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.