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Use Armstrong buzz to dig into local sports marketing angles

lance armstrong

It's a big week for sports news. Find local financial angles to pursue in the business of sports marketing.

With buzz about Lance Armstrong’s doping confession still at high volume, and the follow-on question of whether companies including the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service will attempt to claw back any of the millions of dollars in sponsorship monies Armstrong was paid, you might want to look for local angles to the business of sports marketing.

Advertising Age notes in this article that an array of well-known names like Anheuser-Busch already have ditched Armstrong, and wonders if corporate sponsors themselves – most of which weren’t returning phone calls – might even have been aware that something was fishy regarding Armstrong’s remarkable performances.   USA Today cites experts saying that Armstrong faces a difficult task if he hopes to rehabilitate his image. Note that the article cites the Davie Brown index, which apparently is a product of a firm called The Marketing Arm and ranks consumer perceptions of thousands of celebrities; you might ask them to provide info about local sports heroes or other well-known people from your region as an interesting infobox or sidebar.

A round-up of sports marketing sponsorships and activities by companies in your region – presented perhaps as a logo-heavy infographic rather than in prose – would be of interest to readers.  Include current and historical information, and of course any deals that backfired a la Armstrong would be a timely topic.  Or, if you want to take a small-business approach, look at sports marketing from the perspective of Main Street merchants, car dealers, bars and other entities that sponsor local teams or advertise at area ice rinks and indoor arenas.  How pervasive is sports as a marketing vehicle even at the local-local level? 

Sports marketing is so sweeping that a number of colleges and universities such as Baylor University offer courses or even degree programs in the field. Some of the degrees seem to be offered by for-profit schools, which could prompt another possible sidebar for people wishing to pursue this specialty. Get input from professionals in the field about the best way to prepare and job prospects.   Meanwhile, instructors at legitimate schools will be good sources of historical information about sports marketing, which by some accounts dates back to 1870s tobacco ads featuring baseball players.   The emergence of television and of sports stars as major celebrities spurred the evolution of sports marketing into the multi-billion sector it is today. Here’s an interesting 2010 take from Sports Business Journal about the 25 biggest corporate spenders on sports advertising, which includes some brands you may not have expected, like Yum! (parent of Taco Bell and other fast-food chains), Subway and the State Farm insurance company.  And here’s an analysis of how the proliferation of social and digital media, combined with the recession, may be changing approaches to sports marketing. 

Beyond individual celebrity sponsorships, here’s a wealth-management take on the 10 Best and Worst Sports Business Deals which may provide ideas you can follow up on locally, from stadium naming rights to post-grad scholarships for college athletes.

The Sports Marketing Association may provide leads to local members, and while its conference took place last fall, peruse the online schedule; the conference topics and speaker list will provide insight into industry concerns as well as potential sources to talk about deals in your region. 

Keep an eye also on the IMG World Congress of Sports exhibitor and sponsor lists for local ties; the annual conference will be held in early April.

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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