B-to-b players get game in sports ads

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As the fall sports season gets under way, many b-to-b marketers are advertising on a variety of sports programs, from the National Football League to NASCAR to the PGA.

Advertisers with deep pockets, including IBM Corp., General Electric Co. and FedEx Corp., will attempt to reach a mass audience of business decision-makers at home through advertising on the NFL, which reaches an estimated 16 million viewers for ABC's "Monday Night Football" alone.

This fall, FedEx kicked off an integrated campaign aimed at small businesses, with a major presence on NFL telecasts. The campaign, created by agency BBDO New York, includes four 30-second TV spots, as well as print, radio and online ads. The budget was undisclosed.

"Our research shows that small-business owners and decision-makers are actively engaged at the NFL level," said Steve Pacheco, director of advertising for FedEx. "The media choice reflects a time when you can reach people in a meaningful way in their leisure time."

Three of the TV spots promote FedEx ground shipping as being an affordable, reliable service for small businesses, and one spot promotes FedEx international shipping.

The TV spots drive viewers to a microsite,, which provides player information, game stats and an opportunity to explore FedEx services. One of the features of the site is a "Small shipper of the week," which profiles a FedEx small-business customer each week.

The FedEx campaign also includes print ads in Sports Illustrated as well as business titles, promoting the NFL relationship and driving readers to the Web site.

However, the NFL is an expensive media buy, costing between $300,000 and $400,000 for a 30-second spot on a nationally televised game, according to estimates from media buyers. "From a TV standpoint, it's not the most efficient buy because there is so much waste," said Ray Katz, U.S. director of sports marketing at OMD, the media buying agency of Omnicom Group.

That's why many b-to-b advertisers are crafting packages that include advertising as part of integrated sports marketing packages for programs including NASCAR, Major League Baseball and golf.

NASCAR, the second-most-watched sports programming after the NFL, is proving to be an effective vehicle for b-to-b advertisers, providing opportunities ranging from car sponsorships to TV spots.

While NASCAR has more than 40 official sponsors, including Visa, United Parcel Service of America and Sears, Roebuck & Co.'s Craftsman tools, the events offer advertisers additional opportunities through integrated marketing programs.

For example, State Farm Insurance is not an official NASCAR sponsor but it has put together an integrated package around its events, crafted by its media agency, OMD.

State Farm advertises on NASCAR programming, sponsors the Wally's World race car and the Chicagoland Speedway, and has rights to die-cast race cars it sends to agents as promotional items, Katz said. "We are very conscious of the entire distribution channel when we do sponsorships of anything," he added.

Another sports venue that is popular with b-to-b advertisers is golf, which attracts a business decision-maker audience during TV telecasts and golf tournaments. OMX Inc.'s Office Max last month inked a contract to be the official office products supplier to the Professional Golfers' Association of America.

The deal includes co-branded marketing opportunities aimed at small-business owners, promotional space on the PGA Web site, Office Max ads on The Golf Channel and NBC's broadcast of "The PGA of America's Year in Review," and print ads in PGA Magazine.

"People who make decisions at large corporations index very well against golf," said Tom Russell, VP-marketing at Office Max.

Under the PGA partnership, Office Max will supply office products to all PGA members, including golfers and golf course owners. It will also use advertising opportunities on TV, online and in print to promote its products to small-business owners.

FedEx, the official shipping company of the PGA Tour, has also developed an integrated marketing program around the event, including broadcast ads and online promotional opportunities.

During TV broadcasts of PGA Tour events, FedEx delivers a "Most Reliable Player" award, as well as a "FedEx Reliability Zone" statistical graphic that is overlaid on the screen as golfers approach a green. 

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