Thursday, September 28, 2006

Engaging Techniques by Google and the NFL

The following are on-the-fly notes from the Consumer Engagement conference: Patrick Keane, Director of Field Marketing & Sales Strategy at Google Inc. and Lisa Baird, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products and Marketing Integration for the National Football League.

At one of our sessions this morning we heard from two individuals whose two companies' commitment to engagement is apparent in the way they have penetrated our every day lives: Patrick Keane, Director of Field Marketing & Sales Strategy at Google Inc. and Lisa Baird, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products and Marketing Integration for the National Football League.

Keane and Baird both demonstrated how each of their respective companies places a high importance on consumer engagement. Keane described how customers engage with Google and how these unique insights can help better serve consumers. For example, Google Trends—one of the company’s newer products—was used to illustrate that if an increasing number of consumers type “fuel efficiency” in the search query, it should prompt automotive OEM’s to consider packaging their advertising in a different way. Keane also showed a heat mapped eye tracking study done on a typical Google page. The dark shaded region in the upper left indicated an intense amount of usage. Likewise, the shaded region in the top right where ads were placed showed that ads have a lot of value when they are relevant to the consumer. “The new reality is really that consumers are the new brand managers,” Keane stated, “the consumer is constantly in control and making decisions on what is going to best perform from an ad perspective.”

He closed with a picture of his colleague’s young nephew, sitting in front of the computer, entitled “Online tenure-‘since birth,’” to stress that kids these days have a deep level of engagement with the web, which in increasingly becoming the case for brands as well.

Lisa Baird came on stage next to discuss “The formidable challenge of fan engagement at the NFL.” Lights dim and a video of (very engaged-looking) fans cheering, embracing players, etc. kicks in, set to the music of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” and ending with the familiar NFL logo throbbing loudly like a heart beat. Lisa joked, “Ok, so my job may not be that hard.”

Despite the NFL’s good fortune of sustaining strong TV ratings and sponsors, Baird did say that one of the biggest challenges that they are faced with is that the world is changing… fast. Media dynamics affect how to look at a business/business model. Sports fans are now using platforms simultaneously: they want information when they want it, thus creating a challenge for the NFL to cater to these needs and continue to figure out how to serve up the offering.

Baird also pointed out that one of the driving principles to pay attention to is the changing relationship between brands and consumers: media dynamics, brand/customer relationships/America’s new demography. “The major trend over the past 10-15 years,” Baird says, “is the eroding trust between consumers and brands.” More than anything, this is what has given way to the growing importance of peer-to-peer. Peers are now engaging without brand or enterprise. Everybody wants their 15 “megabytes” of fame.

In closing, Baird shared with us—appropriately in football language—the wheel of how fan engagement should be considered:
“Scouting”- The who, what, where, how.
The NFL knows:
…that an avid fan engages more than 15 hours a week (the median is 32 hours a week!), that consumers are watching games on TV, listening to games on the radio, reading newspapers veraciously, downloading podcasts, playing video games, on websites checking stats.
…that the mainstream fans are TV loyalists, driven by team loyalty, driven by an emotional connection to their team.
…that the lifelong attachment of youth life begins in elementary school.
Essentially, consumers are the ones who taught the NFL, what it is, to be engaged in the NFL.
“The Draft”- Behind every draft is the war room, tight security with a wall where you can find what team is going to do what, where are their weaknesses, how to pull it together to make a great team.
The NFL uses this same course of action in going through every single piece of business to establish fan metrics to every single point of the NFL. Clean sheeted new product programs are targeted to increase engagement and custom content is created for external partners.
“Special Teams”- Just like special teams, the NFL makes sure of integrated execution, changes focus, and makes sure of integration over different parts.
“Training Camp”- They are similar to the way the NFL evangelizes their methods and sees how partners are handling the message. Since the fan is really in the care of ESPN or NBC, it is especially important to the NFL that the message is evangelized through summit meetings, etc. to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
“Playbook”- Otherwise known as the specific game plays orchestrating programs to get fans. The NFL employs activities such as league programs, club programs, sponsor applications, and broadcaster promotions.
“Weekly Stats”- The NFL monitors the products inside and out for every opportunity to improve the fan engagement experience. They have a pulse on everything from gate attendance and blackouts to the fantasy audience and retail.

The result? It doesn’t look like the NFL is going anywhere for awhile. In fact, it sounds like fan engagement is off to a strong season, which Baird attributes to the year of “hot” rookies (Reggie Bush, Vince Young) and the reopening of the Superdome, which Baird described as “the power of football changing a community.”

How can this information be used and taken to the next level? Baird suggests being committed to your fans/consumers who want to participate and to be a part of helping to shape the advertising platform.


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