October 18, 2022
What comes to mind when you think of sports sponsorships? If it’s big-name brands and big budgets, you’re not alone. With 20 years in the world of sports marketing, Matt Wiech shares how brands of various sizes can get creative with sports sponsorships to find the perfect match. From the benefits and risks, to current sponsorship trends and how to measure ROI, this engaging conversation will tell you what you need to know about sports sponsorship marketing for 2023.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:04] This is The 19, a podcast that delivers marketing insights from Orange Label in 19 minutes or less. This year, the agency is celebrating 50 years of working with established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset. What does this mean for you? It means enriched conversations and stories with marketing and leadership experts aimed at improving lives.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:00:33] Hello and welcome to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition! I’m Rochelle Reiter, President of Orange Label. One of the best examples of brand affinity is that of sports fans In talks about our weekends or conversations with friends. You constantly hear phrases like “my team” or “we won the game.” You may even know someone that holds superstitions that wearing a specific jersey had something to do with that win. Associating your brand with that level of community can help increase brand awareness, earn consumer trust and boost ROI. Today we have sports marketing expert Matt Wiech with us to share more on the topic. Matt is an award winning sales and marketing professional specializing in sponsorships. He’s worked for teams including the Anaheim Ducks, San Francisco 49ers, and the Los Angeles Angels, and he currently teaches sports marketing at Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine and Chapman. Matt, welcome to The 19!
Matt Wiech: [00:01:23] Oh, thank you so much for having me in Rochelle. I’m really excited to be here.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:01:31] So tell us more about your background in sports marketing.
Matt Wiech: [00:01:34] Be it from a young boy. I’d always wanted to play a professional sport, but at a certain point you realize that you don’t have the physical tools to be able to kind of quite get there on the field, on the ice, on the court or what have you. And so I had to go out there and figure out what I was going to do for a real job. And I think you and your listeners will learn here quickly that I have a gift for gab. And so I immediately gravitated towards the sales and marketing realm and ended up going to school at Arizona State, getting my Undergraduate Degree in Marketing. And then I went along to Pepperdine and got my MBA and at that point decided I was going to go out there and find a job in sports. And what had initially sounded like an easy task was made very difficult. I ended up writing four hundred cover letters to every single sports team in the world, essentially at the time. This is in the mid-nineties and I ended up getting three hundred rejection letters back saying, We’ll keep your information on file should something open up. But a couple of people had written on the note. Hey, you should check out this professional baseball employment opportunities and it rotated around the country and it still does today where it’s essentially a job fair. So you’ve got a bunch of twenty somethings with college degrees all suited up with their resumes in hand. And you go to this job fair and there’s a board with a couple of hundred jobs up there. And literally I just took my resume and I put it in every bin. And so what ended up happening was I got a job offer to work for a minor league baseball team in Memphis called the Memphis Chicks. They’re no longer in existence. But some of your listeners may recall that Bo Jackson, that was his first professional baseball team before he got promoted to the Kansas City Royals back in the mid-eighties.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:14] Oh, okay.
Matt Wiech: [00:03:15] And so that led to a number of different jobs from Memphis I ended up moving to New York and work for the New York Mets, ended up coming back here working for the Angels. Then I ended up going out on my own for a little bit, working for Action Sports Company, ultimately finding my way back to the Ducks when they were sold by the Disney Company under the Samueli ownership, spent about seven years there, moved around to a couple of other places, including the San Francisco 49ers and back to the Angels and then moved on to Live Nation. And for the last five years I’ve been an independent consultant and sort of a gun for hire, if you will, for connecting big brands with sports and entertainment properties.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:49] Great, great. Well, you have quite a resume.
Matt Wiech: [00:03:52] Thank you.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:03:52] So what are some of the different types of sports sponsorships that are available to businesses?
Matt Wiech: [00:03:57] Well, there’s a wide variety of sports sponsorship opportunities. Sometimes people immediately think of, well, it’s just sponsoring the Dodgers or the Angels or the Rams, which is an opportunity in sports. But equally there is opportunities to sponsor events, there’s opportunities to sponsor athletes, there’s opportunities to sponsor charitable endeavors. For example, the Anaheim Ducks have four or five different what they call tentpole events each year you could sponsor that is really dependent upon what the need is and what the marketing objective is of the company, and then aligning that with the right demographic and the right team. And so it’s really infinite in terms of the opportunities with sponsorships, but it can be a team, event, athlete. I think to kind of put it into three, three areas.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:04:41] So what are some of the benefits and risks you maybe touch on the benefits first, but the risks of aligning a brand with a sports organization?
Matt Wiech: [00:04:50] Well, when I was working for a lot of these sports teams, I would certainly talk about the benefits. I really didn’t touch on the risks unless it came up during an objection standpoint. But some of the benefits, I think probably the biggest benefit is the brand association. It’s probably why you see a big influx of influencers now on social media, right? There’s obviously some sometimes some negative connotations to certain people with this, but the brand association typically leads to immediate sales and immediate lifting of the affinity for a particular brand. So I’d say that that’s the number one thing. Secondarily, you have the ability to drive traffic and to not only websites but foot traffic as well. And then third, and probably the most important thing I think is reaching your target market in a unique and meaningful way. It’s really about connecting people with one another as opposed to putting a thirty second commercial on television or a sixty second commercial on radio. You’re basically sharing information and trying to connect. But with sponsorship, much like influencers on social media, you’re trying to make that connection. And making that connection makes somebody probably a more loyal potential customer in the long run, as opposed to just driving traffic through traditional media.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:06:01] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Okay, let’s let’s talk about the risks. Any?
Matt Wiech: [00:06:05] All right. Well, there’s plenty here, right? When you engage in a sponsorship, there is an expectation of a certain number of eyeballs, impressions, attendance, what have you. There’s that risk. If for whatever reason, let’s say it’s with a team sponsorship. Right? And you’re going to be working with the Angels, Right? Started off on fire this year for six weeks everything was great, attendance was up. If you go to the stadium, not as many people because the team has fallen off. So sometimes you might not be able to hit that mark in terms of total of impressions over the course of the length of the sponsorship. You know, I don’t like to talk about this too much, but there’s always the opportunity for negative athlete or organizational behavior. I mean, I don’t want to go into the laundry list of athletes and stuff that go into that, but, you know, organizational behavior, for example, most recently the Washington Commanders with their owner, Daniel Snyder. There’s clearly some issues there. And, you know, you can basically just look at the newspaper every day and you’ll see those things. And, you know, the whole point of connecting with the teams or the events or the athletes is to get that brand affinity. And then if there’s some negative press about that, kind of eats right into the marketing objective and goal.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:12] Right.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:13] Probably the most negative or biggest risk would be some type of demographic misalignment, right? You know, you’ve got a client, whether it’s a small, medium, big sized company, and they’ve got a certain demographic that they want to target. And now you’re working with a property or an athlete and it doesn’t fit. Right? So that’s a big risk to. So I’d say that’s a pretty good synopsis.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:33] Yeah, Yeah. I would think though, that if you’re looking at a marketing initiative, you’d want to make sure that that target demographic aligned before you even went down that path, so.
Matt Wiech: [00:07:43] True, yes.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:07:44] How have you seen sports marketing evolve over the years and where do you think it’s headed?
Matt Wiech: [00:07:50] Years ago it used to be just put up a sign up, right? If you go back to some old footage, say, circa 1984, 85′, before there was any significant sports sponsorships at that point in time, they started putting signage up on the dashboards at NHL hockey rinks. They started putting up outfield wall signage, and it simply became a way to brand, brand awareness. And then there’d be a little bit of hospitality that was kind of thrown in and that was it. And there was really no measurement or anything. It was literally either company had extra money to spend, right? Or there was a sort of a sizzle effect of, hey, I’m going to put my company name on an outfield wall sign, and then I’m going to take my best clients to the Dodger Stadium, and they’re going to see that and they’re going to go, wow, right?
Rochelle Reiter: [00:08:35] Yeah.
Matt Wiech: [00:08:36] There’s clearly some benefit to that. But now what has happened is that it’s really data driven, right? And so I think that’s probably the biggest thing that has happened over the last certainly over the last five to ten years. Right? Since, you know, my time at the Ducks, it wasn’t quite as much. But there are a number of companies out there that have proprietary formulas to be able to quantify things. Right? I’ll give you an example. There’s a company called Repucon. And what they do is they measure the eyeballs and impressions based upon signage that is inside a stadium. So if you were watching a Dodger game or an Angel game and the camera shoots onto certain signage, they have a formula to where it says, okay, well, two thirds of the side is being seen and it’s here’s the ratings point for that game and here’s the total number of impressions we have based upon this. Right? They won’t ever give you the formula, but that’s how they kind of quantify it so that you could take that information to pass it along to the client and say, here’s the number of impressions that that you have gotten. Then it’s really on the job of the company and the ad agency maybe that they’re working with to quantify. Okay, what is that impression look like in terms of getting a sale? Right? And every company and every deal is going to be a little bit different in terms of how you kind of put that measurement on it, but that helps you create the ROI. Other trends that are taking place in the sports sponsorship field right now. One is NIL, stands for name, image and likeness. It’s really the wild, wild west in college football right now and it’s really gearing towards the better teams continue to get better. It’s a little bit of paying for players to go to the university, which technically is not the intent, but that’s kind of how it’s working. So you’re going to see the Alabama’s of the world. In fact, USC just hired a new head coach, Lincoln Riley, from University of Oklahoma, and he brought basically half his team and I don’t know all the specifics, but I would imagine a number of those players have NIL deals because you’re in a bigger market here in Los Angeles than you are a in Oklahoma. And these players obviously want to make it to the NFL, but want to get paid some money doing so at this point in time. So NIL is big. The business of E-sports is huge. E-sports is this year a $1.4 billion industry. That’s ‘B’ with a billion.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:10:46] Wow.
Matt Wiech: [00:10:46] Now, I don’t know if a lot of our older viewers may understand this, but there is this huge market for people watching others play video games. That’s essentially what E-sports is. And there’s a number of different games. So a lot of it’s first person shooter. So I mean, there’s we have a whole discussion on that as well. But that’s really the key is 1.4 billion worldwide and probably 20% of that’s over in China. So if our listeners have a company and they want to get involved in reaching a 18 to 34 male demographic, that is an area and a trend certainly that that you could do. And those companies and those teams aren’t charging nearly as much as sort of the traditional big four sports. So that’s an opportunity at this point in time.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:11:27] Sure.
Matt Wiech: [00:11:28] So I’d say that those are some of the bigger trends that are taking place.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:11:32] You mentioned being able to afford it for brands. In my experience as a media buyer earlier in my career, sports sponsorships were really a hard sell for brands because they were perceived as to be too expensive. How do you see medium sized businesses being able to afford some of the the big four, as you mentioned? And if not, is it feasible for them to afford what you just mentioned with the E-sports?
Matt Wiech: [00:11:55] Sure. Great question. And that was one of the things that was always difficult. Being a salesperson in the sports sponsorship field was that there was the perception, the keyword perceived. There was a perception that it was going to cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to partner with us. Right? It’s really dependent upon the particular property. If you are a medium sized business and you want to sponsor the Dodgers in any shape or fashion, it’s likely going to cost you over a million dollars a year. Right? And we could get into all the specifics of kind of what you get and create an ROI based upon that. But a million dollars is a lot of money, and most mid-sized businesses are not going to take that step. Right? So then it becomes trying to figure out that demographic alignment and then tying into the right sports team or athlete or NIL deal. Right? There may be some opportunity now with name, image and likeness where you can sponsor, in fact, Hooters, it was just announced today is that they are doing a national sponsorship with ten different sports colleges or ten universities sponsoring their offensive line. The idea is, I think the tagline was that they are their wingman, right? Because it’s usually the quarterback or the running back and the wide receiver of the stars. And now the offensive linemen are going to be the wingman. Right? I don’t know what the dollar amounts are, but I imagine it is significantly less than a million dollars per player. Right? And so that is an opportunity, especially here in the market, if you’ve got if some of our listeners are Los Angeles based. Right? Take a look at USC, UCLA, some national name, image and likeness deals. You know, some of that can tie into social media and where they’re at. And so there is opportunity. It’s really going to be a dependent upon what the marketing objective is, what the budget is, and demographics align with the right teams and events and athletes that could make sense of budgetary wise.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:13:47] Yeah. How can businesses get the most out of a sports deal? What would you say are some tricks of the trade?
Matt Wiech: [00:13:54] Well, I think the most important thing is to have some level of activation. There are three areas that I think everyone should focus on and should be a part of every single sponsorship. There certainly has to be some sort of brand awareness play, right? And that could be in the form of signage at the stadium. It could be a form of media, whether a radio, TV, social media or what have you. Secondarily, there has to be some level of activation. There has to be a way to quantify this, right. And connect yourself, whether it’s on site displays. I’ll give you a good example that I had when I worked for Live Nation. So Yamaha Electronics is based in Buena Park, California. Their primary product are musical instruments, pianos, guitars, drums, what have you. And so back in 2014, I was fortunate enough to know the President of Yamaha and he wanted to find a property that could help him engage with music fans. And so because I was working for Live Nation at the time, we had Irvine Meadows Amphitheater down in Irvine and they have typically anywhere from twenty to twenty five concerts a year across all different demographics. There would be some rock shows, there’d be some pop shows, there’d be some country, there’d be some R&B and hip hop. So it kind of hit all different demographics. And so the idea behind it was to not only have signage and some media tied in with some of the Live Nation media digitally, but to have an activation space on site. And what they did with the activation space is they actually had the musical instruments there. Tom Sumner, who is the President, had mentioned it was sort of like an instrument petting zoo, so to speak. And it’s similar to like with auto dealerships, right. The whole idea is you want to get butts in seats, you need to get people down for test drives, because once they test out the product, they’re more likely to buy. Right? So then it becomes, okay, well, how many people actually can play an instrument out of all the people that are attending Irvine Meadows, Typically it’s about 10%. So only 10% of music fans can actually play an instrument. The rest of us are just their fans and cheering on whoever our favorite artist is. Right? And so what they did was they had a handful of brand ambassadors, all with tablets, and they drove people into this one little venue area and they encouraged, incentivized people to actually get on the instruments and they would play along with various music. And I think we had to get some rights from ASCAP or BMI in order to secure those rights itself. But literally they were playing along with the music and they actually had the guitar in their hands, the drums. And and so so what they did business wise was they got all their information on the tablet. So then they would go ahead and reconnect with them after the show. And then finally they gave them a discount or a coupon to Guitar Center, who was a third party that kind of came in and it drove traffic to Guitar Center where they sell the Yamaha musical instruments. So that was sort of the full circle. So I think that probably answers the question. The best is that there has to be an activation standpoint in addition to the brand awareness. And finally, I think that you should always have some level of hospitality, whether you are treating your best customers, whether you’re rewarding your employees, or whether you are using as a sales incentive to kind of do client entertainment.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:17:02] Right, right.
Matt Wiech: [00:17:03] So those would be the three pillars.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:17:05] So the final question would be what advice would you give to our listeners that are interested in sports marketing for their brand? What advice would you give them?
Matt Wiech: [00:17:14] Research.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:17:15] Research? okay.
Matt Wiech: [00:17:16] That’s probably the biggest thing. And whether you’re doing it yourself or whether you have an ad agency to do that, the first step is to get demographically aligned right. And so after that, then it becomes, okay, start fishing around for whatever budget that you have, can kind of make some sense, right? And so I would say that that’s the most important thing, creating an objective to there were many times that I would have a CMO or vice president of marketing or an ad agency come to me and say, Matt, I’ve got a couple hundred thousand bucks. I want to do this. Here’s our demographic. What have you got? Right? And so I would say that, but then it would be like, okay, well, what is the metric? What is the KPI? How are we going to quantify this? Because I don’t want this to be a transactional burn and churn, right? I want this to be a relationship driven thing to where I can help you hit your objectives and continue on with a partnership moving forward. And probably, I don’t know, 20, 30% of the time they’d be like, we don’t know. And it was shocking to me because, you know, you got two or three hundred thousand dollars and you know, at some point you just say, okay, I’ll put together the best thing I can, but I don’t know how we’re going to measure this, right? So the key is, is to go in there to get demographically aligned, have a budget in mind, search out the various properties, and then have your marketing objectives and your KPI or your ROI kind of defined ahead of time. And whether that’s okay, if we hit a million impressions, what how is that going to translate into sales for us? Right? Or if we have this activation space five different times, how many people can we actually drive to a website or, you know, into our store?
Rochelle Reiter: [00:18:43] Yeah. Thank you so much for being with us today on The 19. It was so great to have you.
Matt Wiech: [00:18:48] Thanks so much, Rochelle. Hopefully I didn’t talk everybody’s ear off, but I’m really excited and passionate about this industry and hopefully we can help some people out down the road.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:18:56] Awesome!
Rochelle Reiter: [00:19:03] Thank you for listening to The 19: Entrepreneur Edition with sports marketing expert Matt Wiech. You can connect with Matt on LinkedIn and learn more about Orange label’s sponsorship services at Orange Label advertising dot come or email R-R-E-I-T-E-R at Orange Label Advertising dot com.
Rochelle Reiter: [00:19:30] A special thank you goes out to our contributors, Senior Studio Manager Kelsey Phillips, Micah Panzich, who edits our show, and Senior Content Writer Ashley Ruiz. Be sure to subscribe to The 19 on Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify and if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!