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 the Importance of the ‘Official Beer of the NFL’

May 6, 2010

Fans of Coors Light’s “press conference” commercials involving National Football League coaches will have only one more season to enjoy the spoofs. That’s because beginning in 2011 Bud Light will replace Coors Light as the official beer of the NFL.

The deal between the NFL and Bud Light is reportedly a six-year deal costing Anheuser-Busch $1.2 billion. It’s a significant bump from Coors’ initial four-year, $300 million deal in 2002 and its five-year, $500 million extension with the NFL in 2005.

While Anheuser-Busch will be paying a significant bump in sponsorship rights to the NFL, a leading scholar of sport sponsorship told Fitness Information Technology that Anheuser-Busch’s calculated risk will still most likely produce a financial gain, even with a heated labor dispute between players and management leading to a possible work stoppage.

“Deals this size and length are always a financial risk, since there are many variables, including the possibility of a work stoppage by the NFL down the road,” said Steve McKelvey, an associate professor of sport management at the University of Massachusetts. “I assume their contract addresses this possibility, but this can’t overcome the potential fallout in terms of goodwill and incremental sales if a work stoppage were to occur. That said, I suspect A-B has crunched the numbers to understand how the investment will pay dividends financially. I think the days of buying a sponsorship just so a competitor doesn’t get it are over.”

Interestingly, research has shown that fewer than half of fans cannot properly identify official sponsors. In March, the SportsBusiness Journal released the results of a survey in which fans were asked to identify the NFL’s official sponsors in a variety of categories. Coors Light was correctly chosen by 30.2% of “avid” fans, while 38.1% of the same group believed Anheuser-Busch was the official beer sponsor of the NFL.

Since oftentimes even diehard fans can’t correctly identify the official sponsors of leagues or events, why do companies continue to dole out nine- and in this case 10-figure deals to become official sponsors? McKelvey, who had a case study that detailed the NFL sponsorship program in a 2006 issue of Sport Marketing Quarterly (Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 114-123), said official sponsors receive greater leverage in other avenues, such as dealing with retailers.

“While enhancing brand awareness is a nice added value for league sponsorships, it’s not exactly necessary for A-B,” McKelvey said. “Large scale sponsors on the level of A-B care less about how many consumers can identify them as official sponsors, as opposed to how much increased sales will be generated by leveraging their official sponsorship status at retail locations. A-B will be able to leverage its official association with the NFL to incentivize and motivate its sales staff, garner bigger and better in-store displays, open new retail accounts, etc.”

While Bud Light will become the official beer of the NFL in 2011, that doesn’t necessarily mean Coors Light will discontinue marketing its beverage to football fans. Bud Light actually had a “tailgate approved” infomercial theme to its campaign last football season, and with similar creativity Coors Light could continue to use football in its campaigns, although it will no longer be able to specifically utilize the NFL brand in its marketing.

“When I was negotiating league-wide sponsorship deals at Major League Baseball, we included stipulations in our contracts that if a company ceased to be an official sponsors it could not, for a period of some years, engage in promotions to ‘give the appearance that it’s continuing its official sponsorship’ (or language to that effect),” McKelvey said. “The enforcement of a clause like this proved tricky in terms of defining ‘gives the appearance.’ Unless the NFL has such a clause with real teeth in it, Coors will no doubt be able to cleverly design promotions that utilize a football thematic without infringing any NFL trademarks.”

Sport Marketing Association Honors WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences Faculty Member with Lifetime Service Award

November 6, 2009

Morgantown, W.Va. [Nov. 6, 2009] Dr. Dallas Branch, associate professor of the Sport Management program at West Virginia University’s College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences (WVU – CPASS), was presented with a Lifetime Service Award by the Sport Marketing Association (SMA) and Fitness Information Technology (FiT) for his service and dedication to the Sport Marketing Quarterly (SMQ).

Dr. Dallas Branch Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Dallas Branch with Lifetime Achievement Award from SMA and FiT

Shortly after beginning his teaching career at WVU, Branch started SMQ in 1992 to advance the study and practice of sport marketing. He was the journal’s first editor and served on its editorial board for nearly 18 years.  Branch was also the co-founder of the SMA, which was established in 2002 to provide a national forum for sport marketing and management education and professionals working in the industry.

“The Sport Marketing Quarterly was created to bridge the gap between sport sciences academicians and professionals working in the sport marketing field,” said Branch, who received his award at the annual SMA conference in Cleveland on October 29. “I have enjoyed serving on the editorial review board and watching the journal grow with the support of the SMA.”

Dr. Nancy Lough, associate professor and director of the Center for Sports Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and the journal’s next editor, has served on the editorial review board with Branch for nine years. Her goal as the incoming editor is to “honor Branch’s leadership and continue to provide a publication that serves as a legacy to his years of service.”

“Dr. Branch pursued the vision to create one publication to serve both academicians and sport marketing practitioners. Sport Marketing Quarterly has continued to strive toward fulfillment of the original vision, through incorporation of unique aspects such as a case study section and professional profile in each issue to compliment the cutting edge research produced by sport marketing scholars from around the world,” said Lough.

Sport Marketing Quarterly

Sport Marketing Quarterly - Volume 18 - Number 3 - 2009

According to Lough, SMQ maintains subscriptions in 25 countries, in addition to the United States, and every member of SMA receives a subscription to SMQ.

Past and current SMA executive board members have served on the editorial review board and published in SMQ. In honor of Dr. Branch and the editors who served after him, the editor of the journal now maintains an official position on the SMA executive board.

Published by FiT of the International Center for Performance Excellence (ICPE) at WVU, the Sport Marketing Quarterly is available to the general public in print and online subscriptions.

For more information about the Sport Marketing Quarterly, visit Information about the SMA is available at