Hall of Famer “Wee” Willie Keeler was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. When asked what the secret was to being such a fantastic batsman, he said simply, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” Sounds pretty simple, but if we apply Keeler’s mantra to sports marketing, we can potentially unlock the vault to hall of fame level exposure…...For our companies, our brands, or our events.
To most of the western world, New York City serves as the hub of most all major activities. Media, finance, entertainment, and often times sports. So what opportunity may there be to leverage New York’s position in order to garner more attention for your program? Here are just a few examples of how you can “hit ‘em where they ain’t” in New York……
· Budweiser recently launched an Olympic activation program in Times Square. What is unique about this activation is that it is for the entire 100 days leading up to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, and the Games themselves are not even being held in North America (let alone the United States). In essence, Budweiser is using its Olympic sponsorship to take their brand to the place with the highest media exposure (New York), rather than spending most of their activation time and budget on the host site (Rio) itself.
· Years ago, the University of Oregon wanted to promote their quarterback (Joey Harrington) as a Heisman Trophy candidate. In order to combat a perceived “East Coast Bias” (many of the Heisman voters live in the Eastern time zone and often don’t stay up to watch the late night West Coast games, and thusly wouldn’t see Harrington play), Oregon took their campaign to New York. The athletic department bought a banner promoting Harrington as the next Heisman winner. The unique part of the banner? It covered the entire side of a major building on the New York skyline. It was impossible for the media, or anyone in New York for that matter, to ignore Harrington’s banner and his promotion for this prestigious award (by the way, the organization that awards the Heisman Trophy is also based in New York). Since this creative marketing effort by the University of Oregon, other schools have followed suit with similar promotions.
· The Pac 12 Conference as a whole has had to deal with the aforementioned bias. When the Conference hired a new commissioner a few years ago, they were looking for a media savvy leader that could help promote the league not just in the west, but all over the globe. Enter Larry Scott, a former tennis executive with a strong media driven resume. First order of business for Commissioner Scott? Take all of the Pac 12 football coaches and top players to New York City and host a season preview event. Rather than sit back and hope the Conference would get good media coverage, Scott took the product to a place the decision makers called home. While some of the coaches don’t like the long trip and the added commitment to attend the New York press junket, the program has led to increased appearances by the coaches and players on ESPN, and is widely considered a success for the league.
· Long-time bowling promoter Gary Beck once used New York in a similar way. His events needed more exposure and the traditional methods were not moving the needle. The answer? Build a bowling lane in the middle of Grand Central Station. Was it a hassle to get permits for the space and to build a bowling lane? Yes. Was it expensive to pull off for merely a one-day promotion? Yes. However, over three quarters of a million people go through that terminal every day (let that sink in, 750,000 people on average per DAY). Not sure there are very many places where Mr. Beck could stand up his sport to a larger audience in a shorter period of time than in one of the busiest train stations in the world.
Okay, so you say, “What does New York City have to do with me? I don’t have the budget for that, I’m just a little sports organization.” Fair enough. But ask yourself this, where is there opportunity for you to take your product to a new place, and essentially “hit ‘em where they ain’t”?
· USA Luge has a program called the “Slider Search” where they try and identify potential Olympians through youth clinics all around the country. The catch? The Slider Searches are very rarely held on ice. Often times they are done on asphalt or straw with a sled or skateboard type vehicle to see which kids show promise going down a hill. Once they identify a young person with some potential, USA Luge takes them to one of the Olympic training facilities to test the kids on a real course. Most of today’s USA Luge National Team came from the Slider Search program, some have even captured Olympic medals.
· NFL teams routinely drafts athletes that played college basketball, but not necessarily football (future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates is but one example, Olympic sprinter Renaldo Nehemiah is another). If the best athletes are playing other sports, NFL teams turn over every stone to identify the next potential football star.
· The WWE has a staff that seeks out the next great wrestler. This staff is responsible for the identification and recruitment of the future generation of wrestling superstars. The staff recruits across several disciplines and is not limited to just wrestlers. They scour the world for athletes, from football (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), basketball (Hulk Hogan), soccer (Bella Twins), as well as wrestling itself.
Think about your organization. Your community, event, or program. How can we take our message to an key influencer and creatively promote our brand? Do you have a great event in your community that isn’t related to sports? If so, can you use that event to be the basis of a FAM tour that is attractive to sport event organizers as well as their spouses? As an event organizer, do you have marketable athletes that can make calls to your current sponsors to thank them for their support and to tell them how important their investment is to their ability to compete? Does your big event have a place for the integration of elected officials or sponsors (or better yet a local youth based non-profit group) to participate in a meaningful way?
For those of you that have heard us speak in the past, you know our team believes that the traditional methods of marketing are dead (if not on life support). If you agree with us on that point, then it is up to each one of us to creatively market and to set our organizations apart from the normal industry clutter. So tomorrow, how can you find new opportunity, and hit ‘em where they ain’t?