Helping the Hometown Brand Hit a Home Run during the Big Game

Think about the 2016 Golf Ryder Cup, 2018 NFL Super Bowl and 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. What do all of these premier sporting events have in common, besides Marlins Man being in attendance?

K1 K3 K2

All will take place in the Land of 10,000 Lakes: Minnesota.

The organization and hosting of these major sporting events was the topic of a recent Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal event.

Every member of the panel echoed a similar message: none of the events would be possible without the support of the local business community.

Large sporting events provide an opportunity for not only the host city to shine, but also the hometown companies.

So as a public relations or marketing professional, what can you do to assist your hometown client score when the big game comes to town? Follow some of these tips:

Use the pedestal of the event to tell your brand story. Each event brings with it thousands of credentialed media members, and each will want to tell a unique, locally-cultivated story. Create meaningful stories and start outreach before the influx of media members descend on the city. For instance, the Minnesota Super Bowl committee is starting a campaign 52 weeks in advance of the game that will feature Minnesota citizens, innovations and companies that tell the history and current position of the state.

Another example comes from the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Cincinnati’s Procter & Gamble and Kroger Company teamed up to honor nine hometown all-stars a month before the game. Each of the impactful community members told his or her story, which was picked up across earned and social media platforms. The campaign shed light on the strong ties of the locally based companies to the community.

Cater to the home fans. Remember: not every resident is happy that the big game is in town—it is a hindrance on their daily lives and probably cost them through the use of public funds. While local brands cannot buy every resident a ticket, they can create inclusive events that engage the entire community. Instead of hosting an NCAA-official only luncheon, organize a large basketball tournament for local school children or sponsor a free concert in a community gathering space. These events are always picked up by the local media, so leverage the opportunity to grow ties in the community.

It was announced this week that Minneapolis will host the 2017 and 2018 Summer X Games.  Events like the X Games or Olympics are decentralized in nature, which allows for more branded, inclusive events or activities. Last year at the Austin X Games, nearby AT&T jumped in with photo booths, phone charging lounges and autograph sessions to the enjoyment of ticketed guests as well as people wanting to be near the action.

Help the organizing committee help you. For some this will be their first visit to your state or city—make sure it’s memorable. Companies that help with the planning and execution of the event are in the best position to capitalize on the higher visibility.

With the Super Bowl in San Francisco last year, Silicon Valley flexed its muscles to activate the most technologically advanced Super Bowl yet. Super Bowl committee member, Uber, created a special branded pick-up and drop-off zone during the game and provided experimental services, such as food delivery during the week. Airbnb jumped at the chance to help solve San Francisco’s short supply of hotel rooms. For the week they booked four times as many rooms or homes as the year before—including the Super Bowl halftime performer, Beyoncé, which led to plenty of earned coverage.

Create a lasting effect. A major all-star game or championship provides brands an opportunity to amplify their corporate social responsibility. Each major sports league brings their philanthropy and service campaign to the host city to complete a series of projects like building baseball diamonds, repairing community centers, or hosting a community football camp. Be willing to jump in financially or with volunteers to build a community connection. For instance, the 2019 Final Four is creating a paid internship program for local, underserved high schoolers. The experience the students gain will linger far after the game clock hits zero.

So when it comes to helping your brand plan for the big game, don’t be like me at the 2014 MLB Home Run Derby, and drop the ball…


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