Talk Nerdy To Me

At this week’s Sports Marketing Symposium in New York, where I was a speaker, there were lots of discussions about enhancing fan engagement. How we turn fans into evangelists. How fans can go deeper into the team’s or sponsor’s DNA. How social media can become more impactful for fan and brand value. Cool videos were shown, case histories presented and a panel headlined by Tiki Barber, former New York Giants all-time rushing leader and correspondent for NBC Sports, discussed the integration of pop culture and sports. However, even if attendees spent half their time checking their smart phones, they couldn’t help but connect to a single overarching theme: analytics.

At the conclusion of the two-day event, it was clear: in the world of sports marketing, metrics is the new creative. 

I know we’ve heard many industry variations on that cliché. Account Planning is the new leadership, Media is the new Creative and so on. Based on presentations from a number of industry thought leaders, including Eric Hirschorn from Burger King, Frank Wheeler from SAP and Chris Thorne from EA, a compelling case was made  solidifying a mighty trend.



Here are a few statistics that contextualize their collective point of view. According to the recent Accenture CMO Study, 78% believe marketing is going through its most radical change in history, partially catalyzed by the demand for measurable digital marketing; over 50% expect digital to grow to 75% of marketing budgets in 2015; 52% believe metrics to be a “bigger competency over creative.”  A seismic shift to be sure.

Hirschorn, in partnership with Horizon Media CEO Bill Koenigsberg, made a compelling case that “analysis, more than creative, is our primary focus.” He pointed out the importance of granular detail of every Burger King consumer engagement. “Audience analytics is our sweet spot.” Dynamically, he added: “It’s about matching passions. Passion for the team, the sport, the brand, resulting in a passion for the overall consumer experience.”

This passion matrix, experienced through digital consumer interactivity, can be a critical driver of metrics & analytics and deserves similar examination.  According to Event Marketing Institute: 98% of fans exposed to a brand experience at an event speak positively about that experience; 2/3 of that group will mention that brand experience in conversation and/or social media; 80% believe that experiential marketing is more likely to lead to a sale than other brand-to-consumer touch points.

Connecting consumers with brands through place-based interactivity – stadiums, events, subways and storefronts - is another growing trend. Increasingly, connecting brands with professional sports franchises, on location through the season and engaging fans with a value-add interactive experience, is now part of the consideration set. These experiences need to be dynamic, intuitive, brief and involving, while offering a clear incentive. The brand and team’s reward for that incentive? Richer analytics. 

That emotional and experiential factor, implemented within the brand platform, inspires fans to participate and share critical data whether it’s a Home Run Derby for Chevrolet at the World Series or a Karaoke Booth for Pepsi at Super Bowl.

Often, I’m asked if we can create something super cool, or can we re-create Minority Report or a Tupac-like holograph. More often, I’m asked how deep we can go in capturing audience metrics. Sharing an interactive experience in various social media channels is the cost of entry. The demand for analytics forces digital creators to be savvier in the broader cultural context, reminding us that metrics don’t end with a post to Facebook or Instagram. For digital marketers across the spectrum, metrics is the end game, interactive technology the means. 

If not the “new creative,” to me it sounds like the new digital imperative.

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