Monday, September 27, 2010

Vote for Brand X

Everywhere I go these days, I seem to see one political sign or another.

Each candidate has a brand consultant that has designated colors and designs to prop up a campaign, and PR staffers who carefully script each and every interaction.  The interesting human behavior here is that people (including myself) choose to take part in this marketing effort by bringing a piece home in their own front yards -- supporting someone they've never met before, and probably know little about.

These are people who are passionate enough for a person or party to brand their own personal space with another's brand.  I think a bumper sticker is one thing ... it's limited interaction across a wide intercepts -- the very definition of "scale."  But "scope" -- which we would define as a brand presence and consumer interaction for a lengthy period of time -- is a longer commitment.  Putting a sign in your yard is commitment.

We know that consumers are as passionate, if not more, about brands (in a wide sense) than most things in their lives, including political candidates.  They love their cars, clothes, teams, TV shows, even their day-to-say C-store selections ... all of it is intensely personal.  (It's the same sentiment around wireless products -- it's one person's ultimate brand experience through technology.)

Why can't we use sports to get consumers to put our partners' brands in their front yards and profess their love for them as well?  If they're willing to support a person that's a relative unknown, why can't they put our brand front-and-center to their friends and neighbors, leveraging the passion they have for our property? 

Sure, everyone wears their favorite brands or drinks their favorite coffee, but I'm talking about real evangelism here.  I'd start with three considerations, and we as sports marketers can help brands to achieve this goal.

First, it starts with two-way communication with the consumer.  Too many brands are still having one-sided conversations -- talking to themselves.  We have to build the relationship, hear their joys and concerns, let them seek an outcome when they need, then deliver resolution.  And maybe somewhere along the way, exceed their expectations.  But the relationship must have been established prior to the bump in the road, not after the car's in a ditch.

Second, encourage brands to listen.  (And by listening, I mean this decade's version of "thinking outside the box."  I hate its use, but it's appropriate here.)  Engage your properties to help understand what consumers want from your brand out of their partnership.  Here's a thought: how about asking customers what THEY want from YOUR sponsorship?

Third, help brands show a clear value to the consumer.  Even if you don't want to turn the keys of your partners' sponsorships over to crowdsourcing, a good place to start this conversation is through quick, value-based interactions.  A good example here might be a proactive Twitter offer via the brand handle with team tickets, with a soft support mechanism.  While not true one-on-one, it might spark a conversation that never would have happened before.

We need to be thoughtful when it comes to helping brands not just activate sponsorships in a meaningful way, but engage consumers along the way.  This goes beyond ROI.  We need to turn static into active.

Because eventually, it comes down to consumers voting with their wallets, and not ballots.  And we all want to win that election, right?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Notion of Experts

One of the things I consistently see on Twitter is "expert analysis."  There's a sense for those of us not in digital and social media day-to-day that a few of the mavens in the space are self-professed "experts."  But yesterday, I saw an interesting twist from an account that I follow, describing this notion.

This is the tweet that launched my thoughts for today.
The guys at Hugging Harold Reynolds (@HHReynolds; who are intimately involved with @BlogsWithBalls) posted a pretty angry tweet here about this very thing, even as I was thinking about it.  (I realize the tweet itself is a bit out of context, but I hope you can see the intent behind the message.)

I think the interesting point about this tweet is that the HHR guys are angry with marketers they see as self-proclaimed evangelists (note his "preaching" comment), and want to see bloggers involved more in the conversation about what is and isn't solid insights about engaging through social media.

I really do believe that bloggers are some of the most powerful influencers in sports.  They have leveraged fan passion, and used it as a platform to organize and spur communication.  Some of them have become rich from it.  Most of them haven't.  But I believe that the HHR guys here have a point, that bloggers deserve to have a voice in the "experts" conversation.

Honestly, I've talked with a lot of my marketing colleagues in the industry, and we're seeing the same thing: people who have found that social media is a great way to expand their own personal brand, and then benefit from being the "loudest talker."  I'm not seeing it as much in the #sponsorship or #sportsbiz communities, but definitely among the #socialmedia set.

There are, however, a set of folks in the #sportsbiz community that have set themselves out as these loud talkers.  Two of which I won't name but they immediately came to mind.  I think both of these folks are likely intelligent individuals that just found the volume button through social media and haven't figured out how to control it.  I unfollowed one of them and I'm on the verge of unfollowing the other.

I have 300 followers on Twitter ... these folks have many more than I do.  But, it's not my goal to make 20,000.  I want engaged individuals and brands that are interested in real sponsorship insights and discussions, beyond the chatter.

And I think that's what HHR's point is ... don't just talk, engage in intelligent conversation.  Even if it is just 140 characters.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Confessions of a Twitterer

I've owned this domain for a while, but never really knew what to do with it.  I really enjoy the short form of micro-blogging, but I feel like there might be a greater opportunity to expand on what I'm really thinking and feeling.  I am also considering teaching a masters-level course in the winter, so this will allow me to interact with those (potential) students in a more lively manner.  I wonder whether or not I'll have the time to really make this work, but for now, here's the first post.