5 Branding & Marketing Ideas to Steal and Scale from Sports Advertising


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Have you ever wondered why television networks can charge (and get) $5 million for 30 seconds of air time during the Super Bowl? Is it possible brands are getting that much bang for their buck? Yep. Super Bowl 50 was the third most watched broadcast in U.S. television history, with nearly 112 million viewers, and several big brands (Heinz and T-Mobile among them) ran multiple spots.

Brands pay exorbitant rates because it pays off—in both the short term and the long term. Obviously, Super Bowl advertising is out of play for most small businesses, but there are valuable lessons to learn from the major brands’ advertising playbooks

How? Think scale and local. Local TV advertising during the Super Bowl is high demand, and affiliates get about five minutes of local time to sell. While air time costs for local spots vary based on a number of factors, they are much more affordable for smaller businesses. To launch its new branding campaign, Kent State University in Ohio purchased a 30-second spot during Super Bowl 50 with the expectation that it would reach nearly a million viewers. Cost: $58,500. That’s scalable for many businesses.

And don’t think this is exclusively a Super Bowl phenomenon. Opportunity happens throughout the various sporting seasons. Turner Networks’ recent NBA all Star Weekend brought in more advertising dollars than the previous 13 seasons. Right on its heels is March Madness, the NBA championships and an entire summer of auto racing and golf. All offer growing popularity and local opportunities.

Here are five ideas to steal and scale from the sports guys:

1. Get Local, and Get People Talking & Acting
This is all about brand awareness. Ferrari race car driver and entrepreneur Josh Cartu sees sports branding in action at major races around the world, including the popular Gumball 3000. He says good advertising at sporting events is less “in your face, and more subliminal.” Sports advertising offers multiple opportunities to get people talking about your brand. And taking action, too (see Cross Channels, below).

You can promote your brand locally around national sporting events, and local events, too. Local TV advertising during the Super Bowl this year featured auto dealers, restaurants, retail stores, financial services, medical centers and more. Here’s a look.

2. Be Memorable
We’re all conditioned to look for the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials. We’ll never forget Mean Joe Greene, and we expect something memorable from Doritos during the Super Bowl, but history shows we also like it when a rookie advertiser surprises us. Remember when GoDaddy emerged and created controversy in 2005? Their market share jumped from 16 to 25 percent. Your company can be that rookie—in your own market—with a memorable campaign.

Of course, as always, you need to know your customer. Well. While the Mountain Dew “Puppy Monkey Baby” spot during Super Bowl 50 stayed in the Mountain Dew lane and resonated with those specific viewers, it pretty much freaked everybody else out. Design your campaign around what’s important and attractive to your customers.

3. Cross Channels
Invest in a digital campaign in your market, as well. Use a combination of social media –YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat – that resonates with your customers. The major brands post teasers or expanded versions of their ads via social media, all to build buzz. You can do the same. Have a launch of a new product coming up? An event? Grand opening? Use sweepstakes and giveaways, or create an app, to drive people to the web and your landing page. And consider streaming your ad online and run your brand like a presidential campaign.

4. Advertise Around the Event
Whether it’s your local high school football championship, a popular golf tournament nearby, or the NBA championships, you can use high profile happenings to get your brand noticed by advertising around events. Dorito’s won the after-party this year when they offered 500 bags of limited edition Broncos chips—after the game. All you had to do to win was follow and retweet. Pizza Hut, knowing most game day pizza decisions would be made before the game, skipped the game day advertising altogether.

5. Measure Long Term
With contests, sweepstakes and games, marketing can see a pretty immediate uptick in engagement. True return on investment, however, is a long-term game, especially when your goal is creating brand awareness. Beyond awareness, set your objectives—to increase sales, engage with X number of new customers, get X number of app downloads—and determine what success looks like for you.

Once a year—and this is the result of brilliant marketing—the entire US gets excited about commercials. The rest of the year we fast-forward. But we’ve come to expect excellence from sports advertising. How can you use that expectation to grow your brand?

Margarita Hakobyan
CEO and founder of MoversCorp.com, an online marketplace of local moving companies and storage facilities. Business women, wife and mother of two with bachelor's degree from the University of Utah with a concentration in International Studies and a Masters Degree also from the University of Utah with a degree in International business.


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