Chapter 2. Reaching the Customer

Chapter 2. Reaching the Customer

The Point: Businesses and organizations that have successfully utilized sports marketing to sell their products and services have been able to do so because each clearly understands how and why sports can be an effective medium to use when communicating the marketing message. Those that have risen to world-class status as sports marketers know that they cannot maximize their marketing efforts unless or until they segment desired markets.

Successful marketers recognize that viable market segments allow companies to forecast demand and determine precisely how many resources should be allocated to not only accessing a particular market, but also to ensuring a sufficient return on its marketing investment.

Along the way, these marketers have understood that the company's brand name is attached to all those that help it get the word out and, consequently, they select their marketing platforms carefully. These organizations are also aware of the importance of protecting the integrity of their marketing message at all costs.

Reaching Customers

Reaching customers through the broad use of marketing has never been easy. Billions of dollars are spent annually by companies on advertising and sponsorship in the hopes that their message will break through the marketing clutter that surrounds our daily routines. This includes small businesses that allocate significant portions of their budgets to getting the company name better known within local communities.

We are bombarded by thousands of commercial messages every day, some direct, others subliminal. Most of them either go unnoticed or are intentionally deflected. A distinct minority are actually remembered. Fewer still stick with us and lead us to want to learn more about the company and its products. Occasionally we are compelled to purchase the advertised goods we have seen on TV or been exposed to through sponsorship. Why? Was it the ad itself or was it the culmination of a company's well-thought-out and integrated marketing strategy?

During the TV era, a handful of memorable commercials, advertising campaigns, and characters have emerged. Great ads have always struck an emotional chord, relying on humor, fear, sex, and other emotions to make a close and long-lasting connection with the viewer.

Do you recall the public service announcement in which an Indian cried a single tear as litter, tossed out a car window, landed at his feet? What about the famous "Daisy" commercial that portrayed an innocent little girl picking daisies destroyed by an atom bomb (one presumably dropped by Barry Goldwater)? This political ad was so good at playing on people's fears that it was pulled off the air after a single showing.

On the lighter side, who can forget those old Bartles & Jaymes guys, pitching Ernest & Julio Gallo wine coolers while, "Thanking you for your support"? Or what about the Wendy's "Where's the beef" lady, Clara Peller? Or Mikey and his Life cereal?

Why do you remember these ads and marketing campaigns? Was it their compelling message or just their status as advertising legend?

Did you buy a hamburger at Wendy's because it was bigger, because you had a coupon, or because you liked Dave Thomas, the chain's owner? Or maybe it was because your local Wendy's is simply more convenient than other fast food restaurants? Regardless, advertising likely played a role somehow.

In 1926, Wheaties was the first product to ever use a jingle on the radio. However, the cereal became much more than cereal flakes thanks to its commercials, which implied that athletes like Hank Aaron and Mary Lou Retton couldn't do what they did best without eating "The Breakfast of Champions."

General Mills, which made Wheaties, is also responsible for positioning Cheerios such that it transcends the "toasted oats" label. As the brand was on the rise in the 1940s and 1950s, General Mills boosted sales by associating the cereal with the ever-popular Lone Ranger through advertising and prizes that could be found in the cereal box. Both Cheerios and Wheaties cost significantly more than the generic toasted oats and wheat flakes found on the grocer's shelves but, for some reason, many consumers feel better picking the more established brand name—even if it does cost as much as 50 percent more.

Did any of the ads or marketing campaigns linked to these products motivate you, assuming you were the targeted customer, to want to sample the product? Were you more inclined to buy that particular product than that of the competitors? Did the ads or marketing campaigns make you more inclined to become brand loyal? Or did they just entertain you, allowing you a brief respite from everyday hassles?

If these ads in fact influenced your purchase decision, what else played a critical role? Sponsorship? Promotion? Something less overt? We "know" the ads and are familiar with the campaigns, but we are even more influenced by the strategic marketing behind them. As critical—and fun—as advertisements can be in "hooking" potential customers, they alone are seldom enough to get the entire marketing job done.

Creative and entertaining advertisements have routinely incorporated sports—or used sports as a backdrop—to make their case to consumers. In fact, sports-oriented ads and marketing campaigns have been among the most heralded. Although it is certainly debatable which have best utilized sports, at least four over the last 30 years have shaped how corporations use sports to get their message to the masses.

These masses have been properly segmented by the companies seeking to reach them and have been communicated to through advertising, and in many cases, buttressed with a comprehensive sports sponsorship strategy. Each used a breakthrough TV ad to support its broader marketing campaign. And each is in our marketing hall of fame for its ability to reach its intended audience. Their message was clear and the plot was both engaging and memorable.

Miller Lite leveraged the personalities of dozens of former athletes, whereas Coke focused on just one: "Mean" Joe Greene. Apple Computer relied on its "1984" ad, which it ran only once, during Super Bowl XVIII, to introduce the Macintosh. By the 1990s, it was Gatorade encouraging everyone to "Be Like Mike."

When considering the following examples, understand that a single great commercial seldom makes a brand, and that great brands must work diligently to see that their marketing message evolves, often relying on different messengers to woo target markets through the years. In essence, successful brands, including those that incorporate sports marketing when reaching customers, establish and extend comprehensive marketing campaigns.