A Rare But Consistent Winner In Marketers' Battle For Attention

  • by , Columnist, December 11, 2012

Nary a day goes by that the marketing trade press doesn’t include further doom-and-gloom evidence of how today and tomorrow’s consumer is increasingly tuning out the proliferation of brand messages that inundate us every day in traditional media. DVR skipping of TV advertising is on the rise, print media for the most part is criticized for lacking the immediacy, instant access and breadth of online media. Even the more established online channels draw skeptical cries for being commercially over-run and infiltrated by the bias of “plants” and “shills.”

Social media, by its more personal, permissive two-way connections eradicates some of these concerns, but in many cases is faulted for being replete with irrelevance and lacking the legitimacy of the trusted sources and voices present in more traditional media. And as we multi-task through our lives,  we are embattled by a never ending series of endless updates, bigger and better things, and being on call 24-7. Research that we and others have conducted, define a unique paradox, where despite a proliferation of choices, today’s consumer feels suffocated by a poverty of time and attention never before seen in American society.

Live sports remains one important exception. Just a week ago, I had the pleasure of addressing a distinguished group of team sports marketers at a client sponsored symposium. My presentation delved into some of the topics and research that I’ve shared in this space, but first and foremost honed in on some of our recent findings on how sporting events create unparalleled engagement and message receptivity.
For the three to four hours that fans immerse themselves in the environment of sports, consumer guards are let down as they enter a magic and pristine sanctuary that accomplishes all of the key elements of what I’ve earlier defined as a brand community. Here those brands which have carefully integrated their activation into the event, get behind the gates of consumers who are increasingly tuning out the barrage of distractions in other media. At sporting events, the messages are more welcomed.

They are part of the community, replete with a common culture that includes shared rituals and traditions; a consciousness of kind that embraces a “we not me” mentality and a sense of obligation and responsibility to fellow fans and the team itself. These are the actual definitions of what we refer to as “brand communities.” Put more simply, if you insert a brand into a trusted place, in a way that feels natural and unforced, the skepticism melts away, the receptivity is more genuine, and a brand becomes a participant in the event along with the consumer. 

It’s exciting that we have been building strong and statistically meaningful numbers to substantiate this. For the uninitiated marketing strategist or media planner, I need only suggest that one attend a college bowl game, and feel the energy, excitement and unwavering support of “ol’ alma mater” to get the spirit and recognize intuitively how sports is a party where friendships are forged among those rallying around a common cause. The old adage that a friend of yours is a friend of mine truly resonates where a live sporting event is the close friend and the well integrated brand, is the new fast friend.

Just the weekend before the symposium, I had the pleasure to lead my research team on a specific study conducted at the final home game for a major NCAA D-1 football program, on Senior Day. Even as one who spends my professional and personal time, surrounded by sports, the spectacle that transpired around us was energizing. What a truly unsurpassed environment for the dissemination of new ideas among people brought together in a trusted space.

Our firm continues to test and demonstrate this for brands and properties alike. The ability of onsite sports activation to drive proper brand attribute association to sponsoring brands, and to inspire consideration and favorable perception is unparalleled, particularly in several of the experimental design tests we’ve conducted where message resonance has been evaluated among consumers across delivery platforms. Of course, we’ve only begun to scrape the surface with our engagement and resonance research.

There’s lots of nuance and variability to still be explored and it’s my expectation that now, as we embark upon additional opportunities with property clients to link behavioral data and attitudinal findings, the promising engagement phenomenon already uncovered will become even more robust and allow tactical onsite engagement strategies to be refined even further. But at the end of the day, it’s truly an exciting time to be involved in a medium where consumers are actually paying attention.

2 comments about "A Rare But Consistent Winner In Marketers' Battle For Attention ".
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  1. Dan Kost from Sportrons, December 11, 2012 at 11:54 a.m.

    Finally someone who sees the advantage of reaching sports fans with brand messages that doesn't get Tivo'ed, the Sportrons Network has been providing this service for years and it's more affordable than most marketers can imagine.

  2. George Sloan from Customer Strategy Consulting, December 11, 2012 at 1:47 p.m.

    Motor sports for years has shown the loyalty from fans makes sponsorship worthwhile. Ask Formula One and NASCAR fans!

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