CommentaryJan 31st, 2020

Professional Athletes Score Big Wins: At Surprisingly Modest Costs


I’m out having lunch with a friend when an ad comes on featuring Seattle Wide Receiver Tyler Lockett for local dealer Auburn Volkswagen. My friend turns to me and says ‘How in the world did you guys get him to do that? It must have cost a fortune!”. Surprisingly, the answer is ”it wasn’t that hard and (don’t tell anyone) it cost a lot less than you think.”

Done right. featuring a Professional Athlete adds significant value to your dealership marketing investment. In addition to generating attention and distinguishing your store from the competition, it also creates significant benefits to your local community in ways you may have not considered.

The business side of the transaction is relatively straightforward. Depending on the exact laws where you’re located, find the best way to provide a vehicle for the Athlete(s) to drive during their season. In return the Athlete(s) agree to make themselves available to help a non-profit you mutually agree to support.

But instead of an appearance or just making some ads, the key is to think differently. For example, client Auburn Volkwagen annually hosts a ticketed dinner at the dealership. It's promoted using social media, tickets are $100 each, and the event sells out. Doing it this way gives those in attendance a much higher level of engagement with the Athletes (there were three at the event this year) and guarantees a minimum dollar value the non-profits will receive. You can also add elements like a silent auction where items such as autographed footballs and other items are available.

Next, ask the Athletes to do a video for the non-profit to use in their fundraising and volunteer efforts. The non-profit gets this video courtesy of your dealership at no cost to them, and while you should include your dealership logo or a brief thank you, it’s important to remember this is video is about the non-profit, not YOU. The value received is in the form of your association and exposure on the social media and distribution channels of the non-profit, and the high level of engagement they provide.

The Athlete(s) may also be willing to go to add events on behalf of the non-profit. As the host, the dealership typically has the opportunity to attend and even speak at these events providing additional one-on-one exposure. Often, these events can also be filmed and tagged with your dealership information and shared as well.

At the same time you are filming for the non-profit, ask the Athletes to say a few lines about your dealership and what you're doing in the community or what they appreciate about you.

In the case of Auburn Volkswagen, this program has truly been a win-win-win. The Athlete gets a car to drive, but more importantly they - and the dealership - get to truly bless the community. The non-profit receives needed support, and the dealership sees customers who choose to do business with them because of who they are and what they stand for. Some important things to note, unless you have specific written permission, do NOT mention the name of the sports team - instead, use a generic city description (Seattle’s Football Team), refer only to the Athletes names and positions they play on the team, never show them in team jerseys, and be sure not to include interior or exterior shots of the stadium, signage or other recognizable elements.

Ed Steenman is the owner of Steenman Associates, which provides traditional and digital media services to automotive dealerships and dealer groups nationally.

An internationally recognized writer and presenter, Ed specializes in media planning-buying and a Video OTT and has more than thirty years of experience providing traditional and digital media services to the automotive industry.

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