Senior VP Offers Opinion on Technology Use by Sport Marketers

March 23, 2011

As the senior vice president of sports for GMR Marketing, Ed Kiernan has acquired an intimate knowledge of the world of sport marketing. He recently granted an interview to Sport Marketing Quarterly Industry Insider section editor Jim Kadlecek to talk about some current hot-button issues in the industry. The full interview is available in the March 2011 issue (Vol. 20, No. 1) of Sport Marketing Quarterly.

Q: As we get further into 2011, what predictions do you have with respect to sponsorship activation?

Kiernan: “NFL? ‘The One to Watch in 2011.’ With the possibility of an NFL lockout in 2011, all companies and brands involved with the NFL on a league, team, media, or player sponsorship should be analyzing their current campaigns and promotional activation to determine how they may be impacted. This analysis should consider all potential lockout scenarios and timing and how those will affect current programming and develop contingency plans to minimize the impact and potentially benefit from proactive counter programming. Who will win this battle—billionaires or millionaires?”

Q: What about your predictions about the use of technology?

Kiernan: “You have to learn how to navigate the fragmented social media space in order to micro-target exact niche audiences. The key is to not interrupt the consumer; rather engage and empower them to participate. You must distribute clear brand messages to the right audience, while teaching clients how to be successful in the new world of digital word-of-mouth marketing. The philosophy is simple; bring people closer to the things they love and they will do the marketing for you. Some things to watch in 2011: (a) more website and blog integrations and promotions, (b) enhanced digital content distribution, (c) social network loyalty and engagement, (d) the ever-growing need for digital reporting, metrics, and analytics, (e) mCRM and commerce, and (f) mobile social commerce.”

Q: With HD and now 3D sport broadcasts, what do properties need to do to ensure fans still purchase tickets and come to the events instead of viewing from the comfort of their living room?

Kiernan: “Sports entities are facing more challenges than ever before but their biggest threat is the elevated, at-home viewing experience. As consumers weigh the cost benefits of attending a live game versus watching from the comforts of their home on a large HD television, sports teams are feeling the pinch when it comes to selling out venues. To combat the threat of the “new” at-home viewing experience, sports entities are turning to new technologies in an effort to improve the in-stadium fan experience, offer corporate partners new inventory, and drive their bottom line. Here is a quick breakdown of several new technologies that sports entities are turning to in an effort to enhance the game day experience for fans and offer new integration opportunities for corporate: FanVision: NFL and NCAA; Yinzcam: NFL; Augmented Reality Mobile Applications: USTA, Wimbledon, and NASCAR; Massive Stadium LED Video Boards: Dallas Cowboys Stadium.”


Examining Danica’s Deals with GoDaddy and NASCAR

January 7, 2010

Auto racing star Danica Patrick was involved in two major announcements last month: (1) she signed a three-year contract extension to drive the IndyCar car for Andretti Autosports and (2) she signed a deal to drive a sponsored car for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide series on a part-time basis.

Fitness Information Technology contacted Jacquelyn Cuneen, a leading sport marketing scholar, to get her thoughts on the impact of Patrick’s two announcements. Cuneen, a former editor of the Sport Marketing Quarterly, and colleagues published (SMQ, Vol. 16, No. 4, Dec. 2007) an analysis of advertising portrayals of female drivers in the Indianapolis 500 official program that revealed that Patrick’s arrival in the IndyCar circuit altered the way that female drivers were portrayed in advertisements.

Q: What are your thoughts from a sport marketing perspective about Patrick delving into the NASCAR circuit?

Cuneen: “It’s a smart move for her, really. She has twice the opportunity for endorsements since those two motorsports do tend to reach specialty fan bases with different product interests. In other words, it extends her as a celebrand, if that’s possible since she’s already known globally. It can also help each of the associations (IRL and NASCAR) as well as the numerous individual events where she drives—she’ll be a draw on multiple circuits.

“She can definitely expand her own opportunities as well as open up new avenues for all sorts of sponsors by creating crossover exposure between the two circuits. In addition, if her representatives and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s representatives can work out the details, which they may have already done as part of the behind-the-scenes negotiations, then it’ll be a shot in the arm for both drivers, both circuits, all the sponsors—and both drivers’ fans.”

Q: In what ways should NASCAR market Patrick and how beneficial do you think she’ll prove to be, financially speaking, for NASCAR, especially considering it took a slight downturn financially this past season?

Cuneen: “Hopefully they’ll market Danica as a skilled driver, but we should absolutely anticipate the sex-appeal angle. While the IRL itself never really hyped Danica’s movie star good looks to the point of exploitation, the individual race events went that direction and there’s every reason to expect NASCAR events to do the same.

“However, at the same time, NASCAR likely wanted her because she’s an established driver with a loyal fan base, and those fans will follow her when they may not have had any previous interest in the stock car circuit. Her current followers are used to watching her drive around Indy-car tracks at about 50 mph faster than the speed she’ll hit on a NASCAR track, but they’ll stick with her. However she performs, she’ll also draw new fans to NASCAR and she’ll prompt some existing NASCAR fans to switch favorites. Her merchandising should take off—that’s where she and NASCAR may realize the first big returns on this venture.”

Q: Patrick will be driving a car in both racing circuits. There’s been much criticism over’s sexually suggestive commercials, which have earned quite a bit of attention particularly during the Super Bowl. What are your thoughts on Patrick’s relationship with and how she’s been portrayed in a sexually suggestive manner in some of its advertising and marketing campaigns?

Cuneen: “Danica herself has control over how she’s portrayed in advertising. If Danica wants to be portrayed as a serious driver on either circuit, she would be better off insisting on commercial/advertising portrayals that depict her as such. Indy driver Lyn St. James had good looks as well as driving skills and thus had the opportunity to be featured as a sex- symbol rather than an accomplished driver, but she instructed her agents to not commit her to such depictions; Danica could do the same if she preferred to do so.

“There are numerous male drivers with movie star good looks and strong celebrand credentials (e.g., Helio Castroneves, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Sam Hornish Jr., Kasey Kahne), but we don’t see them featured in sexually suggestive portrayals to the extent that Danica has permitted for herself. Hey, it’s her business and her decision, but it doesn’t do much to help her standing as a serious threat on the track and it doesn’t do much to blaze a trail for future female drivers.”

Q: Tennis star Anna Kournikova didn’t start the trend of female athletes appearing in sexually suggestive advertising but she probably popularized it more than anyone. Now female athletes in tennis, swimming, soccer, racing, and other sports are regularly appearing in similar sexually suggestive advertising. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this trend, for both the advertisers and the athletes?

Cuneen: “There is a great financial benefit for the athletes, for sure. There’s no denying that it’s also beneficial for their sports, because it draws attention to them. The advertisers benefit as well, but maybe not to the extent one might think if the target is the female consumer. First of all, research, much of it published in the Sport Marketing Quarterly, informs us that women prefer to be portrayed as strong, competent, and independent in advertisements, particularly in sport-related ads. Second, male consumers, more than females, respond to endorsements while female consumers, more than males, seem to respond to cause marketing.

“Finally, Danica’s original management agency, Players Group, wished to avoid the pitfalls of marketing her as an Anna Kournikova-type glamour-girl and designed a strategy for her modeled on the marketing plan used for tennis player Maria Sharapova—one that would let her develop as a performer. Note that even in her famous I Feel Pretty ad for Nike, Sharapova kept her game face on while everyone around her stereotyped her as a sex symbol. With few exceptions (i.e., Secret, Peak), Danica’s initial portrayals also featured her as strong, competent, and independent (e.g., Firestone, Argent).

“It would be interesting to know why her new management devised a plan that seems to be the direct antithesis of the original, particularly when Danica herself hoped to overcome the sex-appeal angle according to previous comments. Danica is awaiting her first major victory while Sharapova had already won a major championship at her comparable stage of career development, but Danica’s top ten finishes certainly place her among the racing elite and leave plenty of room for her to be portrayed as a top driver. However, there will always be a question about her abilities as long as she decides to go Kournikova’s rather than Sharapova’s route.”