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Are You Developing Your Promotional Ideas Early?

If you’re in mid-season right now, regardless of the circumstance of whether your team is first or last in the standings, you should already be sketching out next season’s promotional activities.

The keyword: sketch.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll have everything written out. But you need to have an idea of what you are looking to do differently from last season. Every promotion for next season’s game nights needs to be sketched out by the time the current season has expired.

That requires a general notebook with ideas and plans to be developed and worked on in order to win the customer in the next time around. You should examine what promotions, worked in the current season and what didn’t for the community that your franchise serves.

Often, we are beset by the idea that working too far ahead of the current season is unnecessary. In fact, by planning ahead with some good promotional concepts, implementation is made easier for all operations and marketing staff, allowing them to know and understand the direction for the franchise in the upcoming season.

Lead Time on Marketing Plans Works

One of the things that can be gleaned from any marketing plan is how long it took to develop. If the ideas presented at a final budget meeting are less than spectacular or appear murky, that’s because the “plan” was developed 1 to 2 months ahead of the season for implementation.

That puts a sports marketer as well as operations up against a wall. There should be no reasonable explanation why a time clock should kill an idea. And yet it happens because sports marketers choose to implement too late for the promotion’s success.

Not to mention that the worst ideas in the world come out when a person is stressed and trying to manufacture something credible to offer on their promotions plan. Imagine instead if you had a notebook of promotional ideas sketched out with more than 80 ideas for a 41-game schedule. All of those ideas would be waiting to be redeveloped right as the present season ends, submitted the higher ups with budgetary figures, and displayed in a manner that shows how much research and time went into each idea.

Chances are likely that those promotional ideas would be much more successful and ready for prime time. The professional sports have the ability to strike while the iron is hot with every timely promotion related to a national news item or controversy. However, that isn’t the overall promotions schedule, only one night out of 40 or 50, so the basic need of lead time idea development holds up.

Sketch, Develop, Then Redevelop Again

Mid-season sketches are fairly easy.

They start with a core idea: What will drive an audience to demand to witness the promotion live?

Sketching it out means writing down the various ways in which that idea, whatever it is, has merit.

Does it create discussion within the community?

Can it compliment the other promotional factors that the franchise is already implementing that night?

Will it gain local, regional or national attention?

Then, coupled with that, the idea comes full circle from marketing to operations.

How would do you implement this idea on game night?

What sort of lead time do you need to ensure its success in promoting to the public?

What type of budget funding is required to ensure that this promotion can be fully formed when implemented?

From all of this, you need to then let the ideas sit there. Avoid them for a few days or weeks until the season is over. Then, come back to them and developed the ideas out into an effective promotion. When that is complete, redevelop those ideas again into a full promotion. After that point, they should be ready for prime time. Always have more promotions ready to go than home dates in which to run them. That way, if one gets rejected, there are enough to stabilize the entire promotional calendar with fully fleshed out ideas.

Maybe, I’m a person who believes far too much in preparation; however, I’ve seen the results of those who prepared.

If you literally took the time to sketch out various ideas for a marketing plan mid-season for the upcoming season, it would likely be the best marketing plan you’ve ever developed because during that time, your mind is caught up in the moment of the current season and you are interacting with the various situations that happen only in the microcosm of the sports season. It will allow you to achieve success with your marketing plan simply by living and breathing in that game day environment daily.

Running into the off-season does none of that. Be honest with yourself and your surroundings. When the off-season hits, everyone in the franchise releases a sigh of relief and stops running at a rapid pace. They tend to relax, catching their breath, and end up gearing up for the upcoming season only 1-2 months ahead of opening day.

When You Wait Until the Last Minute

Scrambling for ideas can lead to numerous errors in what shambles of a marketing plan you end up delivering to the bosses for approval. Let’s say that your season ends up running from October to March. The worst possible thing you can offer as a sports marketer is to start sketching out your promotions in late July.

By that time, you’ve eliminated the ability to create in the long term. Writers rewrite for a reason. It provides context and allows them to see holes that weren’t there on the first draft. The same can be said when you simply sketch out an idea rather than redevelop it with some time in between for thought and reflection.

Waiting until the last minute not only affects the promotional idea, but also the budget attached to it. Short-term ideas often get trapped into a budgetary crisis, which hinders the added value of the promotion as well as the demand by the consumer to experience that promotion. Whereas if you had prepared for those promotional costs prior, say in February, during your sketching period, then spent time developing and redeveloping those ideas during time prior to budget meetings, you would likely be able to make the budgetary argument to gain the resources required to implement a better promotional product with added valued for your fan base.

Great Promotions = Great Budget

The goal should never be to grasp a good budget. The mission should be to seek out a great budget.

That only comes out of developing and redeveloping promotional ideas that win over not only the fans, but the executives who assign budget numbers. Everyone is always looking for the best idea to support. And although there are some athletic administrators who simply like to cut budgets as if they earn social brownie points with higher-ed folks across campus, that generally isn’t the case when spending ROI transforms into four times the revenue.

However, if your idea hasn’t been redeveloped, rewritten and rethought, over several times when it comes to submitting for budget, it won’t get you that great budget you’re hoping for. That’s why lead time preparation matters.

Define What Your Goal Is

Doing things ahead of time leads to unlimited positive results. It provides time for a team to adapt the idea, compounding it further with extended added value that provides the consumer with an enhanced experience. You also have time to see what happens, which may change or deviate the marketing plan, in order to allow you to implement it with the fullest confidence of success.

Have you ever witnessed a promotion that was carried out before a live audience that could have been done ten times better with further preparation? Operations success is contingent upon planning success.

You have to ask yourself why you’d want to limit yourself and your marketing skills from the ability to see the entire playing field at 50,000 feet. By pulling back, with time on your side to create and redevelop those promotional ideas, it can help build a better marketing plan overall. Often, the issue for sports marketers is being caught up in the middle of the action of the current season.

That shouldn’t be the case.

Sports marketers don’t have a season similar to that of standard team operations. When the team is playing on the field, the sports marketer is implementing game night operations. The real sports marketer’s season is performed during the months in the off-season, when the team’s equipment room is locked up. All of those sketches should now be fleshed out for a great marketing plan for the upcoming season. The best ideas win, but often, they have to be the best developed ideas as well.

Don’t Yield Innovation for the Sake of Replication

The core of any sports marketer’s fabric should be to try to innovate in their field. Unfortunately, the idea of replication of competitor’s marketing ideas tends to take hold because it is easier to showcase to the executives since it has already been shown as a success.

But what happens if everyone replicates, and the good promotions plans start to run dry? That’s why innovating in sports marketing is so badly needed with a continual wash-out of the old, stale ideas for the new ones. Fostering a sports marketing plan’s growth helps all components of the franchise, including revenue streams that may have never been tapped prior.

If you’re afraid to fail in this business, you’re afraid to be successful too. Part of success is failing several thousand times, in order to achieve a perfect harmony of knowledge that helps you win a thousand times over your worst failure. That means preparation, learning from your mistakes and building beyond them.

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