Winning big in sports marketing

By: Roger Pe – @inquirerdotnet

How many still remember Yco and Ysmael Steel? For sure, baby boomers still do and their big followers still reminisce about their unforgettable exploits on the basketball court.

The two dribbled their way to Filipino households because they had talk value. Their names enjoyed media presence and their star players’ heroics gave them word-of-mouth sizzle.

The names became not just names on jerseys, from among their ranks emerged Carlos Loyzaga, Tito Eduque, Kurt Bachmann, Robert Jaworski, Freddie Webb, Alberto Reynoso, Adriano Papa, Orlando Bauzon, Jimmy Mariano and a galaxy of other stars.

They became synonymous to the brightest in Philippine basketball that did the country proud in Asia and in the Olympics during that time.

Meralco, Crispa, Toyota followed and then Purefoods, Shell, Alaska. Now we have Ginebra San Miguel, Air 21, Petron, Talk ‘N Text, San Mig blazing the trail. Just like their predecessors, these brands now enjoy round-the-clock brand presence and top-of-mind awareness from among millions of consumers.

Who would have thought Milo would eventually topple the seemingly unsinkable Ovaltine in the chocolate drink car? The former, with its solid “Olympic Energy” positioning and focused campaign line, now reigns supreme as the undisputed market leader.

Credit it to relentless sports marketing and single-minded approach, the brand also made “Milo Marathon” an iconic word, eagerly anticipated by sport fans.

For decades, Marlboro basked in media glory because of the nationwide popularity of “Marlboro Tour” and “Marlboro Adventure.” Coke’s “Go-For-Goal” bred a lot of Pinoy footballers in the same way as soccer gave its branding added kick.

Shakey’s today is synonymous to Philippine volleyball and its surging popularity is making its brand leadership unshakeable.

Alaska and Cobra are banking on the current rage—triathlon for kids and professional athletes.

From ticket sales to licensed products, apparel, equipment merchandising and other promotional permutations, sports is a big business.

Every day, hundreds of millions of sports fans watch sporting events, a gripping entertainment reality that brands all over the world consider as strategic marketing opportunities.

Super Bowl tops Forbes’ first list of the world’s most valuable sporting events worth $379 million. Following the Super Bowl are the Summer Olympics ($176 million) and soccer’s World Cup ($103 million).

Nike, GE, Procter & Gamble, Adidas, Coke, Samsung, Panasonic, Dow, Omega, McDonald’s, Mastercard, Visa, BMW are just some of the biggest brands queuing up to get into these events for these reasons: 100 percent captive audience, media and financial returns worth millions of dollars.

To give interesting insights on the subject and real local market case studies, Business Friday interviewed Ed Dames, an all-around athlete, fitness buff, martial arts enthusiast, Chair and CEO of DTC (Direct-To-Consumer) Promos, one of the country’s leading companies specializing in sport road shows, campus tours and women’s marketing, complementing many ad agencies’ activation programs.

Previously Events and Sports Marketing Director of Leo Burnett Manila in 2001, Dames put up CEMG (Creative Enterprises Management Group) with corporate team building and special events as its core services.

One of his biggest projects was Close-Up’s “Whattamouth!” a spectacular event with a daunting challenge: break the Guinness World Record on the largest photo mosaic in a billboard. The event easily broke the UK record and set a new high in mounting an event for a billboard unveiling.

Dames and his team literally stopped the world on that part of Makati by using the MRT as a viewing deck and deployed the legendary Air Force 505 (Search and Rescue team) to strip the billboard cover. It ended with the first-ever fireworks display on Edsa featuring the World Pyro Festival champion, La Mancha.

Business Friday: Briefly, how does a brand benefit from sports marketing?

Ed Dames: “By associating with a particular sports or a sports personality, a brand gets instant recognition. Of course, sports marketing must be part of an Integrated Marketing Communications to optimize its value.”

BF: Does it benefit only sports enthusiasts?

ED: “No. Fans of the Olympics for instance are not necessarily sports enthusiasts. But they watch and support it because of the many things it brings: human drama, the fanfare, the celebration of the human spirit.”

BF: How do you effectively reach your target audience and keep their support?

ED: “By doing your homework as a professional marketer, knowing what keeps them excited, their habits, their aspirations, their social circle. Then matching it with the sport that best represents their lifestyle.

For example, light beers are very ubiquitous in mixed martial-arts shows like the UFC. The reason is obvious: people who watch fights enjoy the show while drinking light beers with their friends.

Fights are now viewing parties. The message: drinking light gives you the ability to enjoy life more.

BF: If marketers want to use it as a strategy, what advice can you give before plunging into action?

ED: “Do your research. Keep your personal bias and ego out of the picture. Find a good fit with a sports event that you can own and build a campaign around.

Compare its benefits with other available platforms. Have a clear metric to evaluate whether the sports you’ve chosen helped your marketing objectives or not. Sponsor only events organized by people with proven track record.

BF: What is its biggest advantage?

ED: The appeal of sports is universal. It cuts across social, economical and geographical boundaries. Some sports appeal to a specific sector. It’s more economical than traditional advertising.

BF: How well is it adapting to digital age?

ED: “Sports has adapted very well into the digital age. All the major sports organizations use social media as a key strategy in engaging with their fans.

Sports personalities maintain tweeter, Instagram and FB accounts where they can interact with their supporters. UFC president Dana White gives real-time updates of UFC happenings … including championship fights … with his million followers.”

BF: How do you describe sports marketing in the Philippines, in general?

ED: “It’s still not based on solid marketing strategies. Often, sponsorships are based on the personal bias of a brand manager or a corporate executive.

A case in point is the penchant for sponsoring fun runs.

While it is good to promote a healthy lifestyle through running, no one remembers the other sponsors of fun runs apart from a chocolate drink, a sport wear and a sports watch.

Everyone else is just a second-rate copycat. Why would a brand want to spend millions just to be a “gaya-gaya”? If a brand would approach me, I would advise doing non-traditional fun runs. How about backward running?

BF: What is your trademark sports management style?

ED: “I’m a go-getter. I get excited about big challenges. I take on a new pitch as sports competition and I prepare my team accordingly.

BF: How do you apply sports in running your business?

ED: Sports is about setting new goals and going for it. My personal philosophy is also our corporate credo: “whatever it takes!” For as long as it’s not illegal or immoral, we’ll do it for our clients.

We’ve set records for doing things never been done before. On hiring, we give plus points for applicants who are into sports. Athletes have discipline and focus. They don’t get sick easily and they carry themselves better.

BF: What drives you professionally and personally?

ED: “Doing things with social relevance and eternal significance. I’m now in a legacy-building mode.”

Ed Dames has over 30 years’ experience in advertising and events/sports marketing. He worked with McCann, Basic Advertising and Leo Burnett. He is also director of World Team USA that is promoting “Fight for Peace,” an international Muay Thai and MMA Super Fights to be held at Resorts World Manila on Oct. 23, 2013.