ESPN named the matchup of Florida State and the University of Alabama “the most highly anticipated” of opening weekend. The respective #3 and #1 teams gathered TV viewers Labor Day weekend in homes and in bars for viewing parties. But, the real celebration took place at and near the site of the game, Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Tickets sold out months in advance but were available on StubHub starting at $400 and ranging up to $1,000. These prices, per USA Today, set the event up as “the second-most-expensive ticket for the 2017 season.” Yet, smart brands realized the draw well in advance of this declaration. Their tailgate marketing strategies were already in play for this Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
Home improvement giant, Home Depot, set up “Tailgate Town.” The free event lured fans with games, activities, food and giveaways. And, it kept them there with a viewing area for the local game, as well as all other match-ups underway nationwide. Yet, the company that scored the most points on this occasion was Coca-Cola.
The leading soft drink brand kicked off festivities at noon at its World of Coca-Cola museum. There, paying visitors could take part in the “Taste It!” challenge, in which the brand chose beverages to represent each of the teams. They could also sample the all-new Coke Zero Sugar, eat hamburgers and play cornhole. And, Coke made sure to up its return on engagement with a custom Snapchat filter and several photo opps.
Later, back at the stadium, the ESPN College GameDay sponsor also hosted its FanZone. Starting at 3 pm, sports fans enjoyed interactive games, giveaways, free food and Coke and other brand activations. There were clearly no fumbles when it came to Coca-Cola’s tailgate marketing plays that day.
What Makes Tailgate Marketing a Smart Brand Strategy
Sports event marketing is not a new brand strategy. Yet, the ways in which brands are activating continue to grow in scope. This is particularly true in the hours and days leading up to their chosen games. Tailgate marketing and brand experiences surrounding football are one main result.
That’s because event marketers, first, understand fans’ intense love of the game. For example, a recent Nielsen study reports over 102 million U.S. adults “identify as fans of college football.” According to United States Census 2016 estimates, that is 40% of the adult population.
Second, they realize these individuals are savvy with money to spend. In fact, Nielsen finds almost 57 million watchers of college football have four or more years of college education. Around 58 million live in a household with an income of $100,000 or more. And, 48% of them are “more likely to have traveled and stayed overnight to attend a sporting event.” These fans are passionate and willing to go the extra mile for their sport.
Third, they realize the chance tailgate marketing presents to get personal with dedicated sports fans. When brands add to the fan experience, they help create memories and allow fans to trust them. This equates to more customers, sales and brand loyalty – a sure touchdown. Brands only need to add value to the experience to win football fans at the tailgate.[Tweet “40% of adults are college football fans. Brands can get personal with them via tailgate marketing.”]
The Best Tailgate Marketing Plays to Win Football Fans
If you’re looking to tap into the opportunity tailgate marketing presents, let these three tips guide your offensive strategy.
1. Run the play.
Some may believe tailgate marketing to be a stationary opportunity. One where you set up a station and stay within its confines. Yet, event and experiential marketing offers so much more when you expand your boundaries and run the play.
A simple initiative is to launch a street team in places where fan traffic is heavy. Instead of waiting for fans to come to you, your brand ambassadors take the party to them. A tailgate area is a great place to activate this type of guerrilla marketing. But, street teams can also launch in other venues (e.g., college campuses, bars, etc.) on the day of or days leading up to the game.
Another, bigger idea is to embark on a mobile tour. Last NFL season, Ford showed us how this is best done. Its Toughest Tailgate Tour used its NFL sponsorship to honor local heroes in nine cities. This effort, in addition to its actual tailgate experiences, enhanced its brand perception. And, it made a lasting impression on everyone it touched.
[Tweet “Take tailgate marketing beyond the tailgate with a street team or mobile tour for greater reach.”]
2. Look at all eligible receivers.
Previous years’ reports have shown that NFL viewership is down. In response, the NFL seems to be working to broaden its audience base.
An NFL spokesperson reveals 45% of its fan base are women. And, their sights are set on adding more young women to its viewership. Brands that would like to do the same should consider the wants of all demographics of football fans. For example, when targeting millennials, plan an experience. After all, almost four out of five millennials prefer to buy an experience over a product due to its lasting satisfaction. If your brand can satisfy them in this way, they’ll view you more favorably than others.
To reach women like the NFL is, forgo football conventions. Choose activities that get to the heart of your brand and its messaging. And, hire event staff who offer diversity, just like that of football fans.
3. Bring your best players.
Retired and renowned Florida State coach, Bobby Bowden, once said, “He who gets the best players usually wins.” That doesn’t only apply to the game of football. It’s true for tailgate marketing, as well as event and experiential marketing in general.
Your best players are your event staff. These are the individuals who personify your brand. They are responsible for adding to the fan experience, helping consumers trust your brand and guiding them to the next steps. To do so, your event staff may require special skills or certifications. For instance, if you choose to serve beer like Corona did at their first tailgate tour, you may hire TIPS-certified brand ambassadors. These trained individuals prevent intoxication and underage drinking to help keep your consumers safe.
An expert event staffing company can help mitigate your risk in situations like these. It can also identify and train your best players to execute your tailgate marketing plays with success. The result is minimal work on your end and the scoring of fans’ hearts and dollars.