A New and Unlikely Platform

The idea behind Pinterest is that people can express themselves by posting their image collections. It serves as a trading venue for people to view their friends and family’s photo collections and discover new items in a social setting. The founder of Pinterest Ben Silbermann describes the site and the other social media Goliaths (Facebook and Twitter) as “self-expression engines.” Silbermann developed the site as a tool in which he and his wife could share things they like with their family, but didn’t have a business plan to back it up. Of course we know Facebook started as a school project that is now anticipated to be worth millions, so Silbermann in an article for USA Today doesn’t rule the possibility of future sponsored posts from which advertisers can benefit.

When I think of Pinterest, I think of a forum on which I can share my craft ideas, completed projects, potential DIY projects and interior design inspirations;however, Jeff Berman, leader of the NFL Digital team, in an article on Mashable suggests that NFL football clubs are watching this social platform. He even claims to have a few good ideas on how they could potentially use the media.

“One that I think has enormous potential is Pinterest, and I see a lot of things that we could do in Pinterest that could be really fun for our fans.”

As  a Pinterest user, I thought I could branch out from the ideas I already have about Pinterest as a lady-dominated storage space for my crafting aspirations, and try to suggest a few areas where the NFL might be able to leverage the platform to engage their fans, especially the all important lady-fans that I talk about here.

1. Quotes: I really like finding a great graphically beautiful quote online, saving it to my phone, and looking at it on my lock screen for weeks at a time. Pinterest is full of them, and I have included a few of my favorites. So many players and coaches are known for their words of wisdom, and the NFL franchises should capitalize on these pearls. They can make them into a jpeg file, upload to their Pinterest page, and hopefully encourage people to share these.

2. Creative Photos: Luckily, sports lend themselves to visually stimulating photography, and Pinterest is all about visually stimulating content. A pin board (a single collection within a user’s, or in this case a team’s, entire Pinterest collection) of great photos can encourage people to browse and maybe even share your content around the site.

3. Showcase their Super Fans: Super Fans go all out to show their fanaticism – painting their bodies, making signs, decorating their homes – and this photo driven platform would be a great way to showcase their efforts in a visual way.

4. Tailgate Ideas: Regardless of the sport, people tend to experience events with their close social groups. Whether they watch at home or live at the game, food and drink is a big part of the whole experience. A team can show photos of great tailgating set ups and link to recipes for games.


The Big Picture

Were you at the big game this weekend? Prove it! 

Now you can with new emerging technology powered by Replay Photos. This company, launched in 2003 as a way for athletic organizations to generate revenue using photography. Founder Sue Harnett says, “I love having the opportunity to work with athletic departments, universities and a variety of affinity groups to create fun product lines for their fans and followers while generating new and needed income sources that go back to support scholarships and programs.” The Web based company has partnered with ESPN’s College GameDay to power the Cheez-It Real Fan Cam. College GameDay, the popular Saturday morning show that films live from the site of the week’s best match-up, encourages fans to come to the taping, bring a sign, and cheer for their favorite team. People are often seen in the crowd with signs touting their Web sites or messages to their friends or family. Think the Today Show of ESPN. Replay Photos has helped those in the crowd share their message through a medium that isn’t so fleeting or temporary. The Cheez-It Real Fan Cam takes an interactive, panoramic, high-resolution photo of the crowd that is then uploaded to the College GameDay site. Once there, fans can tag themselves in the photo and post their image to Facebook or Twitter. 

Along very similar lines, Major League Baseball has provided its fans with a similar service called TagORamic. Their photos encompass the entire grandstands around the infield. People can zoom in on their sections, and tag themselves at the game. This service is sponsored by GigaPan, a service that “allows users to upload and share high resolution panoramic photos from around the globe”

I am really impressed by this technology. I remember taking panoramic pictures with my entire middle school student body where we had to sit still for 30 seconds on some rickety risers as the camera panned the group. Now that we have the technology to take these photos in just seconds, it is pretty remarkable. Part of the sport product that marketers are tasked with selling is the sense of community you feel when you associate with a team. This technology capitalizes on that feeling by allowing you to connect with other fans – tagging yourself in the same photo with thousands of other like-minded  sports fans. 

Sure this probably appeals to most fans equally, but a study by Pixable that covered over 100k Facebook users discovered that women upload at least twice as many pictures to the site. Here is just a segment of their infographic:

While this technology and interaction may appeal to both sexes, based on this information, sports marketers could leverage this as a way to connect with potential female sports fans.

Where my girls at?

Please forgive the preposition at the end of the above sentence, I’m just quoting my favorite one hit wonder 702.

For a sports team to plan their new media strategy, it is important to note how their target markets are utilizing the media in which they are planning to advertise. Typically for sports teams, that target market is males 18 to 35, but since we are on Marry Me Bradford, let’s take a look at the two big social media guys, Facebook and Twitter, and how ladies are using these outlets to connect with their favorite teams. 

So the main thing that stood out to me, is the breakdown of gender on each of the sites. In both cases, there are more women using the technology than men. I think this is particularly important to note because if teams see social media as a good way to reach their target market of men, then it should be inferred because of these figures, that it is an effective way to reach women as well. 

Another piece of information that stood out to me was the percentage of people who follow a brand on Facebook and the number who follow brands via Twitter. These two numbers are 40 percent and 25 percent, respectively. People are more apt to follow a brand on Facebook than they are on Twitter, however when you look at the percentage of people who are likely to buy the brands they are interacting with, those who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to turn to those brands when it is time to make a purchase. Although the number of people who interact with a brand via Twitter is lower than that of Facebook, the relationship that users are creating via Twitter is stronger, and results in a sale of the followed product 67 percent of the time. I do wish this graphic broke down these two metric further into who is purchasing (men or women) based on who is following what brand, but it is a good base on which executives can begin the conversation about how they want to reach out and communicate via social media.



The answers I wish I would have gotten…

As I’m flipping through my seasonal issue of The Key, my sorority’s alumni publication, looking for individual mentions of the Arkansas chapter where I was a member, I was suddenly attracted to Laura Heatherly’s bangs.

I keep reading about her and find out she has had a longstanding career in sports marketing, one in which she worked for the Rangers, the Harlem Globetrotters (yes, they are a sport too, even though they always win) and the 1984 Olympic Committee. She now works for the TJ Martell Foundation in Nashville where she is the CEO of the southern division. Way to go, sister! She must have had an amazing and fascinating career up to this point, and BONUS she was a member of the same chapter as me in Arkansas.

After I read her mini bio, I decide to reach out to her and see if she can give me some insight for this blog. It can’t hurt, right? And I’ll finally put all those sorority, networking claims to the test. It worked! I found her e-mail on the TJ Martell Web site, and sent her a brief bio about me, and a link to my blog. She agreed to help, and so I sent over a few questions to get the ball rolling, but I didn’t anticipate the answers I received back. The article in The Key said nothing about how she has been in the non-profit sector for at least 20 years and the last time she worked with a sports team was that 1984 Olympic Committee. Maybe the fact that she worked for the Globetrotters should have clued me in that I was getting insight from a woman who’s last interaction with a sports executive was right about the time I was born in 1985. I’ve included our e-mail correspondence as well as my questions, the answers I received from her and of course, the answers I wish I would have gotten (TAIWIWHG).


Thank you so much for agreeing to help. I really appreciate it, and as soon as my blog is ready to be launched (aka “turned in”) I will certainly send you a link. I have included a few questions at the end of this e-mail, you can answer all or just a few. Any help or insight you can provide is much appreciated. Let me give you a little background on the approach I am taking with my blog. It is going to be called Marry Me Bradford and it is named after an instance that happened during a St. Louis Rams pre-season game where a fan brought a sign to the game that said “Marry Me Bradford” (referring to the Rams quarterback, Sam Bradford). The Rams staff got the sign from the girl in the crowd, had Sam sign it, and gave it back to her. She started sobbing and had to leave the game. I thought it was adorable AND genius of the Rams staff to do this – it cemented her as a Rams fan for life, and it showed that teams really do care about and recognize their female fans. Which is something you typically don’t see on the surface of mens’ professional sports.

Some other things I have referenced on my blog is the WNBA (they don’t make a whole lot of money, but recognize that one of their main functions is to inspire women athletes), Rangers social media presence (TagORamic), and NFL going pink for breast cancer awareness. Here is the link to my blog. I don’t anticipate people looking at it just yet, so it is in really rough draft mode right now. Hopefully this provides some insight for you, and if you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Best regards, Mallory

What were some of your duties as a sports marketing professional?

LH – “Creating local and national promotions with various sponsorships; in store autograph sessions, setting up an entire sports radio network at Shea Stadium, marketing the 1984 Olympics across the US, developing sports radio broadcasts.”

TAIWIWHG – Actually this is a pretty good answer. I am sure that during the time she worked in the sports industry, these were some of the more creative ways to engage your fan base. However I wish she would have elaborated more on her radio network that she helped set up, because that sounds like she was part of a team that helped broadcast the game more efficiently, and to a broader audience. 

Did you use any form of social media to market sports? If not, what efforts did you participate in that could have translated well into the realm of social media today?

LH – “Social media was not available in the 80’s – the efforts back then consisted of radio promotions and direct mail.” 

TAIWIWHG – “Radio promotions that I implemented could have invited people to call in to the broadcasting location to provide insight about games or players. Now, fans can have this immediate gratification via Twitter by incorporating a hash tag or a direct message, and this communication goes directly to the broadcasters, the teams and other fans. Sometimes I even see tickers that run along the bottom of sporting events now that run approved tweets from engaged fans.”

How do you think social media could have helped you reach your audiences as a sports marketing professional?

LH – Social media can help reach various audiences, however, I still feel direct mail and radio are also an effective tool to reach certain audiences.

TAIWIWHG – This is still a pretty good answer as well, it takes all kinds of messages and media to reach your audience, but for the purposes of this blog, I just want to look at new media so I wish she would have said something along the lines of this. “Social media information could have really helped narrow the scope of my direct mail campaigns. By utilizing this information, I could have saved a lot of time and money resources by reaching out to only people who may be interested in a certain event or ticket offer.”

Can you think of any instances when social outreach did help your sports marketing efforts?

LH – Radio promotions helped to drive traffic – ticket sales

TAIWIWHG – “We would administer a radio promotion, and we would ask people to mention it when they came to purchase tickets. This way we could measure the effectiveness of our ad. I would imagine it is like putting out a promotion on Twitter that drives traffic to your Web site.”

During your time in sports marketing, how much importance was placed on reaching out to female audiences? Do you feel like it is important?

LH – Female audiences now are very important as they are the large percent of purchasers today. Back in the early 80’s women were not viewed as major sports marketing audiences.

TAIWIWHG – NONE! I like this answer, thanks Laura!

Did you participate in any notable efforts to reach out to female sports fans? If so, can you describe how they were different from reaching out to male fans?

LH – The marketing efforts were not directed to female audiences – they were directed to a more general audience.

TAIWIWHG – I guess I can’t really fault her for this one. If they weren’t advertising to women, then they weren’t advertising to women. Although I probably could have phrased it better to know what the strategy process was like in advertising to a general audience. 

In your opinion, who is doing good work reaching out through social media in the non-profit industry? How are they utilizing the media differently?

LH- The Susan G. Komen Foundation is doing an excellent job reaching out through social media. It is a tremendous organization that has expanded its brand.

TAIWIWHG – “The Susan G. Komen foundation and its umbrella of regional chapters are creating a lot of awareness for their brand and its efforts by using Twitter and Facebook to drive traffic to their Web site.”

Thank you again. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate any help you can provide.”

I do really appreciate that she took the time to help out a complete stranger, It is definitely not her fault that this technology didn’t exist when she worked in that industry. Thanks again Laura for your help.


I always forget about blogs as being a social media platform, when in reality, blogs laid the groundwork for the Web 2.0 technologies we experience today. When I worked for an interactive marketing agency in 2007, our flagship technology was the content management system that we built in to almost all of our products. It allowed companies instant control over the information they were disseminating on their site. It looked a lot like the WordPress Web based software I am using to write this post. In 2007 we were just beginning to learn about the influences blogs have over your company’s Web presence, and it was my task to examine how this revolution was taking over corporate communications. It was a lot of work during a very dynamic time in the industry. Twitter was in a fledgling state, and companies were just starting to be allowed to use Facebook to connect with fans. Companies were uncertain of these new advertising/communication platforms, but one thing we could sell them on for certain was the power of a blog. 

Blogs can provide a forum for your customers in which to reach you, they contribute to the optimized text you need for your site and as a result of these two factors they can help raise your position within search engine results pages. Of course that was the buzz back in 2007, and people still spend countless resources on discovering the best way to reach that number one position. However, I think some of the focus has shifted since I last helped sell a blog. People are more apt to engage in online conversation now with their favorite companies. It is much easier now given the advancements of tools like Facebook and Twitter because these tools make that communication more familiar. 

So what does all of this mean for professional sports? I think most of them already know the benefits of blogging. It is evident when you visit their Web sites. The Dallas Cowboys have six blogs on their site alone. This doesn’t count their Twitter and Facebook presence. Each blog represents a different aspect of the franchise – one blog is even about the new Cowboys stadium. Of course it isn’t difficult to drive traffic to these sites, since they are within the DallasCowboys.com Web site. However, it’s important to note how may people are interacting with the blog (comments) and how the Cowboys, or any sports team, are incorporating this content found on their blog in other aspects of their social media campaign, and of course, how they can leverage this to reach out to women. 

Women are more likely to make purchasing decisions based on information they find while reading blogs over other forms of social media. In 2009 a social media survey by women’s blog network, BlogHer, it is revealed that 42 million women in the United States utilize social media on a weekly basis. While social network use dominates the usage patterns, blog activity comes in a close second, with 23 million engaging in blogs at least once a week (as opposed to 31.5 million for social networks). These blogs yield the widest influence on women’s purchasing habits, and with women hold much of the purchasing power in US households, it is important to take this information and leverage it.

Perhaps sports teams can implore women bloggers to publish their experiences at games, or write about how their families come together in evens surrounding the team (watching games at home, tailgating). Of course, with all of the different social media outlets within each franchise, there are plenty of opportunities to continue reaching out to the general target market of men and women both. This way, your primary target market doesn’t feel alienated.

Sports Engagement. Say “Yes.”

I’m not talking about popping the question on the Jumbo-tron during a game (fellas take note: this is my nightmare), but a different kind of in-game engagement. I’m referring to the kind of engagement that you experience while you are watching a sporting event, whether you are at home or watching the game from the bleachers. Although, considering my blog title, and the proposal FAIL video I included, I can see how your brain might have gone there.

Back to the real topic at hand — when you have a product that is essentially similar to your other competitors, as is the case with sports, what other unique selling propositions or experiences can you offer your fans who are coming to the game? Often these fans are coming from long distances as well, so you really want to make it worth their trip – especially if your team loses that particular game (I’m looking at you, Dallas Cowboys. I’ll never forget the ONLY game I have been able to afford to go to that you lost.) In the sports industry, where most aspects of your product are variable, it is essential to find an area that you can control, and many teams look to customer engagement to get a handle on the product they are distributing.

Sticking with the hockey theme I have going in this post, the National Hockey League (NHL) engaged their at-home audience for 2011 NHL All Star Game utilizing Twitter. Like many events, it started with a hash tag (#NHLAllStar) that was advertised at the game and on the televised event, then NHL executives began posting questions pertaining to the sport. Fans could tweet their answers at NHL, and a winner was randomly selected from the correct responses. The All Star Game itself was not promoted on Twitter, but the trivia game that emanated from the on-ice events gave the league more free exposure to Twitter users, as well as enhanced the at-home watching experience for hockey fans. Naturally, I am sure it kept viewers’ televisions on the game, rather than flipping back and forth between other shows. I would imagine that is a pretty big goal of the NHL, given that their games are low-scoring, and could be considered by some as “boring.” (I won’t say that here, at the risk of being ousted from a Dallas Stars/Anaheim Ducks loving family) NHL also used this Twitter tactic during the Winter Classic, a hockey game played on a rink created by freezing over a football field, to create buzz surrounding the event, and the hash tag #WinterClassic became a trending topic on New Year’s Day in 2009 and again in 2010. 

How can the NHL take the successes they have had reaching out to fans in general using Twitter, and leverage them to reach out to women? How can they get Melissa to like hockey so much that she is overcome by the grand gesture of her boyfriend’s proposal that she can only say yes to a lifetime of New York Rangers games together? According to a recent report by Bain & Company, people who engage with brands via social media demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to those brands. They also spend anywhere from 20 to 40 percent more money on products or services associated with that brand. Maybe a hash tag trending topic that encouraged women to say what they like about the sport, or even a contest to submit a photo from your watch party. Sports teams can even leverage this media to arrange a meet up for their fans. 

Fun fact! This past summer, I operated the video scoreboard for a minor league team in Fort Worth. During the game, a man wanted to propose to his girlfriend whose grandfather played for the team. He contacted me to make the images that went up during that time, but I was so embarrassed by the whole situation and nervous that I would screw it up, I had to make our media guy cue up the slides during the proposal. Although I am sure it was special to her, I would have been so embarrassed, and so I couldn’t watch it happen. It was like watching a nerd ask the head cheerleader to prom, and she says yes because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings in front of all his friends. No, I’m sure it wasn’t like that in real life at all, and coincidentally, her name was Melissa too.

2011 ALCS Social Mixer

During a rain-delayed game in the American League Championship Series, the game producers ran out of footage to play during the break. As a result, this footage was dug up of Rangers pitcher, the eligible CJ Wilson. Ladies listen up…

I love this video for many reasons. It’s adorable! In the spirit of full disclosure, baseball makes me cry happy tears because sometimes the players are just. so. precious. I feel like they are realizing their childhood dream of playing in the major leagues, and it just very satisfying to see that. Plus I have an emotional attachment to the sport, since I grew up watching the Rangers and I have a lot of memories that revolve around the team and the stadium. This video just seems like such a “real” glimpse into these players lives. I think the reason fans like to see things like this video is because it reminds us that these players are still real people who just have cool jobs. I also like this video because it ties in nicely to this blog. I’d love it if there were more of these videos online. So often in sports you only get to see the facts about these players – age, height, weight, stats, hometown, but this “online dating profile” video lets you in on so much more. 

The key to social media is being a completely transparent company, and providing your customers with inside information they can’t get from typical marketing measures. So why should sports teams limit the transparency to their front office operations? Posting more of these player “dating profile” videos online can help fans create more of a meaningful connection with your team. Through the use of a special section on Web sites, a YouTube channel, or even a weekly “get to know your Rangers” segment on Twitter or Facebook, fans can pick out their favorite players based on factors other than how they are performing on the field. Of course all videos don’t have to be in this same “dating profile” format, in fact, I think the married players might not be psyched to submit one, and while this format appeals to the single ladies, you can’t neglect the bulk of your target market which is still men. 

It is good filler footage for television, and if it is incorporated with the team’s Web site, it can provide more in depth interaction between the site and fans.

WNBA — It’s Not ALL About The Benjamins

2010 WNBA Champs, Phoenix Mercury, being honored at the White House

It’s about the Benjamin-inas! Or whatever the female counterpoint is of Benjamin…

The WNBA, or Women’s National Basketball Association, isn’t the first league that one thinks of when you bring up financial sports juggernauts. Most people would even go as far as to falsely categorize the Lynx, Mystic or Shock as early 90’s American Gladiators rather than professional basketball teams. I actually think some of the names overlap. 

The WNBA doesn’t have a big television deal, or merchandise sold in sporting goods stores yet the league remains in business year after year, despite less than stellar profit margins. In fact, the NBA pays the WNBA upwards of 10 million dollars yearly in “bailout” money just to keep the teams in operation. This has been going on for the past 15 years, since the league’s inception. Though the ratings for WNBA are higher than those of major league soccer or cable hockey programming, the games still aren’t a big draw for network executives. “If you think this is going to be the NBA or get men’s college basketball ratings or baseball ratings, that’s not going to happen, but it’s a good niche and it has to be done on a realistic scale,” Len DeLuca of ESPN said of what television executives should expect of the fledgling league. 

Ten of the 15 WNBA teams are owned in partnership with male counterpoints, and it is often a mutually beneficial relationship. It is worth it for many of these successful NBA teams to invest the money in the WNBA since it is a breeding ground for young, female basketball fans that can be transitioned into fans of their benefactor teams. David Stern, NBA commissioner lists other reasons for the WNBA to stay in existence: keeping some type of basketball games played in NBA arenas during the summer time, additional basketball programming in local markets and the appeal of goodwill ambassadors for sports fans of all genders. When you look at the WNBA from this perspective, you can almost view it as the most elaborate selling tool geared towards women in the sports industry as a whole. It welcomes young female basketball fans and introduces them to the sports experience in a more welcoming environment. It is a highly experiential approach by the NBA to welcome a whole new fan base. 

Team owners who are not affiliated with a professional NBA team are understandably feeling the pressures associated with owning a struggling business in hard economic times. Sheila Johnson, President, managing partner and governor of the Washington Mystics is also a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television and is looking for ways to combat they yearly loss of anywhere from 300-400k. Independent owners like Johnson, as well as NBA owners recognize the challenge of staying financially sound while also providing inspiration for female athletes. Luckily Johnson still feels blessed to own her own WNBA franchise.

NFL Pink Project

Pink isn’t for boys, or is it? Personally, I think it is adorable when guys wear pink. Then, when really strong men wear really hot pink, on the football field, and for a good cause, it is extra appealing. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and lots of organizations are doing their part to contribute to fighting this widespread disease, even the manliest of organizations, the National Football League.

As part of the “Crucial Catch” Campaign, NFL promotes breast cancer awareness by encouraging women to “catch” signs of breast cancer by scheduling mammograms before anomalies can manifest into something more dangerous. The message is the same as most you will see this month by other organizations. Not only is the NFL recognizing the need for awareness, but they are also promoting limited edition merchandise sales with proceeds going to fund research. 

The NFL, its clubs, players and the NFL Players Association are proud to support the fight against breast cancer. Our campaign, “A Crucial Catch”, in partnership with the American Cancer Society, is focused on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are 40 and older. Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel, on-field pink ribbon stencils, special game balls and pink coins – all to help raise awareness for this important campaign. All apparel worn at games by players and coaches, along with special game balls and pink coins will be auctioned off at NFL Auction (www.NFL.com/auction), with proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society and team charities. This is an issue that has directly touched the lives of so many in the NFL family, and we are committed to helping make a difference in breast cancer prevention.

You can find this same practice across other sports organizations. For example, the NHL supplied hit pink hockey sticks to their players, and then auctioned them off. Even the minor league team I worked for in Fort Worth took part in a similar campaign, we had pink jerseys and painted our bases pink for one game where we partnered with our local Susan G. Komen chapter. This may not be considered a new way to reach out to female fans since it has been done for several years now, but there are still innovative forms of communication being utilized. All of the on field promotions, televised advertisements and commentary direct female fans to the NFL Pink microsite that encourages men and women to bid on the game-worn merchandise, schedule a mammogram (probably just the women on this one) or buy other branded pink gear. Teams are even incorporating the pink theme into their social media presence, for example, the Dallas Cowboys changed their typically blue motif to pink for the entire month of October.

Generally, I am not really a fan of using the whole “breast cancer awareness” premise to sell tickets or merchandise because I think some uses are a cheap way to bolster sales. But in this instance I think it is pretty amazing. With the widespread reach of the NFL and the fanaticism that surrounds the individual teams, the ticket and merchandise sales are already there, so why not use it as a platform to help out such an important organization? Plus, the NFL is not only acknowledging their female demographic, but also showing support for these women and families who have been affected by breast cancer. Furthermore, women and men alike get to purchase some pretty sweet limited edition hot pink merchandise.

Ladies who Lunch…er…Tailgate!

Vera Bradley is an American luggage company unique because of its super-feminine cotton prints in a classic luggage design. It has been popular among women since the company’s inception in the early 1980s, and their seasonal release of new patterns and styles garners plenty of excitement from their everyday target market. Their advertising, while geared toward women, wasn’t reaching a certain group – the college-aged female. In order to reach out to this group, Vera Bradley contacted  an experiential marketing company to create a new kind of campus experience for high school and college women. The program, called Vera Bradley Spirit Squad, encourages women to sign up at the retail level, after which, they will be invited to an on campus hospitality event – in the case of UT, a tailgate party – where the girls who signed up at the store can collect a Vera Bradley gift, and new girls who attend the tailgate can sign up to be included on the guest list for the rest of the events. These Spirit Squad events happen in cities all over the nation, but not all of them are so centralized around a sporting event.  

Conveniently located near the Advertising Graduate Council tailgate party, the Vera Bradley Spirit Squad tent gained a lot of well-analyzed attention from more than a few interested advertising students, including myself. The free food, drinks and face painting attracted both men and women, and most of the women in attendance took the opportunity to sign up with the Spirit Squad, guaranteeing themselves inside information on the next event, and above all a Vera Bradley gift. Even as I approached the tailgate event, several girls who had signed up before hand were selecting their gift from a basket of wallets, umbrellas and flip flops – all in featured Vera Bradley fall prints. 

Inside the tent, Vera Bradley offered Longhorn fans appetizers served by a rotating wait staff, sangria and lemonade, and even the opportunity to show their school spirit by getting a glittery Longhorn tattoo. Tables were decorated with flowers and signature Vera Bradley cotton fabric. It was certainly not your typical tailgate party, and read like more of an outdoor wedding than a raucous tailgate party (which was happening at the Ad Grad tent only steps away). Even when fans made it into the stadium, the Vera Bradley message carried over into a message on the video scoreboard. 

I spoke to one of the guys who looked like he was in charge, and he gave me the scoop on what they were doing. The Vera Bradley company wanted to create a way to reach out to college and high school aged women who weren’t necessarily shopping at their stores, so his agency took the concept of the Spirit Squad and created this experiential campaign. Its goals are brand awareness (video scoreboard ads) and driving traffic to the local Vera Bradley store, not just the vendor store (in our case, the closest location is the San Marcos store). If the number of people who took advantage of the free food and drink was any indicator of success, I’d say the day went well for Vera Bradley. People were coming and going from the tent up until game time. 

Sporting events are typically sponsored by grill seasoning companies, soft drink companies or banking services. It is rare to see a company geared toward women providing a new and different kind of game experience for women fans…although I am pretty sure some of the guys had a good time with it too.