Will Bachman 00:01
Hello and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. And I’m your host, Will Bachman. I’m so excited to be here today with our guest, Keith Steckler, who is the VP and group director at MK Tg leading agency. Keith, welcome to the show. Well, thanks for having me. Good morning. So Keith, you know, I was hoping that today, we could talk about two things. One is I know that you are a deep expert and do a lot of work with your clients around sports sponsorship, and sponsorship, other, you know, kind of major entertainment, music events, motor sports events, I will talk about that. And then also, you know, just sort of pre COVID how that world works. And then also, what you see is the effects of COVID and how that whole space will look moving forward. Yeah, for sure. I would love to dig into that a little bit. Okay, so let’s talk about just sort of pre COVID situation, help explain to me and I don’t know really much about this world at all, how sports sponsorships work? How do brands decide that they want to sponsor a sport, decide which sport they want to get into? Decide, like, which team they want to support? Or, you know, the or the where the the whole league? And like, what are the different options when you’re getting into it, of having your brand associated with the sport? Just just kind of give me an overview?
Keith Stoeckeler 01:33
Yeah, sure. And it varies based on the brand. Naturally, you want to be mindful of who your consumer is, who are you targeting? What’s the customer that you might have? And so it ranges from, you know, certain levels of sponsorships on that ad agency that have done, you know, naming rights and league deals, and, you know, everything within the confines of sports, sponsorship and marketing, but it really does matter who you’re going after. Now, we we work with IBM and have for a number of years, and we’ve worked on the transition of that brand, from, you know, heavy in golf and tennis to some other sports we we got, we got them affiliated with ESPN and fantasy football. And we’re building out some fantasy football programs. We work with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Formula One. So we’re starting to skew that portfolio in a different way. But years ago, it was certainly heavily rooted and focused in in golf and tennis. And I think as we brought in the audience, and we thought about focusing on developers and you know, different decision makers, it made sense to get out of some of these sports in in the major ways that they were in yours years ago.
Will Bachman 03:03
So when when when we say, even just a brand is going to do a sponsorship. Like what’s the palette or menu of different options that they can think about? So if I’m, like totally naive to this world, but what’s the range from high low? So you mentioned, like naming rights of the stadium all the way down to giving out you know, having your your logo on it on a T shirt, what are the kind of the whole range of choices?
Keith Stoeckeler 03:31
Yeah, for sure. And I think certain sponsorship levels, and that’s what we’re really good at it at this agency is understanding what’s the deal, we can value the deal for you, we can help you negotiate it, we can let you know what other, you know, pieces you might want to ask for. So it varies with us on clients, but for a brand. To your point, yes, it can be anywhere as high as naming rights on stadiums or events and all the way down to logos or signage. But each deal gives you certain levels of access. So if you take Motorsports for instance, and I was I was recently at the Daytona 500 before everything changed, and that sport as with with all sports, but you know, there are there are branded entrances to the stadiums called injectors. There’s footprints before you get into the track where brands have experiences and there’s whether they’re giving things away or their sampling product or they’re educating you or there’s some type of entertainment. So it’s very much like a music festival or any branded experience you might be going to but it’s focused in sports and so there’s varying levels of you know, sponsorship opportunities, just like any conference or you know, you think like a CES, same kind of thing. If you think about how brands engage there. It’s the same kind of thing focused in sports
Will Bachman 04:59
and Do they decide what sport to, to sponsor? So, is there kind of detailed databases that a firm like yours would have on the demographics of each sport? And, you know, like, who the different, you know, fans are and stuff so that if you’re, like IBM, or some, you know, a big company, and you’re trying to figure out who are our users? Or who are our potential, you know, decision makers, and how do we go after them that you can find the most cost effective sport to go after?
Keith Stoeckeler 05:32
Yes, there’s, there’s a lot of research, we, as a company have a, separately a separate company that that’s under our umbrella that acts as a research and analytics firm, and they help value they also help understand audiences, they do surveys, so there is a lot of data around that. And it’s also we have to get smart on every sport. And I think as you talk about egaming, there’s a lot of argument on whether that’s a sport or not, we we think that it is and so, you know, we have a lot of data around it just like any other sport, but there’s tons of emerging sports. You know, there’s like the world surf league. So there’s all kinds of things that we perceive as a sports entity that we have to keep our, our thumb on and keep track of, but yes, you would, you would come to us, we would help, from a consultation perspective, understand what might be some options based on your objectives and goals. And that’s all rooted in research and our experience as a you know, as an agency.
Will Bachman 06:42
Alright, what are some, you know, sports where the demographics might be a little surprising to, you know, to me, or to just sort of the average person who’s not paying close attention, where, where maybe the, the fans are, you know, far more, you know, wealthy or educated or more decision makers, and you might, then you might have guessed from the outside.
Keith Stoeckeler 07:09
Yeah, I think we could make an argument for really any sport. But working in Formula One, the last couple of years. These are, you know, people that travel to a number of races, there are people that travel to almost all of the races. And then there’s even people that just try to make one and a different location. And since they’re all most of them are outside the US, there’s a race in Mexico, and there’s a race in Austin, Texas, but outside of that, it’s a global sport. So what I found pretty interesting is is the the US based fans who will wake up at odd hours of the day to watch the race live, because it’s in Abu Dhabi, or it’s in Europe. So it’s been pretty interesting to follow that. But even in, in the US, the NFL, Major League Baseball, I mean, people would be surprised how young that stealing how female that scaling. So I think the NBA has done a great job on on social and engaging younger fans, and that’s paid dividends. So really, we could we could make the case about any sport, I feel like a lot of people would be a bit surprised about the makeup of the fans of any sport, really.
Will Bachman 08:26
One thing I’ve always wondered about is when a brand gets involved, and one on sort of sponsoring one sports team, like maybe naming their stadium or, you know, kind of heavily promoting one sports team. How did they decide to do that? And doesn’t that kind of maybe that annoyed their customers? who are fans of other teams? How do they think about that?
Keith Stoeckeler 08:52
Yeah, it’s difficult. And honestly, as somebody who’s more focused in the digital and social space, I’ll leave that to a colleague of mine to probably answer better than me, but yeah, no doubt. It’s, it’s difficult. And especially when we think about the long term deals, you got to think about, is this a brand from from both sides? Like from the sports team? Is this a brand that you want to associate the stadium and everything with? I mean, you think about some stadiums that have a branded like, you know, Staples Center that have a branded name, versus those like Madison Square Garden that does not. So it just depends, I think, there there’s a lot of ability to hopefully or potentially make up money elsewhere. But a lot of times naming rights is such a lucrative, you know, deal and a long term deal and for many brands, it’s a great fit, given the awareness given where sports broadcasters broadcast from the games and it’s in the back Background and people’s, you know, social posts. So there’s a lot of value to that as well beyond the traditional media value that we keep tabs on. Specifically in socialist people take selfies and at the games and may not realize the signage that’s behind them, or they didn’t take the photo with that in mind, it was just me and my friend or whoever at a baseball game, but look at all the signage that’s in the back, and how do we value that? So that’s one of the things we do as well.
Will Bachman 10:29
Okay. And, you know, so one thing that I wanted to ask about is how much of a part of these deals typically is if you’re sponsoring a team or sponsoring in a league? is part of it, you know, being able to go and bring sort of VIP guests to those events? And is that really like a big part of these deals? Typically, where if you’re sponsoring an NBA game, that you get some special seats and get some, you know, you get to bring your, your, your key clients to attend the games with you?
Keith Stoeckeler 11:07
Sure, yeah. That is, that is a big component of it. Part of our agency as well, is hospitality and events. So yeah, I think it depends on who your audience is, if you’re targeting C suite, decision makers, you may want to have a hosting program or hospitality program at racetrack or on a golf course, or whatever it might be. I mean, we’ve seen with Bleacher Report, they did that, you know, Phil Mickelson versus tiger. It was shot outside the US. And it became and was merchandised as a very, you know, small hospitality opportunity, but the opportunity for clients and customers to get a upfront experience with Phil anzeiger, that you probably wouldn’t get at a normal golf of that, because it was so intimate. So absolutely, that we’ve we’ve seen some pretty interesting hospitality focused events, as part of as part of sponsor deals. And certainly right now with the environment we’re in a lot of this is virtual. There’s a lot of, you know, hospitality being done through the internet versus in person. So it’s, it’s Yes, it’s very much a strong component of a sponsorship deal, or I should say, you would certainly want for it to be so that you can maximize the potential of that sponsorship deal.
Will Bachman 12:36
How do brands measure the impact and the value they’re getting from these sponsorships?
Keith Stoeckeler 12:43
There’s a lot of levers that go into that. I mean, we talk about brand recognition, there’s a lot of surveys that that we do at events where, you know, we’ll try to see what brands you recall, and if you knew a brand was sponsoring something before you went into it, that kind of thing. So what’s the lift from, you know, pre and post event that certainly has, you know, a strong component of it, but also is social listening is understanding what sort of brands are being talked about, within the confines of an event, or we can do targeted advertising to and you might have, you might see it, if you’re on Twitter, where Twitter will just, you know, hit you with an ad that says, We’re curious if you’ve seen anything from this brand lately, and there’s a little bit of that. So it’s a lot of survey, a lot of listening and understanding what people are talking about and sharing and making sure we’re capturing that and social and helping, you know, brands understand if if you’re one of five sponsors, let’s say at an event, maybe last year, you were 10% of the conversation in social and this year, you’re 20. So and then we can just decide if hopefully, that’s positive. And in that case, that’s been, you know, an increase for the better but we’ll drill down into what was the sentiment? How are you being talked about? Because it can’t just be Do you have a larger share conversation and share voice this time around? So there’s a lot of levers that go into it?
Will Bachman 14:17
Can you give us you know, nothing confidential, but just something you know, numbers that people in the industry would kind of have is ballparks, like, order of magnitude? What are some of the different fee levels for for different types of levels of sponsorship? Like if you are sponsoring, like just one game or one season or getting your brand that’s like the logo on a shirt? Or can you give us a sense of just what the different options are?
Keith Stoeckeler 14:44
Not really what I can say is I think you would be surprised how creative and nimble either teams are or leagues are. If you’re interested in doing something even if it was one off I mean We’ve Of course seen, it’s, you know, high dollar for a brand to sponsor a section or an entrance at a stadium. But, you know, if we’re talking something that might be social content, you could sponsor a content series, you could advertise on something that’s already been developed or you create it with a team. But certainly, if you’re approaching a team, you know, the prices a little bit less or considerably less than if you’re approaching the league, and you’re affecting all of the teams. So it just, it just matters. You know what your goals are, and if you’re more of a local or regional and then it makes sense to do a few teams or if it’s a national play, and you want to get in with the lead. So I think people have expectations of what some of these deals are, and a lot of them are reported. So they’re quite easy to find. But like I said, I think people feel like they might be priced out of opportunities with certain sports and certain teams. And I think, I think you’d find a lot of people are very open to be creative.
Will Bachman 16:04
Okay. Let’s talk about kind of what you’ve seen as the impact of the Coronavirus. You know, obviously, just about all sports now, if not all sports are kind of shut down, at least for the for the near term. What kind of conversations are brands having with with the, with the player, the teams and the leagues that they sponsor?
Keith Stoeckeler 16:30
Yeah, it’s certainly interesting. And now we’re looking at, you know, games coming back, probably without fans, or a considerable less number of fans because they have to be spaced out. But we saw in the last two months, once everything started happening, there was a big push to egaming. A lot of the Motorsports clients we work with were focused on the iracing platform they have where drivers are behind the wheel controlling the same car that they would drive in person on a Sunday. But the interesting and what I think is pretty cool. Part of that is it wasn’t necessarily every driver, it might have been somebody from their crew, we saw Dale Earnhardt get involved as an obviously, you know, here’s a driver who’s retired from the sport, but can get involved on the E gaming side of things. So a lot of a lot of stuff is going virtual is going to gaming, and we’re still trying to make sure that we’re keeping, you know, fans involved. I know, it’s, it’s difficult, especially with baseball that was about to start, there’s little comparison to being at the ballpark on a great day. But we’re certainly trying to bring some of those emotions to you through digital through social, and make sure that, you know, people are feeling connected, we’ve been fortunate to stay working with athletes who are doing the same thing as you and I are doing if anything, right now they’re more human than they ever were. So, you know, get having them record with their own phones, what they’re up to, and producing content for sponsors that, you know, are still looking to do something, but they can’t go to the actual race or the actual baseball game, because it’s not happening, but how do we how do we ensure that we’re still doing something for them, and they’re activating their sponsorship in a smart way?
Will Bachman 18:28
What sorts of things have athletes been been doing for their sponsors.
Keith Stoeckeler 18:34
So we’ve been able to produce some videos where a number of players from either teams that brands have deals with are either shouting out fans directly, and we’re doing a bunch of, you know, a number of videos that we can send to people hopefully to sort of brighten up their day, very cameo style, if you’re familiar with that platform, where every or a number of athletes or celebrities are a little bit more connected to you and that they can produce a video for you and they can read a script, that kind of thing. So we’re taking cues with that and, and trying to think of interesting ways that you know, athletes can be human and say, I know these are tough times, but we’re going to get through it. I know you can’t wait to see me out on the field and I can’t wait to be out there just hoping that we can brighten somebody that
Will Bachman 19:31
up. How How are you seeing are you seeing brands kind of reevaluate or rethink their whole sponsorship strategies around events?
Keith Stoeckeler 19:43
Yes, I think um, you know, a lot of it is working in, you know, hand in hand with the leagues or the events that they would have been there personally, and on premise. So what are some things that these games Or leagues are offering? Are they open to hearing from us on some ideas that we might have? We’ve seen a lot of, you know, virtual conferences, so things can keep going on, obviously, in the, in the tech space, you have like Facebook that’s come out and said, we’re not doing anything in person, maybe even potentially through next year. So all of it is going virtual. So how do you, you know, make sure that that’s interesting and compelling. And people still want to be a part of it. In some ways, we’re finding the virtual might be, it’s certainly no substitute for the imperson. But if I take a sport like f1, where it would certainly be very expensive to travel to some of these areas. If you’re able to do that virtually, you could have more of your family join, you could get an inside look into the paddock or the garage before the race. So there may be in some ways, better opportunities to provide sponsors access to things virtually, then they may have been able to do in person.
Will Bachman 21:07
Okay, that’s really fascinating. The ability to get closer I’ve I’ve heard that from in other industries as well of some innovations that COVID is kind of forcing to happen. Can you say a little bit more about that about some of the opportunities that going virtual might open up,
Keith Stoeckeler 21:26
I just think it’s access. So for something like Formula One, or some of these events, a lot of brands have restrictions on you know, we, we won’t invite spouses, we won’t invite children. But now that you can go virtually, you can have your spouse join, you can have kids crowd around the laptop and see what’s going on. So I just think it gives you access and and that might not have been realistic in person. And some of these events have guest speakers or musicians or, you know, some type of music is being played. So if you’re able to as a sponsor, you know, give access to clients or customers, and then by and large their families that maybe couldn’t have happened in person, due to the restrictions of the event, or due to travel costs. It’s it’s potentially a better way I don’t, I don’t think in many ways, it’s it’s a direct substitute. But given where we are, it’s pretty interesting, and maybe a nice carrot for somebody to say, you know, we have this speaker. And as part of our sponsorship deal, we’re allowing our customers to, you know, be able to see them talk or have a private event, or a candid conversation that’s close to, you know, 2050 100 people. And it feels a little bit special. And so in some ways, we are seeing that. And maybe it’s our optimism coming out in the last few months. But in some ways we are seeing a better experience done virtually because of the access you’re getting.
Will Bachman 23:07
Yeah, that’s really cool. Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into the whole world of, you know, these kind of high level sports sponsorships and other kind of entertainment sponsorships?
Keith Stoeckeler 23:20
Yeah, I’ve, I’ve always worked in advertising agencies, it’s it’s really all I’ve known. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years and bounced around through the AC holding companies not on purpose. It’s just kind of what happened but work to healthcare agencies, I’ve worked on consumer packaged goods. I’ve done a lot of automotive a lot of brands with engines in them. So I feel at this point, although it wasn’t necessarily the goal, I have a pretty wide depth of experience across certain categories. And, you know, fortunate to be able to work in sports. It’s been a goal for a while, and I’m glad I’ve been able to do that for the last four plus years.
Will Bachman 24:07
Fantastic. Well, Keith, for folks that wanted to connect with you or you know, find out more about what you’re doing. Do you want to share any, you know, Twitter handle or websites for listeners that they could follow up?
Keith Stoeckeler 24:21
Sure. You know, my Twitter’s probably the easiest given it’s just keep s in my last name is a little bit difficult. But if you can find me on Twitter, it’s Keith asks, and then my websites there and my DMS are always open. I’m happy to talk with you there and, and connect with you on other platforms,
Will Bachman 24:38
if you’re interested. Fantastic. Well, Keith, thanks so much for giving us perspective on the world of sports sponsorship, and for coming on the show.
Keith Stoeckeler 24:48
Well, appreciate you having me. Enjoy your day, and I look forward to talking with you soon.