The Art of Sports Marketing

Marketing for a sports team is a very different animal than marketing many more conventional products. Sports marketers still use media like radio, TV and social media to reach their target audiences, but their goals and messaging is rarely what would be considered a direct sale or ‘buy it now’ approach. Instead, their focus is on building relationships to foster fan loyalty and manage different fan experiences. While there certainly is a degree of selling branded products and navigating sponsorships, for the purposes of this blog we will focus on the fan relationship.

  • It’s Not All About Product Sales

Of course sports marketers want to encourage more people to watch games and attend team related events, but most sports marketers aren’t focusing the bulk of their efforts promoting game night. A good example of this is the approach the Brewers took. They made a point of positioning themselves as the team of all Milwaukee residents and their fans are the exclusive reason they play. The “we are your team, we are you” approach was part of a larger push to build fan investment in the team to people who aren’t necessarily avid sports fans, but still want to be connected to their community.

  • Generational Connection Building

Another huge part of what sports marketers are doing is fostering connections with the new generation of fans. Younger fans are less likely to find the hometown connection compelling. Many people who feel they are sports fans grew up with a family connection to a particular sport or team. Tapping into that youthful “Wow” factor and creating an engaging experience for a younger fan is a sure-fire way to foster a life-long love of the team. Growth of long-term relationships and hero building within younger demographic groups is like banking positive social capital to build a community around the team.

  • The  Party Goers and Families

Along with younger fans and family groups who go to a game day for a fun outing, are the party goers. These folks are primarily looking to have a good time, often involving alcohol. Offering a combined experience for these two groups is a balancing act with thin margins as family groups are less likely to be tolerant of rowdy behavior. Family oriented experiences like mascot races are a great opportunity to cater specifically to younger fans interests while giving more excitable fans a chance to stretch and grab another beer.

  • Big Spenders

While most of us will be satisfied with some nice bowl seats, there are always the ever coveted box seats. This is an entirely different experience than the groups we have previously mentioned. While there are most certainly avid sports fans among the corporate seat and box seat owners, these VIP sections are geared towards those who want to see and be seen. These high end experiences are often carefully choreographed to ensure the best experience for the highest spenders. Much like first class on a plane, there are often exclusive perks related to having such seats like better food amenities and personalized service.

At its core, sports marketing is the business of relationship management and experience building. Unlike most product driven industries, sports marketers do not have direct control over their ‘products’ as injuries and play controversy can arise within a moment’s notice. Emotional and experiential memories last for a long time and can be difficult to reverse if negative. Mastering the promotion of ancillary experiences and community management creates and grows fan bases across generations.


Happy 4th Anniversary, Adrian!

Our Senior Marketing Consultant, Adrian Vander Wille, is celebrating his 4th anniversary with Media Link! Much has happened since he started, so we wanted to look back at a couple of moments:

As a social person, Adrian enjoyed attending numerous networking, industry and philanthropic events across Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Even though he moved to Oregon, Adrian stays loyal to the Palomares Social Justice Center and the German American Heritage Center & Museum where he serves as an active Board Member to date.

Living the American Dream, Adrian recently became a US citizen; proving hard work and dedication pays off.

Naturalization, Eugene, OR

But he didn’t just stop there! Adrian started pursuing his MBA at the University of Oregon this past year. He continues working full-time and plans to graduate with his third college degree in 2020.

University of Oregon

Congratulations, we can’t wait to see what the future brings!


6 Tips to Marketing Musicians

Marketing musicians and their music can be tricky because the consumer decision making process tends to be inverted when looking for new music. Traditional decision making starts with a need and ends with a specific product being chosen. In music, most fans already have a specific band in mind and will be drawn to music that satisfies a similar need. Because of this structure and the intensely competitive nature of the music industry, it’s important to focus on the key elements that will make you succeed not trying to be everything to everyone.

Tip #1: Document Your Existence
This seems straightforward, and it is, but it’s very easily overlooked in the chaos of managing all of the other aspects of a band, your music and touring. The long and short of it is simple: get on social media and get posting! There are dozens of platforms to choose from like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but musicians have a few more platforms available for them specifically like Reverb Nation. The best way to choose what makes sense for you is to see where your audience is. If you’re playing in a Jimmy Buffet cover band, you’re probably not going to need Twitter since your core audience’s age range shows they are more likely to use Facebook. Instagram tends to be a universally great platform because it is so visual and is specifically geared to show short clips of video, audio as well as snapshots of your gigs.

Tip #2: Engage! Engage! Engage!
There’s nothing worse than having someone talk at you without ever waiting to hear your input. Don’t let your social media and communication efforts do this either! Engage back with your audience and make them feel like their input in your growth is valued. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and like, follow, and comment on everyone of your fans’ profiles, you have bigger fish to fry. What this means is that you should post polls or open-ended questions asking you audience simple questions like “Where’s your favorite local venue” or “What do you use to stream music most” and then following up on those answers. If their favorite venue is Reggies Chicago, start making friends with their booking agents and get a show there. Likewise, if an audience member is asking you a question, reach out and answer them. Sometimes you have to have hard conversations too, not all communication is positive but finding a solution will always be better than letting something fester and grow out of proportion.

Tip #3: People Like Winning Stuff
Winning stuff is always a good time, what’s better than free? Promoting contests for a free pair of tickets to your next show or a free tee shirt and CD is a great way to get a lot of people excited about you and get them talking about your next gig. Band/artist meet and greets are a great giveaway prize as well and have the potential to turn into a great opportunity for future content. When planning out your promotions, be sure to look into your area’s rules as well as any platform specific rules since these can have a big impact on how you are able to structure your campaign.

Tip #4: Post Fan Content
Everyone is looking for their fifteen minutes of fame and the chance to get put in front of a lot of people is one most people won’t pass up, especially on social media. Ask your fans to take pictures or videos of themselves at your shows and then share it with you. Not only is this a great way to build up content to post on social media, it’s an ever better way to give back to your fans. As you post more fan content, your fan base will get more engaged with what you’re doing. It gives your music a sense of authenticity and shows you care about your fans just as much as they care about you.

Tip #5: Influencers are a Big Deal
Terms like ‘social media influencer’ or ‘content creator’ are thrown around much more frequently now than ever before, and with good reason. The internet has allowed people to connect with each other and share their opinions at an unprecedented scale, the best respected rise to the top as influencers. Music critics are among these individuals and can do wonders to help grow your fan base. Send your latest album or demo to prominent critics and social media influencers to be reviewed. If they like it, you’ve just reached all of their audience that trusts their opinion and are now interested in your music. If they don’t, take it as a learning experience and try again. The feedback from influencers can help guide your efforts and growth, an objective opinion is invaluable in the music industry.

Tip #6: Polished Websites Get More Traffic
If you don’t have a website, get one! Websites are your custom storefront and window into your band. You’ll want to be sure to have a place where your music can be purchased, show schedule, videos and pictures from past shows, and a place to contact you for booking. Your website should be your hub for all of your digital efforts. Physical press kits have fallen out of vogue, and in their place artist websites have risen to the top. A well-built and managed website will show up in more search results and offer fans a taste of your personality as a musical artist. If you’re not sure how to setup your own website there are dozens of free tools to get you started and web professionals that can take you to the next level.

Music Marketing
Music Marketing


Digital Consumerism

The Internet has played a vital role in changing the way businesses adapt to changing consumer preferences and how they retain customers. In the age of digital advertising, online shopping, and online reviews, having a strong digital presence is essential to connecting with your audience and stepping beyond creating awareness. The internet is unavoidable now more than ever with over 4.1 billion Internet users worldwide. These users are looking for places to share their opinions, research purchases, and connect with the brands they know and trust. Having a strong digital presence gives your customers a venue to reach out and interact with your brand in a way they never could with traditional advertisements like print or billboards.

With new technology has come new avenues for businesses to reach both their core consumer groups and new clients. The internet has become a central step in the sales funnel. Before making a purchase, 82% of smartphone users research the product or company online. Additionally, 45% of these users read costumer reviews before the purchase of a product. Whether a consumer sees an advertisement on TV, the radio, a billboard, or a brochure, consumers are extremely likely to research the company and their products or services prior to a purchase. At the center of a customer’s research is a well-developed website that reflects a company personality, values, and informs them about your produce offerings in a low-sales pressure setting.

Consumers’ need for knowledge hasn’t changed, however, their patience in finding that information has dramatically shortened. If they can’t find you without putting in a great effort, they will likely move on to the more apparent option. Fortunately, with the internet being accessible 24/7, the convenience factor of researching a company or product at any time is possible. However, you must be able to communicate your message quickly and succinctly, as the average user is only scanning for 10-20 seconds before leaving if their attention is not caught. First impressions truly are everything! It’s a simple correlation: a bad digital presence is bad for business.


Transparency Matters

Transparency can mean many things. A business may reveal their products’ supply chain, employees’ salaries, environmental impact reports, or the reasoning behind certain ingredients and charges.

These disclosures have become crucial elements for consumer decision-making, especially when it comes to the millennial generation and younger. The following developments are thought to be responsible for this development:

Online Reviews: It only takes 5 minutes to find online reviews of products/services or entire businesses. Chances are someone has already posted about certain flaws, and consumers have become used to trusting their peers. Being transparent will avoid any scandalous discoveries and public reveals that might unnecessarily damage your reputation. Loosing credibility is easy, restoring it is not.
Distrust: Big business has lost part of its appeal after the financial crisis. Individuals who grew up during this time experienced how a business culture focusing on generating profits can hurt the entire society. Transparency is the best way to build up trust in the long-term.
Social Media: Research suggests humans have an easier time remembering negative stories and experiences. Social media makes sure any kind of scandal will be publicly exposed on a global scale. Reading people’s comments on these stories just makes them seem so much worse than they probably are as relevant context is missing. Being honest and transparent from the beginning will pay off big times.

Are there other benefits to transparency? There certainly are:
• Improves talent attraction and employee retention
• Encourages cooperation, sharing of information, and innovation
• Prevents disappointments and negative PR internally and externally
• Strengthens your brand
• Creates valuable content for social media
• Increases profitability

The big question is: how do you recognize a company truly embracing transparency? Forbes names the following elements:
• Communicate the Company’s Vision and Mission Statement
• Tell the Whole Truth
• Don’t Delay Dispensing Information
• Make Important Documents Available
• Establish Trust Through Social Media

There is so much more to transparency and we would be more than happy to share our own experiences, so please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 309-786-5142.


The Future is Now

The World is changing quickly and organizations like the Global Environment Facility (GEF) are trying to predict and guide these changes in the most sustainable manner. The same should apply to marketers who need to be able to quickly adapt to new environments to stay competitive. One of these developments might drastically disrupt the world of grocery shopping and marketing in just a few years.

It is no secret most car producers and technology companies are testing out autonomous vehicles. You can already use them in Phoenix, Arizona, and it is believed that autonomous vehicles will become a common sight within a couple of years. Now imagine that autonomous vehicles could be used to delivery groceries. It is already possible to get groceries delivered through apps and Amazon just purchased Wholefoods, so this is a surprisingly realistic scenario.

Let’s explore how this development could drastically transform packaging norms and how this would impact the marketing industry. Consumers would utilize apps like Instacart to evaluate and order products online. This mode abolishes the need for flashy and wasteful packaging in the store as the visual marketing function will now take place online. Cereals could be transported and stored at supermarkets/grocery hubs in gigantic containers instead of separate paper boxes and plastic bags. Traditional shopping carts could be replaced by shopping boxes with new functionalities like a section for cereals and a cooler. Instead of purchasing a box of cereal, you would purchase one pound. Shopping boxes would be loaded into large vehicles designed to only transport these boxes. Vehicles would utilize the most efficient routes to reach customers’ homes and allow them to access the box on the side of the vehicle – ideally using their own cereal storage containers. Joel Makover mentions “New, innovative delivery models and evolving use patterns are unlocking a reuse opportunity for at least 20 percent of plastic packaging.”

Utilizing apps for grocery shopping would allow marketers to display more relevant information as apps’ functionalities often include functions allowing users to compare products (see Amazon). You might sort products by the amount of certain ingredients or nutritional values. This system may shift the focus away from visual promotions to a focus on ingredients and how they are perceived by certain audiences. Maybe marketers will be able to add pictures of the communities where products like fruits are grown and highlight the fair-trade aspect. Maybe marketers will be able to add a link to a website with customer reviews and stories. There are countless opportunities and marketers need to embrace these developments as they happen. Who would have expected self-driving cars in Phoenix, AZ just five years ago?


Corporate Sustainability: the new competitive advantage?

Scientists observe effects like natural disasters and decreasing grain yields caused by unsustainable business practices. According to Maslow, mankind’s basic physiological needs are being threatened – needs that must be satisfied before all else. Businesses actively working against these hazards can help consumers satisfy these threatened needs and, by doing so, create a competitive advantage. This new value stems from sustainable operations, which need to be communicated appropriately.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) is an excellent success story. It points out monetary benefits of corporate sustainability, primarily when it comes to avoiding physical, regulatory and reputation risks. The CDP uses a monetary vehicle and communicates it to their corporate audience using buzzwords like “benchmark performance,” “stranded assets,” “fiduciary duties,” and even quoting support from the Bank of England. Why would the same system not work for the consumer goods market?

The answer is simple: the system requires an educated audience and/or superior communications. Sustainable Reporting Guidelines encouraging transparency, accountability, SMART approaches and even the disclosure of any lobbying efforts and publications with related content are merely a means to an end. They expose the truth, but which end can consumers reasonably analyze a 30-page corporate report and understand topics like the different scopes of carbon accounting?

The solution is simple: corporate sustainability and its positive impacts could be communicated through an educational framework. Consumers need to be informed about threats to their basic needs, how they contribute to them, and why choosing goods/services of sustainably managed businesses can potentially avoid threats similar to avoiding an investor’s risks. By enabling consumers to expose negative impacts, businesses will react to level the playing field, meaning that the early adopter catches the worm. Pointing out whitewashing is crucial as well; some sustainability efforts are more effective and relevant than others and this needs to be understood.

The 16 UN Sustainability Goals provide information on relevant areas. They allow managers to identify relevant sustainability focus areas for their industry, and their communications experts can conveniently “borrow” from the site’s professional content and visuals to serve their audience.

Long story short, marketing departments play crucial roles in fostering informed consumers and establishing corporate sustainability as an accepted competitive advantage.


Welcome, Haley!

Haley Ruch has joined the Media Link family as a Marketing Assistant. She is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree in International Business, Marketing, Economics and French at Augustana College. Haley has been involved with numerous Augustana campus organizations:

• Advertising Development Club
• Greek Life
• Active Minds
• Entrepreneurial Center (EDGE)
• Varsity Softball team

When she’s not on the softball field, she enjoys playing guitar and travelling to foreign countries. Learn more about Haley here.


Government Contracting – Well Worth the Effort

Have you ever wondered why we have gained so many government certifications? There are several reasons:

Government Contracting
The public sector purchases goods and services, just like every other organization. In addition to making sure they get the best goods/services for the lowest price, the government is committed to supporting small disadvantaged businesses. You can consider this part of the government’s efforts to improve economic development. Prioritizing smaller businesses helps them compete against big players in the market and helps to even the playing field. It decreases market barriers, creates a catalyst for entrepreneurship and creates a more competitive and innovative marketplace.

Transparency
These certifications require a lengthy process that includes opening up to government entities, providing internal accounting, as well as the business owners’ private financial documents. The government wants to make sure only qualified individuals and businesses profit from this catalyst. At the same time, the government needs to make sure suppliers are financially responsible and able to perform the contract. Let’s not forget these goods and services are paid for by taxes, so making sure everyone benefits is vital.

We at Media Link, Inc. were just recently able to utilize our certifications to compete for a contract. The purchasing agency imposed a 30% set aside for small disadvantaged businesses. We were able to leverage our WOSB (woman-owned small business) and IL BEP (Business Enterprise Program) certifications to be eligible to apply. This entity was also eager to support veteran-owned businesses by imposing a 5% veterans’ goal. This created a unique opportunity to partner with another business and to compete for the contract together. Our partner was a small veteran-owned graphic agency that perfectly complements our services.

You can imagine how rewarding it was to get the award. Not only did this contract open us up to a new client, but finding a new partner makes both of us stronger. This contract resulted in the support of two small disadvantaged Illinois businesses. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in teaming up or just curious about the world of government contracting in general!


An Intern’s Perspective (Blake)

Before this internship, I had next to nothing in experience in the world of marketing and advertising, so I never realized how much work went into advertising for companies. When I first stepped into this internship role, it all just seemed very overwhelming between all the projects from social media to having to create proposals for every single place where we wanted to advertise. My co-workers made it very easy to figure everything out, because they all were more than willing to help out whenever I had questions.

I felt like a big part of the company, because I was able to help with projects such as creating proposals and creating advertising campaigns. Experiencing the unique challenges helped me tremendously when it comes to overcoming hurdles and advancing personally and professionally.

I know I will not forget this experience, because of how accommodating everyone was in order for me to get the most out of this time. I am extremely grateful for Natalie on taking a chance on me and for the rest of the team for helping me out whenever I needed it, even with the probably excessive questioning.