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.”


Former MLB Exec Offers Insight Into Sport Sponsorship

January 4, 2011

Prior to John Brody leaving his position as the senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing for Major League Baseball, Sport Marketing Quarterly Industry Insider section editor Jim Kadlecek interviewed Brody, now with Wasserman Media Group, about a variety of topics. The full interview appears in the December 2010 issue (Vol. 19, No. 4) of Sport Marketing Quarterly.

Q: As a league it seems you have intentionally not sliced categories up but instead have focused on fewer, bigger, and more comprehensive deals that make it a greater value for your partners. Has that been a deliberate approach?

Brody: It is deliberate. Another one of our philosophies is less is more. We don’t have a number. It could be five partners, it could be 30 partners. But if you are truly able to support the all-in philosophy, if you are a best in breed, and we are, then you can be very selective. We are stewards of this great American brand known as Major League Baseball. If we are going to tie our brand into another intellectual property, we want to make sure we do our research. The companies that we are tied to are also best in breed. There is a reason why we are with who we are with. It is not just about finding the right partner who can spend the right amount of money. It is finding the right partner who markets their brand in a way that we want to market ours and also embraces and understands the all-in philosophy.

We have been successful in adding partners strategically but it has always been about less is more; having fewer partners doing more. We believe this is a better philosophy over the long term than expansion of the business in any way, shape, or form that will allow us to get revenue in the short term. We think you do better by having a consistent approach and having the best in breed partners doing more.

Q: Can you tell us about your relationship with Holiday Inn? They seem to have done a very good job of leveraging their relationship with baseball.

Brody: This is an example of what we try to do for brands. Last year they re-launched the Holiday Inn brand in America. Intercontinental Hotels Group, the parent to Holiday Inn, is the largest hotel chain in the world. Holiday Inn is one of those golden brands in America and to change the brand as significantly as they did is a tremendous undertaking. We worked with them for the better part of two years to re-launch the Holiday Inn brand. The first real execution tied to the re-launch of the Holiday Inn brand was around the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game for a few reasons. The simplest reason is the media strength of the All-Star game, using the ability that we had to plan and orchestrate a complete solution on how they would go to market through media and different executions tied to the re-launch of their brand. They knew that they had a big event coming in 2009 and we executed it for them. They have been successful as they looked to 2010 as the first year that this new brand launched. A lot of it had to do with how we unveiled it during All-Star week last year.

Q: With respect to Major League Baseball, can you talk about the role of technology and its impact in the world of sport marketing?

Brody: Technology is, in its simplest form, an enabler to allow people to have greater access to the sport in different ways. If you go back 50 years you needed either to be near a Major League Baseball ballpark or you needed rabbit ears on your television or radio so you could actually hear the game broadcast. Technology has impacted the way that people can enjoy sports, whether you want to instantly find a score update on your PDA or watch a game online on even if you are out of the country. I am certainly not the one to predict what the next iPhone application will be, because I am not a technology expert. We have experts here at baseball through our Internet company and our network.

Our job on this side of the business is to try to find more access points for baseball and sports in general. I think technology will continue to find incredibly innovative ways to deliver content. Sports content and baseball content in particular is something that people crave. That is why launched at the turn of the century. That is why MLB Network launched this past year and it is the largest launch in the history of cable television—not in cable sports television, but in cable television vs. the likes of MSNBC and OXYGEN and CNBC, FOX Business. We are in more than 54 million homes. That is about access and I think technology will continue to evolve as great minds throughout the country and the world find new ways to integrate technology into customers’ consumption of media and content.

Generally, as a sport and as a property we embrace technology to make the fan experience better. It may be in other forms of media that I talked about or along the lines of what we did with our partner at MasterCard. When you go to the hot dog stand to get your hot dog and a Pepsi you can just swipe your MasterCard rather than having to fumble for cash. We think that is technology being an enabler for improving the customer experience. All of those different forms of technology really help make the experience better. This is a small example, but instant replay began in a limited way in our sport in August of 2008. We looked to our technology partner Sharp to provide the LCD televisions for all 30 Major League ballparks after the commissioner made the decision to allow instant replay in limited forms. Those are just a couple of examples of technology.