Welcome to another edition of Inside the SportsBiz Studio! This is my version of Inside the Actor’s Studio where I will feature a Q&A with another sports business professional willing to share insights from their career and opinions about the state of the industry. Just like the TV show, there will be some common questions that everyone answers as well as questions tailored to each individual’s background in the industry.
Our next guest is J.W. Cannon, Senior Project Lead – Sponsorships and Events for UPS.
What was your first #sportsbiz job?
I sold sponsorships for the Georgia State Games, one of the largest state games organizations in the country.
What was one lesson from that first job you still carry with you today?
The basic elements of sales apply, no matter what you’re selling – a sponsorship, a TV ad or a fork. It’s still about assessing what you have to offer, assessing what others need and trying to find ways to marry the two.
Who was a key mentor for you and how did they help?
One of my first bosses on the agency side, Mark Crepeau. He helped me transition from thinking more tactically to solve problems to thinking more strategically. He made me put myself not just in the eyes of my customer or client, but also my customer’s customer for the first time.
What sports brand or organization do you hold in the highest regard and why?
From a property side, WWE. I’ve always admired their ability to evolve their product over time and their agility in incorporating new and changing technologies. They also recognize that their fans are the “secret sauce” to their product and have mastered the art of engaging them (and ultimately getting them to buy stuff, as a result). From a business side, it’s easy to say Nike, Red Bull or another high-profile consumer brand because they produce awesome content. But I’m going to go with SAP and IBM. I’ve always admired how they leverage sponsorships by weaving their way into the conversation and showcasing their expertise, products and technology in a relevant, meaningful and authentic way.
What is one industry trend you are closely monitoring over the next 12 months?
The continuing “cord-cutting” trend and the shift to digital consumption is something all of us need to be watching. It’s a game changer for the industry, no matter what role you are in.
What one professional accomplishment are you most proud of today?
It was fun to be a part of the team that helped start The Home Depot’s sponsorship of ESPN College Gameday. I don’t think any of us realized that we were at the forefront of something that would build and maintain such a cult-like following while also changing how media sponsorships were bought and sold.
What are your favorite measures of sponsorship effectiveness and why?
There’s only one measure I care about: ROO. What did you set out to accomplish? Did you put controls in place to measure your success? Did you achieve it…why or why not?
What is one big mistake that you see the most people make when pitching a sponsorship?
They have no clue what the company is trying to accomplish, or who that company’s target is. Doesn’t take but a little bit of research.
Should partners have a bigger voice at the table when it comes to the overall fan experience? Why or why not?
Isn’t that the reason brands sponsor? To connect with fans? Plus, teams themselves don’t have the scale to do it completely on their own. They need good partners. Key is to find a way for brands to be a part of that experience that adds value to the fan without being disruptive. That’s not always easy to do.
How much has the explosion of social media changed the approach to buying/selling corporate partnerships?
It’s certainly created another potential revenue stream, but it’s not as simple as buying/selling two Facebook posts, a YouTube video, etc. Engagement with social media requires some nuance because there are a lot of dependencies and it’s not effective to be used for straight advertisement. It requires both sides to come together and map out the best solution for that point in time. You’re not likely to accomplish that with an asset sheet with a fixed number of posts.
You can connect with J.W. on Twitter at @cannonjw and most Sunday evenings during the weekly #SBChat.