Do It Yourself Sports Marketing Makes Me Crazy

Sports marketing is not brain surgery; that’s why I’m in the industry.  I can’t stand the sight of a doctor making an incision. I do not have a mind for building rocket ships. In fact, I am not even skilled enough to fix a car.  When it comes to computer programming, I’m lost and confused.  But take a company’s sports marketing strategy or the proper structure of a team’s marketing group, and it all just comes to me very naturally.  Marketing, media, and creating revenue-generating extensions for companies and organizations have always been right in my wheelhouse.

Because of the ease I have experienced in these areas, I have been able to make a nice living in the industry, and have had some successes over the years. That’s the good news.  The bad news is that when others practice sports marketing, it quite often makes me crazy.  Yes, occasionally we all get to witness creative and effective brilliance in this area. But I have to be honest with you, there is a lot of crap out there.  I mean a real lot.

I believe the major source of the problem comes from marketing folks who have never worked in the sports industry and think that marketing is all the same.  To me, that would be like saying all doctors are the same; I don’t think anyone would want a proctologist operating on their heart.  Ok, it’s sports marketing and not a matter of life or death, but there are nuances to it, and all marketers are not alike.  I think that at times, mass marketing agencies are culprits in the same area.  They are great creative minds, so they think they can handle any part of a company’s advertising and marketing, even if they do not specialize in sports marketing.

I am just tired of seeing poorly executed sports marketing.  I will not single anyone out in this post, but it is obvious when a company is trying “do-it-yourself” sports marketing.  It’s also evident when an agency just doesn’t get it.  No PR agency is qualified to do Sports Marketing, unless they have experienced sports marketing-specific employees.  Don’t be fooled by those groups who say they can do it all; most likely, they cannot.  And don’t fool yourself if you lack the experience – you probably should think twice before you pretend you are qualified.

If you have a toothache, do you pull it out yourself or go to a dentist?  If you have a legal problem, do you handle your own case or hire a lawyer?  Then why would you handle an investment in sports marketing if you do not have the qualifications?  Even if you understand the principles of how plumbing works and attempt to fix your own pipes, you could very well be making matters worse and costing yourself more money in the long run than if you just hired a professional plumber in the first place.

I have witnessed many companies that try to skimp or save money by not employing experienced sports business professionals.   Because of this, they wasted their companies’ money by negotiating poorly, asking for the wrong elements to be included in a deal, not knowing the rules and regulations of a particular league, or by creating design work that looks fine on paper, but not in the arena, and even worse, is illegible on TV.  These and many more mistakes could have been easily averted.

When I see these poor uses and executions of sports marketing initiatives, it’s like fingernails on a blackboard, I cringe.  It reminds me of the scene in the movie, My Blue Heaven when Rick Moranis’ character is trying to say the Italian word for “understand” and it comes out all wrong, and then Steve Martin‘s character (funny enough as an Italian in the movie), says, “Are you trying to say capisce? Well don’t, because when you say it – it hurts my ears.”  I feel the same way about sports marketing.  Don’t pretend you know how to do sports marketing if you haven’t a clue, because every time I see a poor sports marketing execution – it hurts my ears, my eyes, and every other part of me.

The most confident marketers know their own limitations and hire professionals to create the best team possible for their organization.  Michael Lynch, the global head of sports marketing for Visa, will enlist other sports consultants and agencies to ensure that Visa is maximizing their budget and the assets they have invested in.  That’s just smart business.  Michael has more experience than most in the industry, yet he knows he will be doing a better job for Visa by creating a team of the best sports marketers in the business.  Michael understands that no one person has all the answers, and the right team will maximize Visa’s efforts.

So please think about my words before you try any “do-it-yourself” sports marketing.  Just because you like sports and have been to games, that doesn’t make you a sports marketing expert.  If your company is thinking about utilizing sports marketing to promote its brand and drive consumers to its products and services, then hire someone who knows what they are doing.  You will save money and get better results (while not making me crazy in the process).

About Lou Imbriano

Chief Executive Officer at TrinityOne (www.trinity1.com) & Professor of Sports Marketing at Boston College's Carroll School of Management. Former Chief Marketing Officer of the New England Patriots & Chief Operating Officer of the New England Revolution. Click here to read Lou's full bio http://www.trinity1.com/aa_about/exec_bios01.php.
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