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My Sports Business New Year’s Resolution

January 5, 2011

I finally got around to
reading an article
from Sports Business Journal
which I had been saving for
a couple of days. The idea of the article was to ask sports
business professionals to divulge their New Year’s resolutions. One
in particular stuck out as pretty relevant – that of Scott McCune
from Coca-Cola. Mr. McCune is the Vice President of Integrated
Marketing. Here’s what he had to say: “As for a sports business New
Year’s resolution, I would like to see the industry move away from
‘selling stuff’ to working with brands in a more collaborative
model where the two organizations leverage the unique strengths of
each, to create more value, more productively (sic), than either
partner could create separately — in other words, a true
partnership.” This was surprising for me to read because Coca-Cola
is a large company that has been involved in sports and
entertainment sponsorships for many years. If Coca-Cola believes
that it has not experienced a “true partnership,” than who has?
Mr. McCune’s point is relevant for all companies who think
about sponsoring a bowl game, buying stadium naming rights, or
spending on any of the ever-expanding sponsorship opportunities
that sports entities seem to be providing. Perhaps it is the
cynical side of me, but I always wonder about what companies think
they are getting out of sponsoring the evening’s top play during a
baseball game or the in-game scoreboard during a hockey game. How
many fans can name the sponsor of their favorite basketball team’s
pre-game show? How about at least two signs from their favorite
baseball team’s outfield fence? It’s a cluttered sponsorship world
that we live in, and it seems that Mr. McCune is also wondering
about the same questions. What’s the point for Coca-Cola to spend
money on a sports sponsorship? What is Coca-Cola getting out of it?
Is this just a sale for the sports entity from which Coca-Cola will
not benefit? Are people more likely to connect with Coca-Cola and
drink a Coke or visit the website after seeing the sponsorship? Mr.
McCune’s thought made me think of all of the car dealerships,
jewelry stores, and restaurants that throw money at sports because
sports receive good ratings. That may not mean that the company
receives greater exposure though because it’s not effective if the
company is forgotten. Nothing is off-limits anymore for sponsorship
which only creates a more cluttered environment. I remember going
to Wrigley Field while an undergrad at Northwestern University and
counting more than 20 companies being represented throughout the
stadium. I cannot name one of those companies, but I can tell you
all about the game if you’re interested. Is a company really
getting value for that money that they spent? This question is
also relevant for sports entities that are selling sponsorship.
Teams, tournaments, and television stations want repeat customers.
Unhappy one-time customers are not the goal of any sports entity
seeking sponsorship. On this note, my New Year’s resolution is to
find strong partnerships between companies and sports entities as
well as weak ones. It’s important to see examples of both so that
we can see the right way to do things and the wrong way to do
things. As I find examples while attending or watching sporting
events, I will chronicle them here, and if you find good ones, send
them my way! Best, Jason

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