FOR THE HOME TEAM
BRANDING’S OMNIPRESENCE IS a sign of modern times. Advertising itself has been around for many thousands of years. From Roman coins featuring the faces of emperors and generals to waterfalls and colonies named for the British monarchy, branding has played an influential role throughout history. Still, no era has rivaled the extent and scope of the power marketing has on current society.
Today, all of the catchy slogans and flashy logos can sometimes run together in the mind of the consumer. But everyone recognizes sports team logos and sports brands. Sports have the ability to thrill a consumer like no other line of brands. Nobody gets whipped into a frenzy over a preferred brand of laundry detergent or multi-vitamin. But a key victory can start riots in the streets and a crushing defeat can reduce a grown man to tears. A gripping sports game can make the most genteel ladies and gentlemen hoot and holler like children, and they’ll pay top dollar for their own version of an MVP’s jersey.
The beauty of the sports promotion is that it is cross-demographic. From the hotdog vendor to the corporate executive in the box-seats, everyone loves to take in a game, and wants to go home with a souvenir hat or cup. Many products that are given away or sold at sporting events come to be dear to the consumer’s heart. “People respond very well to these kinds of products,” said Lisa Bascom, vice president of sales and administration at AmeriFoam, Brooklyn, Mich. “They have fun with them at the game, and they keep them afterwards as a memento.” A cost-effective giveaway for a company may remain in the home of a consumer as a reminder of a fun day out with the family or a victorious game on the home field.
“Promoting for special sports events, that’s a different kind of market,” said Michelle Fladebo, premium sales manager with Baden Sports, Federal Way, Wash., the world’s largest manufacturer of sports balls. While many premiums can be basic office accessories or polo shirts, sports promotions are exciting and fun, and range from the practical commemorative cup to the playful noisemaker. Whatever the promotion, it will be a product the end-user wants to keep, producing brand loyalty and extended brand exposure.
“I think a ball is unique [for promotions],” said Fladebo. “People keep it around. And it has potential for added value—if a sports star signs it, you’ll definitely keep it around.”
Sports promotions provide a lasting thrill for the end-user. But working in the sports promotions industry can also provide thrills for manufacturers and distributors. Last year, AmeriFoam provided an order of 20,000 visors for a Detroit Pistons game. Seeing the product cloaking the masses offered a look into the effectiveness of a promotion. Bascom noted how exciting it was to watch a game and see the entire crowd wearing the product AmeriFoam supplied.
Most fans are born into a sports tradition that may be generations old. Such people make for life-long customers, but new ideas are needed to keep them interested. It is crucial to keep reinventing to maintain the competitive edge.
“We come out with new, innovative products to sell at the retail level, and we extend that to our promotions as well,” said Fladebo. Baden has mastered the old classics and is already the go-to source for premium sports balls of any variety. The company recently introduced glossy balls, glow-in-the-dark balls and iridescent “illusion” balls. These designs are available in all of the company’s sports ball lines—baseball, basketball, football and soccer.
“Sports are our main market,” said Bascom, and AmeriFoam has made sure to cover the playing field. The company’s foam “No. 1” hands, mitts and headwear are available in dozens of styles and shapes, in a rainbow of colors and custom options.
Another way to stay ahead of the game is to offer higher quality than the competition, which AmeriFoam has done with its thermal seal foam products. “We’re one of the only ones in the industry with thermal seal,” boasted Bascom. “The thermal seal, as opposed to the die-cut, is just a nicer product. It has a nicer texture and shape and it’s softer.” The differences between thermal seal foam and die-cut foam are subtle, but ultimately a consumer will go for the smoother shape and softer texture of a finely made product, especially when the price increase is minimal. “Our products are very cost effective,” she noted.
Promoting for sports teams and events is a thriving market full of success stories. But no matter how successful the market, there is always room for innovation and fresh ideas. Man’s innate drive to compete, and to be a spectator to the competition, means there will always be sports and sports fans. As long as there are sports fans, there will always be sports promotions. So get in the game—one doesn’t need to set foot on the field to score a grand slam for the home team.