baseball is boring with unrecognizable stars is: "This Season on Baseball." We will let you judge if this is a big idea or not.  [4]

The big idea from Step 3 is executed through commercials like these, as well as music videos and short films (Step 4: How). The ads are shown on MLB.com's digital and social channels, as well as on ESPN, MLB Network, TBS, Fox Sports and FS1. The ads began in advance of opening day and will continue throughout the regular season (Step 5: Where/When). Working with their agency, MLB can determine the success of the campaign by measuring increases in a positive brand personality (exciting, dramatic, etc.) and brand usage (BAV scores; TV ratings among the 18-34 segment).

Designing a Promotion Campaign

Promotion Mix

  • Advertising
  • Public Relations
  • Sales Promotion
  • Personal Selling[5]

Promotion and advertising campaigns are often used interchangeably. However, advertising messages are but one component of an overall promotion campaign, which in turn should be consistent with the brand's integrated marketing communication plans. The American Marketing Association refers to Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) as the "planning process designed to assure that all brand contacts received by a customer or prospect for a product, service, or organization are relevant to that person and consistent over time." 

A key word in the IMC definition is relevance. As we recall from Chapter 1, brand relevance is related to market penetration and refers to the extent to which the brand (team) fits into people's lives. Communication is inherently based on relationships. We must have a relationship to relate, to be relevant. Without a relationship, we are irrelevant. Before we design a campaign, we must evaluate our relationships.

Situation Analysis: The Relationship

Relationships do not operate in a vacuum. [6]

Figure 1.2  Source: Nielsen

As with other relationships, we want to know where we are, given how things have been going lately. Recall the Consumer Brand Adoption Process from Chapter 1. Failing that, view the figure above (left). Similar brand adoption models refer to the purchase funnel (e.g., AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) by which we drop prospects into the top and pour out customers at the bottom.

The primary task in analyzing a purchase funnel is to determine where the relationship is breaking down to identify the problem.Your customers, your company and your competition change. MLB's relationship with fans has changed as fans, particularly the 18-34 year old millennial segment, shift media habits (see Nielsen data on right). The company may change, as when a major star retires or the team decides to enter a protracted rebuilding period by unloading all high-salaried players. Competition includes no media (cord-cutting), new media, emerging sports (e.g., growth of MLS), and other leisure activities.

Relatively unknown brands such as MLS jersey sponsors Bimbo, Leidos, and Advocare suffer from low awareness. Next, fans may know the brand, but are not interested or engaged with the brand. Partnership activation often enters the picture at this stage as fans experience and interact with the brand at events. Some fans engage in long distance relationships, as when they follow @FCBarcelona, see their new jersey sponsor Rakuten, and then go online to figure out what one a Rakuten is.[7]More mature brands like Toyota or AT&T are well known, but must differentiate from competitors, remain relevant to audience lifestyles, or simply be considered the next time fans think about buying in that category. For brands with high market share, like MillerCoors products, the issue may be more of remaining the preferred brand. Banks and other financial institutions often face trust issues.Since consumers often rely on others they know best to select intangible services, brands may focus on loyalty and recommendation (word-of-mouth) as underlying issues.Finally, retailers often target store traffic or other behaviors one must take to make a purchase (call an insurance agent; visit the website, etc.).

For the MLB example, casual fans (compared to more passionate fans) are not aware of the league's star players. Regular season games for MLB (and NBA) seem less relevant. This Season on Baseball attempts to remedy this consumer problem with ads featuring star players and their unique skills as part of the unfolding drama of day-to-day games. Of some concern is the media placement for this campaign. Casual fans are unlikely to watch current broadcasts via MLB channels. To be relevant for casual fans, MLB must find ways to communicate where casual fans hang out.

Where do most young people (and pretty much everyone else) hang out? On their phones. Not talking, of course. No one does that anymore. They socialize via various media with others with whom they have relationships. That's why we call it social media, not commercial media. When you're in relationships, you should know their names. Or at least an address.

In digital media terms, addressability refers to the ability to find and target a uniquely identified entity. In the internet of things (IoT), we can tag people and things with a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI). A URI is a sequence of characters that identifies a logical or physical resource. In other words, it's a really long series of numbers and letters different from all of the others that we use to communicate via the internet.

Brands must (a) know their customers, (b) where their customers are, (c) on what media platforms or devices, and (d) when. With media stacking (unrelated use of multiple devices) and media meshing (related use of multiple devices) brands must assess how the relationship is going in a complex, interactive environment where the average attention span is approximately eight seconds, according to Microsoft. Frankly, we are surprised you are still reading this paragraph. Please enjoy this short stock comic strip that took us three seconds to find.

The major environmental factors to analyze include the Political & Legal, Economic, Social, and Technological (PEST) factors. We spent more time on technology (devices & addressability) above because of its critical role in media, but sometimes brands fail to adjust to other major shifts that influence consumption behaviors. Laws may change, politics and politicians change, the economy may soar or tank, and societal values may shift.[8] In sum, the first steps in developing a promotion campaign are analyzing the three C's (customers, company and competition) and the PEST factors to define the customer problem with the brand.

Who: The target audience with the problem

The who goes hand-in-hand with identifying the consumer problem. Even though we want to address each fan as an individual, at this stage we want to define a segment of people with similar characteristics that share the same type of problem. Correctly identifying specific characteristics of this segment allows us to know how to talk to them (Step #4) and reach them (Step #5). Once we understand the consumer problem, understanding the target audience helps us craft relevant messages to help improve the relationship. If they don't hear the message (in the right place at the right time) or hear it but cannot relate to the message, the campaign fails.

If targeting millennials, how do their preferences differ from previous generations? How would differences in price perceptions, finding solutions, and the other elements outlined below influence how teams should market to younger consumers? The focus on "What's in it for us?" rather than "What's in it for me?"[9] is one of the reasons HKS' new stadium designs feature suites and seating areas to facilitate social interaction. 

 

Suffice it to say that many researchers, analysts and parents are still trying to understand millennials. You will and should find ample studies to use if this is a key segment for the brand. Yet, millennials should not be targeted as one mass audience, all with similar behaviors. Dependent upon context, we can further characterize millennials in terms of activities, interests and opinions (AIO), demographics and media habits, as shown below.

The chart above (Source: www.millennialmarketing.com) is a good example of concise customer segment profiles. The depiction of the size of the segments, naming the segments, showing a representative picture of members of each segment, and providing key characteristics (AIO, demographics, and media use) pertinent to the consumer problem is exactly what you should include in an effective promotion campaign.

Two notes: First, note the word pertinent. In the chart above, the fact that some segments differ with respect to Hispanic heritage might be pertinent to some (maybe most) marketers, but not others. Just because a segment is different does not mean it is important. That's the challenging part of creating great promotions--finding the key insights that lead to crafting relevant messages connecting the brand as the solution to the consumer problem. Second, note the depiction of six segments. If we only showed one segment, how would we know it is different from the others? Segmentation of the audience is only useful if we show that it is: a segment. Six is not the magic number. One is definitely not it. The question is: What best helps us know how to talk to this audience and where & when to reach them?

What: Measurable objectives

Defining the problem is half the battle. The other half is solving it with a Big Idea (Step #3). To be fair, we must still execute the campaign, select the media channels and measure the results. So, maybe it's more like one-third of the battle. 

If the problem is correctly defined, we know the objectives. For MLB, the problem is that younger, casual fans perceive baseball to be boring. The lack of player recognition & familiarity is essentially a brand awareness problem. The excitement of the game is a brand relevance problem: Are MLB games relevant to my life? Good brand tracking studies carried out by national brands and their agencies should already be keeping tabs on these KPIs. (See Google Trends visualization above.)

For a particular campaign with more specific objectives, we can state SMART (Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-frame) goals. MLB might state objectives with these elements:

  1. Identifiable audience: Casual fans, aged 18-34, nationwide
  2. Goals: (A) To improve perceptions of baseball as less boring and more exciting. (B) To improve recognition of star players.
  3. Benchmark: Prior to the season, measure (a) perceived boredom and excitement and (b) recognition of star players.
  4. Results: End of the season, measure perceived boredom and excitement and recognition of star players.

For an objective to be useful, it must be measurable. We must also identify the intended audience. Working with a research firm or by sampling MLB's customer database, we can screen for casual fans (infrequently watch or attend) within the 18-34 age bracket. As we learned in Chapter 2, boredom and excitement are feelings on the opposite ends of the circumplex of emotions. We can measure them with items such as these among the targeted audience:

We can also measure the extent to which casual fans in the 18-34 year old age bracket recognize star players.

To determine the success of the promotion campaign, at the end of the season we can compare casual fans in the 18-34 year old age bracket to look for statistically significant differences: 

(a) between those who recall seeing the "This Season on Baseball" ads and those who did not,

(b) to the benchmark scores for boredom-excitement and player familiarity gathered prior to the campaign.

(c) to other fan segments (inactive, active, and passionate), and

(d) to other age groups.

Remember all of these steps to apply them once the campaign is over, particularly if you participate in Fox Sports University and are creating a campaign in a class competition.

Why: The Big Idea

Source: MarketingLand.com

Presenting the big idea to the client should contain the three elements outlined in the Snickers example. The big idea in the campaign is the succinct expression of the solution to the piercing insight that connects the brand to the consumer problem. The big idea is the driving force behind the entire creative in steps four & five. Well-conceived big ideas can be expressed in a single sentence (typically eight words or less). A big idea is simple, yet surprising, derived from an insight about the category, advertising or the consumer. An idea cannot be big if you can substitute another brand. Big ideas are a dramatic way of expressing the idea in terms of how to say it ("Dos Equis: The most interesting man in the world") and where to say it (i.e., in the most interesting places in the world). 

Creativity

Big ideas require creativity. How do you get creative? The most creative people are the most prepared. The only way to know an idea is new or unique is to know most everything else about the category, the customers, and the company or product. You might have thought this New York City retailer generated a creative big idea, until you learned Walmart has "always low prices." You might also think that is not such a big idea by Walmart. But, it has worked out pretty well for them, mainly because no one else can always have such low prices. The point is that creativity comes after (not before) thorough research of the 3 C's. 

People can also become creative by following established processes to spark original, break-through ideas. To develop big ideas we must often take what is common and take an opposing viewpoint. Reverse brainstorming[10] asks two questions: 

1. Instead of "How do I solve or prevent this problem?" ask "How could I possibly cause the problem?"

2. Instead of "How do I achieve these results?" ask "How could I possibly get the opposite effect?"

In our MLB example, instead of asking, "Why don't millennials see baseball as exciting?" ask, "How do we make baseball boring?" As a young person yourself, you can likely think of many things baseball does to make it boring. While some of us may find it stimulating to watch the pitcher throw four intentional balls far wide of the plate to walk a batter, others might say, "Hey, just get on with it and let's skip all the drama." Good news! MLB changed that rule. For those still confused, please watch this instructional video. In any case, reverse brainstorming can help uncover the problem and generate insights.

Other good tools to spark creativity are explained more fully by our friends at www.MindTools.com. Below are quick definitions and links to their pages to use when developing campaigns. Or studying for tests. In additional to traditional brainstorming,[11]] two highly useful tools to create big ideas are:

1. Metaphorical thinking: A direct comparison between two unrelated or indirectly linked things. The simple metaphor format is "A is B," as in "time is money," or "baseball is boring." Your creative team can generate creative ideas by brainstorming metaphors to find those that resonate.

2. SCAMPER: A mnemonic to brainstorm what can we Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, or Reverse about the product or service. MLB substituted the intentional walk rule, reversed and then adapted and modified instant replay rules. Granted, that's not a promotional campaign; but, taking rule changes together with a few tweaks like the one below, MLB could promote itself as "A Whole New Ballgame." 

Big Idea Checklist

Often our best ideas will come when we are not trying to think about it. Research and preparation involves what have traditionally been considered primarily left-brain activities. After working and storing everything you can learn about the situation in a network of ideas, images and symbols that is your mental workspace, your right brain integrates and create ideas. You might be on a run, getting ready for school or falling asleep--and then the idea hits you! Innovative people often keep record of ideas that may come anytime or anywhere, as we see evidenced in this classic film starring Michael Keaton, before Siri or Alexa were born.1

Once you generate the piercing insight and the brand connection in a succinct expression, review the big idea with this checklist (right).[12]] As the agency, the big idea must not only resonate with your creative team, but also with the client. MLB and its agency, Anomoly, agreed that "This Season on Baseball" was a big idea. If your class competes to produce winning campaigns, you should seek opportunities to preview big ideas with the client. Note the plural of ideas: If all you can come up with is one good idea, how creative is that? Advertising may seem glamorous after watching Mad Men, but for every idea that makes it, a dozen more are tossed in the virtual trash can.

How: Creative Executions

The creative execution is what the customer sees (or hears): The actual design of the ad, press release, direct marketing piece, sales promotion, social media posts & hashtags, and the experiential/activation plan.  How you say something is as important as what you say. Sarcasm, for instance, is all about how not the what. Among the British, "well done" can have a positive connotation, but rarely does. The meaning depends on inflection, tone, facial expression and situation. [13]]

Creative executions are not explanations of how you plan to make something. Instead, you make something. You must have something to show in order to tell about it. 

Video Content

The most common way to demonstrate the execution before actually making the advertisement or short form content (e.g., for YouTube) is a storyboard. A storyboard is a series of images showing the sequence of events for video content. Graphic artists may sketch the action from one scene to the next. Animation programs are available, including some free ones. You might begin with six key scenes. If your drawing skills are similar to mine, your storyboard might look like the one below from our friends in the BBC. The intent is to show the creative services team the outline of what is to be produced. If you want to win an advertising competition, we suggest getting to know students with graphic arts skills who want opportunities to build their portfolios.

Websites

For website design or changes, a wireframe using only lines and boxes or images to display the functional elements of the website or webpage are prepared. The agency may use their own website designers or hire specialists to complete the work. For class competitions, wireframes or examples of similar websites may communicate what is needed to the client. The greater the detail and the closer to reality, the better, so that the client can take actions based on your recommendations. Free wireframe programs are available online.[14]]

Source: Softwaretestinghelp.com

Social Media

A variety of tools exist to schedule, create and track the performance of social media. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are two popular programs that allow users to manage multiple social networks to grow brands and reach campaign objectives. Hootsuite and other programs allow users to create and schedule the release of posts on specific calendar dates. The primary point of application in Step 4 is that social media campaigns integrated into the overall promotion campaign must also be executed. 

Social media does require spontaneous responses, but these should be in keeping with the overall campaign. For MLB, social media employees at MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) could routinely work in references to "This week in baseball" and highlight the drama emphasizing star players.[15]]Yes, we get this seems obvious. The point is to stay consistent with the big idea, were you to have one.[/fref]]

Hootsuite Scheduling Demo

These programs also help agencies and brands with social listening to gauge customer sentiment and to respond quickly to questions or issues. The Microsoft Dynamics Social Engagement tool, among others, allows users to scrape social media data to estimate the positive, negative and neutral sentiment on designated search terms. Suppose Baylor University is interested in changing the narrative in media conversations to emphasize more positive content. In executing the campaign, the search terms for a brand (e.g., Baylor and football) and irrelevant terms not to include (e.g., Mary Hardin-Baylor; Baylor Medicine) in the social listening search are selected. The plan is presented to the client with specifics, not generalities (e.g., "We recommend using a social listening program."). Further, the creative team must outline what actions are to be taken in the social listening campaign. When negative tweets are encountered, what is the plan or policy? When blogs or other online news articles appear, what is the proper approach to respond, including by whom and by when? Search for good tips on how to deal with "badvocates" and negative sentiment before designing policies, as others have gained years of experience in developing best practices.

Search terms for Baylor + University and Baylor + football.

Microsoft Social Engagement Dashboard

Google AdWords

Over 80% of purchase decisions are preceded by online searches on the topic. Nearly the same number (77%) will visit a school's website at least two weeks before taking any action and the way they often get there is by Google or another search engine. Google, in fact, makes more money from the online sale of tickets than anyone because of their dominant place in offering paid search ads. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is preferable for driving organic traffic to a website, but teams and brands supplement organic search with paid search. If you want to become valuable in the digital advertising space, you should become certified in Google AdWords. To get you started, we've supplied a few basics below. The short version of the Google Adwords process is you design a search ad, select key search words and pay a price for each click the ad receives. Google helps you come up with search terms by showing you what others have searched for in that group or category (see box #4 below).

Getting Google AdWords Certified Getting Started with Google AdWords
Note: 480 Searches Indicating Individuals Who Failed High School English Class
Setting Up Google AdWords Selecting Keywords to the Search Ad

Take a moment and search for tickets for your favorite team that is in season. In a search for "Texas Rangers tickets," we see the first four listed are paid display ads and the first organic (nonpaid) listing is directly from the Texas Rangers website. In the execution of your campaign in Step 4, you must demonstrate what your paid advertisement would look like. In Step 5, where we are headed next in this chapter, you would designate when these would be run and the appropriate budget (e.g., dollars per day). In executing the campaign with Google ads, you can go through the set-up without paying to demonstrate what it will look like to the client. You can also copy the HTML from a similar ad (like the StubHub ad below), edit and then display your version of the ad in the presentation to the client.

Designing YouTube advertising campaigns is relatively similar. Go here to learn more about the process so that you can show and tell if you include YouTube advertising in your campaign.

The bottom line is that whatever the media selected to communicate the big idea, you must show the client what it will look like. If it's a landing page with written content about a star player with a link to a ticket offer for select games, then produce (at least in mock form) a landing page with written content about the player with a link including the offer for tickets to a game. If it's a direct email campaign with messages to season ticket holders, design an example of the email copy with the message to be sent to season ticket holders. If it's a billboard, make a design for the layout. If it's a Facebook ad, design and show how it will look on Facebook. If it's a web banner to run on ESPN.com, make the banner in the appropriate size and show what it will look like on ESPN.com. To quote a succinct expression of a great big idea, "Just Do It."

Where/When: The media plan 

In Step 5, we identify the specific names of the communication channels (TV, radio, print, digital, experiential) with specific times (month, week, daypart) and frequencies (how often) with beginning and ending dates, and budget. Media planning requires attention to detail and overlaps with research and analytics to include the right places and times where the audience does life. Below is an example of a media plan flow chart that includes the timing and media selection for each element in a campaign. Media planners are responsible for finding out the costs and presenting a budget with the allocation of the money spent across each media type.

Wrap it up

Convincing campaigns, like interesting people, tell great stories. The executive summary at the beginning of the campaign presentation sets the stage for all of the hard work you've put in designing the campaign. You weave in the storyline as you present each step in the campaign. At the end, you wrap up by returning to the story, showing how you will know you've succeeded in accomplishing what you set out to do. Review the objectives and the methods you designed to measure success in Step 2. The job of the account manager (the client) and the account planner (the customer) is to review each step in the process to make sure their respective views are consistently presented throughout.

When the team is fully prepared, each thoroughly committed to making their contribution to the campaign the best it can possibly be, there will be no nervousness in presenting. Rather, you are so excited about the great plans you have created to help solve the consumer's problem for the client that you can't wait to share your story!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. [1] Seriously, these are the 3 C's of the situation analysis: Company, Competition, Customer.
  2. [2]http://marketingland.com/whats-big-idea-3-fundamentals-successful-digital-creative-153747
  3. [3]Google "boring baseball." Share the number of hits with your professor.
  4. [4] If you think the author does not like baseball or thinks it is boring, you are wrong. The author is currently watching the Rangers vs. Yankees on Fox Sports Southwest as he writes these words.
  5. [5]Some include Direct Marketing as a 5th promotion mix element. Makes sense, but we treat D.M. as an advertising medium.
  6. [6]We do not know who suggested this in the first place. We do not recommend vaccums for this purpose.
  7. [7]Answer: A Japanese online retailer.
  8. [8]A good class discussion is to make a list of PEST changes in the last three years that affect sports.
  9. [9]Yes, proper grammar is important.
  10. [10]See https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_96.htm.
  11. [11]]Be sure to follow the guidelines outlined on this link.
  12. [12]]Adapted from: Advertising Account Planning, 2nd Ed, Kelley & Jugenheimer
  13. [13]] For more things Brits cannot say without sounding sarcastic, please see this article.
  14. [14]]Search for them.
  15. [15]
%d bloggers like this: