Making the NFL even more popular isn’t easy, especially when it’s competing in places where futbol reigns supreme.
But it’s a reality that Aaron Jones, director of fancentric marketing at the NFL, grapples with as he looks to grow the league’s footprint overseas, where the game’s popularity is a far cry when compared to that of the U.S.
For Jones, engagement—and not necessarily sales of products such as jerseys—is paramount.
“Streaming is key for us,” Jones says. “How many people are watching and how much are they watching? How many people are playing fantasy football on our platform? That’s a big deal for us—people who play fantasy tend to be very engaged.”
Jones is among an increasing number of brand marketers who use marketing cloud software to better understand how their consumers engage with their brands.
Consumers interact with brands through a dizzying number of so-called touch points, including web, mobile, IoT, display, SEO, social media, video, email, call centers and e-commerce. Data captured from these verticals live in disparate systems that struggle to speak with each other, if at all. Tools such as Adobe’s Experience Platform stitch together each of the encounters a consumer has with a brand regardless of where or how it occurs. Marketers can then activate all sorts of content based on highly detailed customer profiles.
When coupled with other tools, these profiles can create highly customized segments—e.g., new female customers between the ages of 20 and 40 who made a purchase within the last 30 days—and then send them a message that’s optimized for that audience.
The Experience Platform’s ability to create numerous customized segments, says Jones, "is where we found the value.”
Jones says a new customer who purchased a Cleveland Browns jersey, for instance, isn’t going to want their next email to be about buying season tickets. “You don’t send that person an offer like that. If that happens, they’re going to hit unsubscribe," he says. "Instead, you share news with them about their favorite team, like the Browns signing Odell Beckham Junior.”
Clouding isn't easy
Navigating the marketing cloud space is difficult; advertisers are unsure what tools they need today versus tomorrow, and how critical people are to adopting a cloud solution as opposed to integrating it with all of its first-party data. It's also expensive and almost always requires hiring agencies that specialize with the many nuances that come with using the software.
Nearly every large brand that uses marketing cloud tools works with agencies—such as Wunderman, Havas or iCrossing—to make the most out of the technology, for example. Jones, who says the NFL works with Havas, notes that integrating is just one step of the process, and that what happens once this is complete is the next challenge.
"The value you extract ... comes down to the people you have,” Jones says. “Finding talented people is extremely challenging, even for the NFL, and we’re spoiled.”
John Faviano, director of demand and integrated marketing technology at Anheuser-Busch, says he's had success using Adobe tools to grow the company’s e-commerce platform, which sells items such as a Budweiser dart board and Bud Light Blue Light.
“Our merchandise sales in the first quarter of this year have already surpassed all of last year,” Faviano says. “We hit over 10,000 orders in the first quarter, so we’re adding more valuable products like ugly sweaters or Budweiser beer steins.”
But many brands and those within Adobe say Experience Platform is still a work in progress, if further ahead than other offerings currently on the marketplace. One Adobe insider, who asked to remain anonymous, said the product is "only 60 percent complete."
Other general hurdles include marketing cloud companies often over sell their own customers. For instance, while the company has been working with Adobe for several years, Faviano says in retrospect he would initially have used fewer Adobe products: “We bit off more than we could chew."
He points to Adobe Analytics, which allows brands to measure very specific KPIs, or “key performance indicators”—such as how many people are making a purchase after receiving a promotional email—and which requires integrating Adobe software with the company’s first-party data. It's such a large task, he says, that Analytics mostly sat on the sidelines until integration was complete.
“Not everything is perfect here,” Faviano says. “We were using all these products and leveraging them as best we could. … For something like Analytics, it’s certainly something you need, but not necessarily something you need right away.”