Major League Baseball
Corporate sponsorships had been purchased in the past fifteen years at each available opportunity, with minimal regard for specific consumer need and interests in individual markets. Sponsorship fees were skyrocketing, yet there was a valid concern that the relevancy of the sport to the target market was waning, putting the cost/benefit ratio in serious question.
Focus groups were conducted among baseball fans in multiple markets and quantitative on-site research was implemented at numerous MLB games.
Focus group research allowed the sponsor to prioritize the sports interests of the target market, identify emotional trigger points among consumers involved with baseball, and “pre-test” opportunities whereby a sponsor could provide a linkage between the brand, the sport, and the fans’ needs and emotions. Perhaps most importantly, the sponsor realized that baseball is more appropriate as a site-based program rather than as a media sponsorship.
In cities where baseball was a low priority, low passion activity for consumers, contracts were let go. By cutting the overall fees paid to various rights holders, the sponsor was able to provide a deeper sponsorship commitment in those markets where baseball still generated a reasonable level of enthusiasm. The funds formerly spent in weak baseball markets were then directed toward implementing sponsorship activations that provided a high level of on-site entertainment, greater interaction with the consumer, and expanded opportunities for experimental branding.
To verify the impact of the newly designed sponsorship pilot programs, on-site quantitative research was conducted in those markets where the new sponsorship strategy was implemented. A battery of awareness, image, and brand consideration tests were conducted among fans entering the stadium (pre-exposure) and among fans exiting the stadium (post-exposure).
By examining the pre-to-post gains in image characteristics and brand consideration, the immediate impact of the new sponsorship program was verified. Moreover, by comparing different types of activations in separate markets, the most successful sponsorship tactics for Major League Baseball were identified and implemented where possible.
Although baseball is still considered a viable opportunity for this sponsor, the company now approaches the sport on a market-by-market basis, and will only invest when the venue allows unique marketing opportunities beyond static signage. In terms of sponsor awareness, the sponsor has moved from a former background player to one of the most recognized sponsors, and has made significant gains in product image and intent to purchase among consumers in markets where the sponsorship format was changed.