Monday, October 18, 2010

Hyper-local, Hyper-focused: Smart Brands Should Be Here

In my job, I look at a significant amount of sports content online.  I probably consume more than any human should, looking at a screen for most of the day -- through sites, Twitter, mobile.  If it's engaging consumers around sports, I'm considering it.  (So, if you have something to promote, Tweet me at @jonathan_norman and I'll take a look.)

Next week, I am going to be meeting with a strategic partner of our agency, joining a client of ours to help build out an integrated online campaign for next year.  Both the partner and the client do an incredible job of capitalizing the passion of sports fans, but in a smart way.  They've figured out the equation: leverage a specific facet of their interest, and feed that fire.

While I can't talk in any detail around the client, the partner and their plans, I do want to take the time to look at a couple of sites that capitalize on the hyper-local and hyper-focused phenomenon.  Each of these sites has a laser-like focus on who makes up their communities.  They know how, when and where they want not only content, but also interaction.

The first is Scouting the Sally.  Blogger Mike Newman covers the South Atlantic League of Minor League Baseball.  The "Sally" is one of the most notable leagues in the minors, as many MLBers have called the league home for a season or two.  Mike's approach layers in two targets: (1) rabid baseball fans who keep up with future stars, and (2) Northeastern U.S. fans who love coverage of their favorite teams' minor leaguers, especially those of the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox.  Mike's approach is to not only blog, but also tweet and post videos with information that's not readily available via the ESPNs or Yardbarkers of the world.  It's really great, rich information for those who need it.

Scouting the Sally is a place where advertisers who match up demographically with the fan targets could really break through on an intimate level.  While Mike doesn't drive the page views that a Baseball Prospectus or even Minor League Ball does, his content is top notch and he really knows his community.  Working with Mike would make sense for a Wegmans, Duane Reade (now Walgreens) or even Steiner Sports.

The second site example is Yadkin Valley Sports.  Eric Lusk is a former newspaper sports editor and writer who went online and powered up the coverage in this Northwest North Carolina area.  Eric covers high school and even elementary school sports in a very professional way, with a great depth of interaction with the community he covers.  I am from this area of the country, and feel like I know more now about high school sports than I did when I was playing.

Eric does a feature every Monday on high school football in the area, appropriately titled "Monday Morning Quarterback."  It's a slick looking recap of the weekend's action, and really has some nice features that could be sponsored.  While the audience is limited by the population of the area, I can think off the top of my head sponsors like Neighbors, Food Lion and even the voice of high school football in the area, WIFM, that could really make some noise.

Bottom line: not every media package or site sponsorship involves a six- or seven-figure buy.  Brands that play locally and regionally (think cable, utilities, c-store) can find efficient spends to reach consumers that actually appreciate your integration in the site, vs. turning it off with an ad blocker.  Brand marketers just need to be smart enough to look for these opportunities.

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