CSVS 2012: Colleges, Brands Partner for Multiplatform Success

For collegiate video programs looking to reach new audiences through the second screen, invest in the latest technology, or enhance the in-venue fan experience, sponsorship is key. With static signage seemingly a thing of the past, marketing executives discussed what brands are looking for in a multiplatform strategy and how colleges can tap into, and make the most out of, sponsorship dollars.

From left: Neulion’s Steven Brown, Coca-Cola Co.’s Sharon Byers, and NCAA’s Will Funk discuss multiplatform-sponsorship strategy.

At SVG’s College Sports Video Summit in Atlanta, a Wednesday-afternoon panel focused on maximizing sponsorship dollars through the second screen.

“When you look at the digital space, brands are looking for full integration,” said Steven Brown, SVP, NeuLion. “[They ask,] How do I use video? How do I use display ads? How do I use social media? How do I use mobile? They’re looking to activate on multiple devices.

“What you see out there is, the second-screen experiences are really evolving to be the next Facebook/Twitters of the world,” he continued, “and creating experiences for someone watching a game and being able to communicate and interact as a brand.”

Multiplatform strategies are particularly enticing to sponsors not wanting to invest in television ads. However, as the second screen grows in popularity — sometimes taking the place of the first screen — the days of the price differential may be numbered.

“[Ads] should probably be priced the same across the platforms, but the two marketplaces evolved at different times, so now there’s a pretty big discrepancy between video ad pricing on digital and on television,” commented Will Funk, SVP, NCAA Partnerships and Branded Programming. “In a perfect world, what we as multimedia producers, rightsholders, and salespeople would like to do is [buy video impressions]. … It shouldn’t matter where it runs; that impression should be able to run on television, on broadband, on mobile. But we’re just not there yet.”

Until broadband and mobile ad pricing reaches television ad pricing, committing sponsorship dollars to broadband Websites and mobile devices can be more cost-effective for sponsors seeking exposure to a particular fan base. In addition, broadband and mobile prompt engagement in a way that television ads do not.

Learfield Sports’ Diane Penny stresses the importance of consumer engagement as NCAA’s Funk looks on.

“Consumer engagement is so critical,” says Diane Penny, VP, television, Learfield Sports. “A lot of what I’m hearing brands or sponsors talk about is how they can utilize content as activation. … [The way that you] leverage is to align yourself with the content. It helps you tell the story.”

Rather than commit sponsorship dollars to the premier national events, the panel recommended taking a look at the geography and demographics of a particular area. Although smaller events may have smaller audiences, the panel urged the audience not to discount their importance.

“Our bigger events aren’t any more important than our smaller events,” said Sharon Byers, SVP of sports and entertainment marketing, Coca-Cola Co. “A minor-league team may be more important than the Super Bowl, for example. The way we prioritize is, we look at the geographies, we look at our national calendar [and] our portfolio of colleges. Some might say that an individual college relationship is smaller than an NCAA relationship. Well, that fact is correct, but the reality is, in Athens, GA, the University of Georgia is the most important thing in that local geography.”

In addition to the marketability of smaller audiences, shoulder programming should not be overlooked. Collegiate video programs are producing much more than live events, and sponsors are taking notice.

“Years ago, we all just focused on live games, but there’s a lot more out there than live games,” said Brown. “There’s wraparound content, there’s coaches shows. These days, some students with a very small camera doing behind-the-scenes interviews can sometimes be as interesting as highlights. Sometimes, I find the college market more interesting. … Don’t define yourself by your live events.”

Sponsors are also looking to take advantage of the in-venue experience. As in-venue cellular connectivity and WiFi improve, so too do the opportunities to engage fans at the game.

“It’s definitely a priority for us going forward to enhance the in-game experience,” said Penny. “The ability to not connect with [the fan], to make that fan experience better, to make it stronger, not only [benefits] the school but also [the] sponsors, and it connects those fans who are [at] the game to everyone else who’s not.”

Byers recommended that sponsors and collegiate video programs work together to create marketing plans that benefit both, whether that in-stadium, through a coach’s show, or an interactive advertisement.

“The model years ago, where you’d just write a sponsorship check and get your logo on a sign, are completely done,” said Byers, “which is great.”

CLICK HERE for SVG’s comprehensive coverage of the College Sports Video Summit.

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