Thursday, December 28, 2006

Grass Roots Marketing Really Works?

When people write on their blogs, who knows if the person really knows what they are talking about or are just pulling ideas out of thin air. Interesting article from Monday’s NY Times entitled, "Online Chat Is a Grapevine That Yields Precious Fruit." It noted, "Word-of-mouth advertising — sharing information with friends, relatives and colleagues to propagate interest in a company or product — has been around for decades, but with the advent of the Internet, it has taken on new life. Companies like MD Moms are using online message boards and chats to get the word out for little or no cash investment. Web logs, e-mail newsletters and chat rooms have also become vehicles for promotion."

This is exactly what I have been saying since I started writing this blog. More sports teams need to grasp the word-of-mouth concept to generate more interest in their teams. It can’t be hard to have a couple of interns or kids just out of college handle all the buzz marketing activation programs. Cheap labor that can generate positive, long-term benefits.

Buying Ad Space on Fox College Football Games

If I was a sponsor looking to get in front of sports fans, I would definitely buy ad space during this year’s major college football games. According to MediaPost, “FOX Sports plans to sell downloads of College Bowl football games in their entirety, the network said Wednesday. In addition, on Jan. 1, Fox will offer a live stream of the Cotton Bowl game for free.”

This will provide free advertising to companies who sponsored the games. Understandably, most people who download the game will fast forward through the ads, but there may be a small percentage who watch them. Not a bad deal if a company does not have a lot of money to spend on marketing, but wants to generate a lot of exposure.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ensuring ROI Through Grass-Roots Marketing

Someone e-mailed me the following question on the blog that I wanted to tackle: "What kind of promotions or grass roots marketing would a business put on to make sure they get a worthy ROI?"

This is a great question, but a little open ended. The first item to address is what is the final goal? Is it generating exposure in a company or product, securing sales leads or increasing product sales? That goal will help guide the marketing plan.

Another issue to consider is who is the target market? Is it teenagers, which means most of your marketing will be online, or is it adults, which means you may use more traditional forms of marketing.

From a grass roots perspective, from research and personal experience these are the activities that will generate the strongest ROI.

• Word of Mouth – it’s simple and easy and if done correctly, it can generate huge interest in a company. Tell a select group of “connected” people about the new product or business. Offer an incentive for them to tell all their friends. Did you hear about Wii’s marketing plan? Nintendo gave the product to a family, a game enthusiast and a soccer mom in 10 cities around the country to generate word of mouth exposure for the gaming console.

• Event experience – It’s amazing how much success a company can have by holding an event to introduce a product or generate sales leads. It can be something as simple as closing down a restaurant for the night, inviting potential clients and showing samples of the product. Now, if you have money to host an event at an athletic event, it’s possible to draw additional clients or even potential clients who are higher up on the food chain. People are always willing to talk business at a sporting event.

• Buddy Up to Bloggers – Like it or not, there are a plethora of bloggers out there who have the ability to "make noise" in a certain industry. They may have a loyal following who read their blogs daily. If you know of any bloggers who cover the space the business is in, introduce them to the business or product. Even better, invite them to attend a private event with other bloggers and media.

• Media Relations – If done correctly, it does not take a lot of money to generate press coverage in local media outlets or in vertical trade publications. Media relations should be a component of any marketing plan. If you have a product that can be reviewed and beta customers who are willing to talk to the media, this is an easy way to generate exposure and provide decent ROI for a company. The sales team can take the reviews to show potential clients the benefits of the product or business.

This is a basic list that you can never go wrong implementing, depending on all the factors of the launch. I believe it’s always smart to have one or two safe ideas as well as one "out of the box" idea to include in any marketing plan.

Anyone should feel free to let me know if I am completely off base.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What is Masterfoods Thinking?

Last Friday, two days before Christmas Eve, Masterfoods announced it will "become the only sponsor to have two brands form the same company backing one NASCAR team after agreeing a second entry with Robert Yates Racing. Chocolate bar brand Snickers will be on the car driven by Ricky Rudd’s primary sponsor – in addition to its M&Ms brand sponsoring driver David Gilliland."

In the grand scheme of things, this news isn’t that interesting, but it is important to Masterfoods. Why did they announce this the Friday before the holidays? Let’s analyze further:

Last Friday, two days before Christmas Eve, Masterfoods announced it will “become the only sponsor to have two brands form the same company backing one NASCAR team after agreeing a second entry with Robert Yates Racing. Chocolate bar brand Snickers will be on the car driven by Ricky Rudd’s primary sponsor – in addition to its M&Ms brand sponsoring driver David Gilliland.”
In the grand scheme of things, this news isn’t that interesting, but it is important to Masterfoods. Why did they announce this the Friday before the holidays? Let’s analyze further:
• By Friday, almost everyone in the business world has checked out and I doubt most people would have read this news. NASCAR-related business news usually is able to generate interest since their fans are some passionate and want to know everything that is going on with the teams.
• Most reporters had left for vacation earlier in the week so I am surprised this even appeared at all. I bet they could have secured more traction if they waited until after Christmas. This would have been the perfect story to pitch between Christmas and New Years when the news cycle is slow.
• If Masterfoods wanted to get this news out, but didn’t want a lot of media interest due to a directive from senior management, then it was the perfect day to pitch the news.

While this news appeared on, if they waited until this week to pitch it, I bet they could have gotten articles in BrandWeek, Promo Magazine, etc.

I’d be interested in learning the media outreach plan around this announcement, if one was even created.

MLS to Accept Advertising on Jerseys

The New York Times reported yesterday that MLS has accepted the fact that it might not be a bad idea to let companies pay a lot of money to put their logos on jerseys. The article titled, "M.L.S. Wants Your Advertising," reported, "But for M.L.S., a decision to sell space to sponsors on the front of the jerseys of the league’s 13 teams for a minimum of $500,000 a year is another way for the league to find a seat at the table in the global soccer marketplace."

I personally believe this is a smart move for MLS. They can use the money, teams in different sports around the world allow corporations to put logos on team apparel and it "might" help draw additional interest to the league.

Corporations will want to ensure they receive an strong ROI on their investment. The business will host events, promotions or other grass-roots marketing initiatives to draw awareness to the team and the business.

This is a win-win for all parties involved.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Smart Move by the NFL Network

According to TV Week, “The NFL Network accepted Time Warner Cable's offer to put the NFL Network on its digital basic tier in the New York market for free for one week so that subscribers there can see Rutgers University play in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28.”

This is an extremely smart move for the NFL to “wet the appetite” of the New Yorkers to show them what they are missing. Since the NFL couldn’t generate enough pressure from the media articles, now they are taking the issue straight to the people. It will be interesting to see how much pressure Time Warner receives once the week is over and people can’t watch the network anymore.

NHL Might Finally Gain Some Legs

While the NHL has gained momentum with increased ticket sales, the sport is still lacking with television viewers. One main reason could be that the national games are on Versus and very few people know where the station is located on cable.

I just found out that NBC is taking another crack at showing NHL games. I thought they had left the sport for good. According to Broadcasting & Cable, they have some interesting marketing/PR tactics:

* The new creative is set to launch during NBC’s Christmas Day broadcast of a National Football League game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, and will run not only within sports programming but also in other dayparts

* NBC’s strategy is to brand its weekend afternoon hockey games as a feature game, the "Game of the Week" in the NHL, similar to how it has attempted to brand its Sunday Night Football contests

* The network will try to push some of the young stars of the league that have yet to achieve mainstream name recognition, such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

* NBC’s new campaign includes a two-minute promotional video that will run in NHL arenas and on the NBC Sports and NHL websites leading up to Jan. 13.

* The campaign also features print advertising, as well as promotional video running at retail outlets such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Costco and Best Buy.

Hopefully, the NHL is at the same place the NBA was back in 1980 when Bird and Magic joined the League. The NHL is smart to be putting their marketing dollars behind Crosby and Ovechkin. They two players have the potential to lead the league back to respectability.

Other items they should push include e-mail marketing and involvement with MySpace. They are already showing games on YouTube.

The NHL is on the right road, from a marketing/PR standpoint to gain more interest and traction with its passionate fans as well as general sports fans.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Wendy’s Receives the Star of the Day on the following link to the NY Times article to read an "out of the box" idea from Wendy’s. This is either going to change how commercials are created in the future or will fall faster than J.D Drew’s popularity once he starts playing in Boston. Why or why are they still trying to negotiate a deal?

Usually I am totally against fast food restaurants – I knew I should never have read "Fast Food Nation," but I am excited to see if how sports fans react to them.

According to the piece:

"SPORTS commentators will not be the only ones remarking on Sunday's National Football League games. Animated raccoons will also give instant feedback in advertisements for Wendy's International that will be shown at the start of commercial breaks.

If the score is 0-0, an ad might start with a Wendy's raccoon standing in front of an overturned trash can, saying, 'I may be nocturnal, but this game is putting me to sleep.' … With three sections of the commercial inserted on the fly, viewers could see up to 11 versions of the ad. All will include a voice-over saying, 'Why eat junk at night when you can go to Wendy’s?'"

I will definitely be watching out for these ads this weekend and will write a follow up grading them next week.

Announcing Super Bowl Ad Lineup

The NY Post ran a story yesterday announcing some of the companies who purchased ads during the Super Bowl. Buying ads during the game can be so hit or miss. Companies like, from back in the day,, Careerbuilder, Budweiser and even Nike years ago have gained tons a free press from their amazing ads that resonated with fans watching the game. It was the discussion around "the water cooler" for days after they appeared. Then, on the other side of the coin, you have companies like ESPN and their cell phone last year who purchase commercial time and really do not gain a reaction from their target audience.

Over the last few years, the ads during the Super Bowl have definitely been lacking. I am always excited to see which marketing slogan will make its way into the general mainstream after it appears during the game.

This year, according to the article, "Motorola, Gillette, Aleve and Taco Bell" will not be purchasing ads, while Ford is still deciding. I understand why Taco Bell is not running ads, but the rest of these companies definitely need to generate more exposure.

One thing I have also disagreed with is how the NFL, General Motor's Chevrolet and Frito Lay's Doritos brand are letting fans create ads. I really, really hope they are a success, because I would not want to be the marketing manager who has to explain why they spent $2.6 million on a useless commercial.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Boston Media is Slipping

Interesting situation took place yesterday in which Boston sports media missed an important clue or decided to look the other way. The story in the Boston Globe discussed what was holding up the official signing of J.D. Drew to the Boston Red Sox. The article noted:

"Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein had no comment yesterday on the matter, and Boras said he was restrained by HIPAA regulations from responding to questions, including whether Drew had gone to see a doctor for a second opinion."

Really? Boras was restrained? When did Boras become a doctor? I received an interesting blurb from my dad who is definitely up to date on HIPAA regulations:

"This is a particularly clever distortion. HIPAA is a federal law designed to protect privacy by banning hospitals and doctors from releasing medical information without the patient’s permission. As long as Drew agrees, Boras can answer any question he wants to about Drew’s shoulder. What he's really saying is 'no comment,' but doing it in a creative way. Because a sports writer probably isn’t acquainted with the specifics of HIPAA, he got away with it."

That's why, as an agent, Boras handles media relations for his clients as well. Smart way to handle the media. Gordon Edes, who wrote the story, is usually on the ball so something may be going on behind the scenes.

Stubhub’s Interesting PR Plan

According to the Boston Globe, Stubhub today announced the company is countersuing the New England Patriots. The suit states, "the Patriots have attempted to monopolize the ticket resale market by revoking the tickets of any fan caught reselling them anywhere but on the club's own TeamExchange website."

I don't know a lot about lawsuits, but I don't think this one will stand in court. What is will do is offer free publicity to Stubhub if the national media picks up the story. They will receive millions of hits to their site if top-tier publications write stories. I could definitely see Sports Business Journal and possible SI covering this news.

The lawsuit may be brainless, but from a PR perspective this is an excellent way to generate interest in the site.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Smart Marketing Move By SI

According to Promo Magazine, "SI is sponsoring Takkle, a networking site that launched on Dec. 11 targeting high schoolers eager to connect with other athletes."

The social media market is still hot at the moment. This will offer SI a great way to connect with a new audience and hopefully secure lifelong magazine readers. SI has the money and name power to make this site popular with the younger generation. Hopefully, if they are smart, they will partner with Facebook and MySpace to generate additional interest in the future.

2007 Sports Marketing Predictions

As 2006 comes to an end, it is always interesting to make predictions for the upcoming year. Below is a list of events I believe will take place in the sports marketing/PR world in 2007. Some of the bullet points on the list will be obvious while others may be a little more "out there." On to the list:

· VIP Experiences will be the hot topic in 2007 – More and more companies are developing VIP-related sports marketing experiences for Baby Boomers and Top 100 companies. People are willing to pay for the experience to have an opportunity to see what it's like to be a VIP attending a sporting event.

· The MLB All-Star Week sponsor will generate a lot of noise – With the passing of John Hancock as the All-Star FanFest sponsor, MLB will look to work with the new sponsor to really generate some additional exposure in San Francisco. Over the last two years, John Hancock did not promote its involvement with the event. While MLB can secure more than enough exposure itself, it can’t hurt to be on the same page with sponsors.

· Red Sox ticket prices, paraphernalia and sponsorship opportunities will go through the roof – With the expected influx of Japanese tourist to see Dice pitch; it is going to be a lot more expensive to purchase tickets off the street. It’s also safe to say that the Red Sox and FSG will not have a hard time filling up all its sponsorship openings this year.

· Boston sports teams will take the lead against scalpers – The Patriots recent push to go after scalpers could have a ripple affect throughout the sports world. I would not be surprised if the Sox, Bruins and Celtics ownership are watching how this plays out and may jump on the bandwagon against scalpers sooner, rather than later.

· The World Marathon Majors will generate noise in 2007 – Last year, the top five marathons around the world joined together to create a new marathon series. The series ends at NYC in November. Since they now have a point system in place, I think you will see more interest in the sport moving forward. Reebok recently announced it is planning to launch a national running campaign starting in April – in conjunction with the Boston Marathon (assuming here). The Marathon series will never attract a lot of mainstream sports fans, but it might become the hot niche sport for a season or two.

· No Top Five Golfer is going to care about the Fed Ex Cup after this season – I envision all the golfers will try to compete this season to win the Fed Ex Cup since it’s the first year in existence. Some golfers might even compete in 2008 to try to win the Cup as well. Once they win it, I doubt they will ever come back. The top golfers don’t need the money and only want to win the “majors” so it will be interesting to see if Federal Express is satisfied with their ROI.

· The NHL will make a comeback – The NHL is finally learning how to promote their sport after the lockout. They are profiling their younger players and signed an NFL executive to handle their sponsorships packages (I believe). What is amazing is the league had unbelievable success drawing fans to the games, but people didn’t watch the action on TV. Maybe, that’s because no one could find where Versus is located on cable.

There are definitely other predictions I could make, but I believe this is a good start. 2007 will definitely be an exciting year for sports marketing and PR.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

NFL Copying FSG and the Red Sox

The NFL is in discussions with "National Amusements Inc. and other movie exhibition chains about screening live sports in digitally equipped theaters. National Amusements president Shari Redstone screened high-definition broadcasts of Boston Red Sox baseball games at her Showcase Cinemas in several New England cities."

Now, in theory this could be a great idea for the NFL. The league could receive additional revenues from the events, continue to promote the league and make some additional money from having companies sponsor the events.

Here’s what is wrong with this idea:

• The Red Sox have had success with this type of business endeavor because Red Sox Nation branches all across New England. Fans don’t have the opportunity to attend games at Fenway since tickets are scare and it costs over $250 for a family of four to attend a game. A lot of fans don’t want to go to bars with their children to watch the games.
• Most football fans go to bars or have gatherings at their homes to watch the games. If you have a flat screen, are you really going to leave your house to watch a game at a money theater?
• The one way it might work is to promote the events to the youth leagues. The movie theaters could bring in athletes or coaches to talk about football during halftime. The NFL would be developing a new generation of passionate fans. The NFL could also create the aura that watching the games is a great family experience.

In theory, this idea sounds great, but the NFL will have its work cut out for it trying to attract a lot of fans.