Monday, May 16, 2011

From "Like" to Love: How Brands & Sports Fans Interact

There it was.  Right there in front of me.

"IN2NIKE"-- a Nissan Xterra with a Wisconsin license plate.

Most days, I'd just let this go.  But this struck me like an ... well, an adrenaline rush.

The iconic brand made enough of an impression on this consumer that he felt compelled to shout his love to the world - all in a seven-character license plate.  I thought to myself, "What is he saying here?"  Does he work for Nike?  (Probably not.)  Is he saying that he loves Nike clothes, shoes and apparel?  (Likely.)  Does he have an affection for the Nike brand ideals, such as fitness, competition and hard work?  (Yes, we have a winner, Bob!)

In this ever-changing age, smart sports brands realize that they have to activate through as many consumer touchpoints as possible to move targets down the purchase funnel.  Social media is obviously a big part of this mix.  Some brands even focus specifically on one channel, such as Facebook.

Oh, the Facebook "like" -- it's now become the "impression" of the early 2000's.  Whereas sports brands once solely coveted the impression, be it in-stadium, in-program or at-event, the like has now come the measuring stick of sports activation success.

While it's true that driving likes through our sponsorship activation, then we're able to apply a hard metric based on empirical data.  According to industry sources, most brands value a like at $1 to $5 of media.  This is a pretty significant number to be placed on one click.  We have to go beyond the like.  Smart sports brands are already thinking beyond the like, in developing the relationship in as many channels as possible, all though integrated communications closely tied to brand and creative strategy.

At the end of the day, we need to (as industry partners between brands, properties and agencies) drive consistent value to our consumers, all the while communicating to them in an endemic way.  Consistency of value and messaging tied to the brand strategy are ultimately important.  While anyone can produce a one-time stunt to spike sales or reach objectives, it's that commitment to consistency that will ultimately pay off -- leading to that "consumer love."

Five questions that can help us frame up that commitment to turning "like into love" are:
  1. What are we trying to achieve with this sponsorship?  
  2. How are we going beyond the assets to activate in a meaningful way?
  3. Does this activation truly drive value to consumers?
  4. How are we communicating this value to our target consumer?
  5. How are we measuring the change we're affecting in our targets through sponsorship and activation?
The aforementioned questions aren't exhaustive, as there could be 100 more questions we could use as a measuring stick.  But asking these tough ones will help us frame up what on Earth we're actually trying to achieve sponsorship.

For a brand like Nike, the relationship has moved beyond the value equation, based on their longevity in the market place and emotional connection.  The result is a strong brand with products that are considered leaders in the category, and consumers are showing loyalty to the brand through their dollars.  No relationship is ever perfect, as even Nike and consumers have had their issues.  But at the end of the day, when you really look at it ... for Nike, the "like" has turned to love.  And don't we all want to be loved?

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