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Darrin Gross's picture

Last month, Dawn Turner discussed “clutter” in an article entitled To Be or Not To Be – Clutter or Differentiation in the Migala Report. If you have not read the column I would encourage you to do so. Clutter is a funny thing in that for so many years we all sold sponsorship with the mindset that more is more. Many times, out of the necessity of raising revenue, we had to sell our venues with as many banks, car dealers and gyms as we could find. It was irrelevant if one sign was next to the other or radio spots promoting the same kind of business ran back to back. We just needed to drive revenue.

In this column I want to discuss a different type of clutter that comes into play in a crowded market. The Bay Area is the #5 media market in the county, encompassing nine counties with a total population of almost 6,000,000 and includes three major cities all within an hour’s drive of each other: Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. Within our “footprint” (which actually extends farther east into Sacramento) there are 2 MLB teams, 2 NFL teams, 2 NBA teams, 1 NHL team, 1 MLS team, 3 affiliated MiLB teams, 2 ECHL teams, 1 AFL team, several major D1 universities including CAL and Stanford and a virtual cornucopia of sponsorship options ranging from world class museums and major music venues, to a little boat race called the America’s Cup. So, the question is, how do we differentiate our product over that of one of these other opportunities?
I proffer the following: Value, Service, Flexibility and Hard Work.

VALUE, SERVICE, FLEXIBILITY and good old fashioned HARD WORK will allow you to begin the process of differentiating your property over that of another. At the end of the day there are many similarities – large crowds, multiple dates, TV and radio audiences in many cases, and a fan affinity and avidity towards one’s product. Thus, it is of vital importance to give your potential “buyers” a reason to say yes to your property over that of one of your competitors.

VALUE: I am sure if you ask any seller in our industry if they provide value to their clients they will tell you they do. The real question is what do you do for your clients that extends beyond the four corners of the contract? If you have unused inventory that needs to be moved, do you offer it at a reduced rate or gratis to your existing clients? Do you offer your clients better seats to a game or the opportunity to purchase a block of tickets at a “partner” rate? Do you create client events that allow your partners to mix and mingle in the hopes that they might do business together one day? If not, these are the types of things that add value to your partnerships with very little effort or expense on your part.

SERVICE: For those of you who know me or have read any of my previous submissions, you aware that service is one of the principles that I hold dear. It is with service that we renew partners, and it is with service that word of how we treat people spreads from happy clients to potential clients. The ability to be thoughtful and creative on your partners’ behalf should be a no-brainer, but from what I have seen over the years it is not. Service needs to be taught and reinforced at regular intervals and it is imperative that everyone in the organization, from the top down, buys into the concept of service.

FLEXIBILITY: As I tell my kids all the time, shit happens (thanks Forrest Gump) and if 11 guys on the offensive side of a football can call an audible, then we should be able to do it as well. Same goes for business and our industry in particular when we have so many moving parts. The key here is to be as accommodating as possible to client requests without being taken advantage of. If a concourse date needs to be moved, move the date. If a sign is faded and it’s on the team to replace it, replace it. I like to tell my staff that 90% of the time a client makes a request we should answer with “no problem” and for the remaining 10% we respond with “no, but…”. We cannot and will not always be able to accommodate every request that comes in, but we can never forget that we are solution providers for our partners. They look to us as the experts and thus, we need to provide answers and many times those answers are created by being flexible.

HARD WORK: There is no substitution for hard work. Creating value, excellent service and flexibility are not easy goals to attain. If the proper combination of these three attributes is achieved via hard work (going the extra mile), then you are closer to winning the differentiation battle than losing it. I guess in the early days of a new franchise or venue many would think that the above is of no concern, but I disagree. At the beginning is precisely when you set yourself and your team up for success (or failure) because the “honeymoon period” will end. When it is no longer as easy as taking candy from a baby to sell sponsorships or tickets because the bloom is off the rose that is when you rely on the solid foundation you have built with the pillars of Value, Service, Flexibility and Hard Work.

So, as you go about your day keep the mantra of Value, Service, Flexibility and Hard Work in your thoughts and more importantly, your actions. Now go sell something!

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