Check out a trip around a Somerset Patriots baseball game (of the independent Atlantic League), from a sports biz lens. There is always a lot to see and learn, especially for an independent league ballgame, which must put fan experience and partner integration above all!
Come along and check out the sights, the sounds, the brands, the activation, the entertainment, and the promotions — all at a LA Galaxy home game at StubHub Center in June 2017.
Come along on a sports biz-minded trip around Dodger Stadium for a Dodgers-Cubs game in May 2017.
This is a collection of the best quotes, stats, insights, and observations shared via Twitter via #SXSports. Thanks to all whose tweets helped fuel this recap!
What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.
Posted by Neil Horowitz
The LA Lakers have one of the strongest, most storied teams in professional sports. With a brand that transcends their sport, brand association is no doubt a valuable proposition for corporate partners. While the Lakers have their share of activations on game night, it is clear this partnership association holds the most value, thereby lending credibility to more traditional, less active approaches.
I attended a game on January 31, 2017, and here is a brief look around at marketing, engagement, and sponsorship elements that caught my eye.
Upon arriving at Staples Center, walking through LA Live, one can see Lakers wraps to show that, tonight, Staples (also the home of the LA Clippers, LA Sparks, and LA Kings) is home to the Lakers. Lines to get in through security were slow and long (~ 25 minute wait; issues with ingress is real. Egress would be far easier). Like the wraps, the ‘Team LA’ store is full of Lakers merchandise, while ticket tables are peppered throughout the concourse and the floor and dasherboards are adjusted to Lakers. Notably, Lakers.com was the main digital property promoted, as opposed to any social media, in addition.
Throughout the game and between game play, the eyes are constantly drawn to the Staples Center video board, and the Lakers content and eye-catching graphics. The Lakers know where much of the attention is going and show their sponsor messages in that line of vision. It’s not a lot of ‘presented by’ elements or integration, but organic content and graphics to attract/earn the attention, while also borrowing some attention for sponsor messaging.
This is not to say there isn’t room for more active sponsorships and more elements that can organically tie in a partner, while providing value for fans. But instead of the Toyota Halftime Highlights, it’s just Halftime Highlights. Similarly with other on-screen elements and fan engagement features like the ‘Bubble Cam,’ Kiss Cam, Dance Cam, and more.
While there were fewer booths and activations of any sort overall at the Lakers game version of Staples Center than the Clippers’s version I attended weeks earlier, there were will some effective sponsor activations around. These were all, notably, on the first floor, whereas the Clippers had some on the upper levels, as well. There was a Verizon-branded activity (shooting for basketball games, changes for hockey games and concerts) that was popular, even during the game. The Los Angeles Times was also giving away t-shirts to market their newspaper subscriptions.
The most memorable and unique activation was the StubHub memento maker. Fans could sign up with name/phone number/email, get their photo taken, and then customize an image to be printed on the spot and shared digitally. A fun and creative way to get some shareable content and a commemorative ticket lanyard to wear it around. An excellent and effective activation.
The Lakers also had their own data capture activation, with an enter-to-win VIP tickets to a game/event. These digital sweepstakes are active for every Staples Center event. There were also a few ticket sales tables peppered throughout.
While there were not a lot of directly sponsored elements in-game, there was one late in the game as the Lakers sought to close out their victory. In the fourth quarter, the scoreboard exhorted fans to Make Some Noise. Jack In The Box is a fixture late in Lakers home games, as fans get free tacos if the team holds their opponent under 90 points.
Overall, the Lakers are not overly blatant, nor overly novel or engaging with many of their sponsor activations and in-game entertainment elements. The traditional brand has a handful of major corporate partners and hammers home these relationships with repeat impressions and positioning as true partners, as opposed to just sponsors.
Staples Center is a busy venue. Every Fall and Winter features three teams – the Lakers, Clippers, and Kings – share the arena for their home games, while other events pass through, as well. Standing out can be tough.
I recently attended a Clippers game at Staples Center, a Monday night affair against the Oklahoma City Thunder that was not exactly a full crowd. The Clippers did do a good job of trying to provide experiences, content, and services for their fans, while also integrating partners, where relevant and/or non-intrusive, and doing so that was effective for the partners’ brands. Take a brief look with me below:
Upon entering Staples Center, one walks right into a Toyota, where fans are invited to enter to win the car, a typical data capture activation and certainly a visual that is impossible to miss.
Also prominent inside all the entrances were a few digital screens on which fans could enter to win VIP tickets to some Staples Center event. As you can see, the first question is meant to collect one’s interests, an easy and transparent way to help them deliver better messaging and marketing to you in the future and, in theory, connect it to the same CRM that identifies you as a Clippers game attendee.
With the shared venue, the Clippers had several tables and backdrops to capture fan attention in the concourses. Among other things, they had a table dedicated to promoting their fan app, Club Clippers. Fan apps are beginning to emerge with some teams in the NHL and NBA (the LA Kings have a fan app, too) and MLB has a fan app. This is NOT meant to displace the official team apps, but more focused on ‘fun’ stuff and wanting to be a social network for Clippers fans, instead of news and stats.
The Clippers also had a sign making station, which is fairly common in arenas across the country.
Even before the game started, fans were reminded that Clippers wins mean a deal on Papa John’s Pizza. I swear like 75% of NBA, NFL, and NHL fans get 50% off pizza on days after their team wins. This was the only time it was mentioned during the game, and it was promoted on Clippers social media, as well.
While the crowd wasn’t huge, the Clippers entertainment and game operations did their best to create a visually exciting atmosphere with lighting and throbbing music.
Draft Kings may not be as ubiquitous on TV broadcasts as they once were, but the daily fantasy giant still has partnerships with many pro teams, including the LA Clippers. Draft Kings was featured and activated in an endemic, relevant manner, including the ‘Draft Kings Starting Lineup,’ as well as a Draft Kings fantasy lounge/bar fans could frequent to watch other games and catch up on fantasy performances.
The Clippers had several replay sponsors, an easy way to get a brand logo in front of eyeballs, as all the fans’ gaze turns toward the scoreboard to check out an instant replay of a suck play. Arco was featured more consistently and frequently, a way to ‘pump up’ the crowd.
With all the LED and video board mentions of the Toshiba ‘Hologram Station,’ I simply had to check it out. While calling it a ‘hologram’ was a bit of hyperbole, the station offered fans the opportunity to get a picture or video with their favorite player, with the LA Clippers backdrop behind them. Fans, especially kids, very much enjoyed it, especially the way they could see themselves next to an animated player on the screen, Hall of Presidents style (yeah, I made a Disney World reference).
Next to the Hologram Station was another sponsored, AR (green screen) activation was a fun ‘Posterize Me’ promotion. Another great way to collect fan data and give them the opportunity to make memories to share and preserve <– The is major key.
The Clippers had a couple of airlines – American Airlines and Delta – integrated into the game presentation. Certainly interesting to consider the different ways the brands were showcased and how the partners value the means and the value. American was featured in a ‘Taking Flight’ fact about a rising player (does every branded ___ start with a play on words? Ha) and Delta was a sponsor of the Spirit team.
City National Bank had a strong presence all night at the LA Clippers game, at which they were sponsoring a Clippers coin bank giveaway to fans in attendance. The bank also had a presence in the game presentation, including a simple Hi-Lo fan contest, in which a fan guessed whether a player’s stat line was higher or lower than the number given (it was easy). The second Hi-Lo question, however, was not Clippers or basketball-related, but related to finance, to tie it back to City National. It seemed a bit out of place, but it certainly reinforced who was behind this contest and what they do. Later, gifts tied up were “parachuted” from the rafters, to fall into the waiting hands of lucky fans.
Most pro sports teams nowadays have fan social media posts aggregated, typically using Tagboard to aggregate, filter, and display on the video board. But not all have a salient sponsorship, as the Clippers did with Car Max. Nothing too relevant about this activation, but an easy way to take advantage of eyeballs going to the screen to make sure fans know of the partnership.
Nothing special here, I just found it interesting that, for both in-arena hosts, their personal Instagram profile was listed under their name, as opposed to their Twitter handle. Also notable was that, unlike their NBA roommates, the Lakers, the Clippers did not have their Twitter handle spelled out on the floor.
Kia is all over the place as an NBA partner and the car brand was all part of some branded entertainment during the game, delivering both the Sounds of the First Half audio (helping to bring what fans are accustomed to seeing on TV broadcasts), as well as the Kia Noise Meter, in which a meter that looks like a car speedometer ratcheted up as the crowd got louder (ok, so it wasn’t that loud).
One of the most fun activations came during a media timeout late in the game with an on-court contest in which furniture company Jerome’s Furniture provided motorized recliner chairs for a race between fans, that culminated with a having to shoot and score while reclined in the chair. A great way to take a fun contest, while also activating the brand and their product for fans watching.
While walking around the concourse, I caught a glimpse of several tablets provided by Stubhub, presumably to allow fans to peruse and purchase while they were at the game. It’s certainly interesting to see Staples Center (these looked like permanent installs, not just rolled out for the Clippers game; though they could be turned off, as they were late in the game this night) facilitate the secondary, just steps away from the official arena box office and ticket sales tables throughout the arena.
Chick-Fil-A is a heavy sponsor of many pro sports, and they love the word play of foul / fowl. At Clippers games, when an opponent misses two straight free throws in the fourth quarter, fans can take a coupon handed out at the with to Chick-Fil-A for a free chicken sandwich. (There has to be a mobile/digital way to do this, one thinks, fans don’t have to hold on to a piece of paper). I am starting to see this activation (two straight opposing team missed FT’s late in the game) quite frequently in college and pro basketball, and is a great way to keep fans engaged until the end, especially for those interminable free throws that are inevitable in the waning minute or two of a close loss.
When the final score alert went out (to all fans that had the LA Clippers app installed, presumably, as opposed to just those inside the arena), it included a CTA to book an uber for a safe ride home. Clicking on the alert opened the Clippers app, which then asked to open the Uber app. While not the most seamless experience and surprisingly no first-time rider promo code [though hard to execute in this work flow], a timely and relevant time to integrate Uber, of course.
Lastly, a quick look at the collection of Snapchat geofilters available during the game at the arena. Besides some of the banners hanging from the rafters, this was really the only presence of the Clippers’ co-tenants in Staples Center and worth the investment of those teams to pay for those filters to be up, even on nights when a different team is hosting thousands of fans in the arena.
Once you work in sports business, experiencing a game is never the same. The fan engagement activations, the sponsor integrations, the data capture and marketing efforts,