local media insider

Ten tips for monetizing football contests

Which sponsors to approach, what to offer and how to present it

Alisa Cromer

Several of the ten top football contests produced on Second Street Media's platform generate top dollars from sponsors. However, generating $45,000 to $100,000 from a contest is not as  easy as it looks in a case study! The devil is in the details, and these kinds of numbers are usually at least second year. Use these tips  to focus in on details that make contests a success. 

1. Fully integrate online and offline media assets

Leverage the strengths of your medium both to promote the contest and command more dollars from advertisers. This includes onine, offline, e-mail and mobile.

In creating the contest, broadcast and print have unique advantages; broadcast provides an opportunity to integrate with sportscasts and morning talk shows, while print can “publish” sponsors mug shots, or include a competition with a popular columnist. 

Sponsorship packages gain the most revenues when they include additional, similarily branded, off-line promotions. An example is running a promotion about a high-school football sponsors on the prime Sunday-night game, or publishing sponsor-branded results in the sports section.

2. Create big, splashy online sponsorship positions (including e-mail)
Banner ads should look wimpy in comparison. In our list of  Ten Top  Football contests, we noticed how many high end sponsorships included more billboard style ads.   Even the local air conditioning company that sponsored Silly Underdogs had a huge - ie bigger than leaderboard-ad unit, with the owner's Friendly-Uncle-Style-Photo mug on it. You can not miss him (below).  Prize sponsors get even more: Here are three examples, please note that all 12 sponsors on the Wichita site share the billboard, and note the extra "bonus question for a Poppa John's pizza."

The contest above with prize sponsor Buffalo Wild Wings tapped into the sponsor's long standing tie-ins with football - it runs it's own national contest and this year campaigned to end the NFL strike by posting a petition on its Facebook page. The extra-big promotion on sipicks.com secured them as the local prize sponsor. 

3. Include full color mock-ups (including e-mail) in promotional materials

Witchita Eagle's $100,000 contest  success includes a polished muti-page "Playbook" package for presentation to sponsors - and sales reps - including mock-ups of a double-truck ad with the sizes inlaid, and several pages for bullet point and pricing. 

When lean organizations send reps into the field  without these visual mock-ups and a well-ordered presentation, they are leaving  money on the table. 

5. Adopt a sponsorship model suited to your market's advertising base

Finding the right sponsorship structure is tricky.

In general, in markets where large advertisers are  available - and demanding it - one or two major sponsorships are an option, such as "title" and "prize" sponsorships which can be exclusive. 

However in smaller markets, one or two major sponsors is not always the solution. 

The multiple sponsor/multiple week/multiple media model has yielded the highest revenues we've seen, at the Witchita Eagle had 12 sponsors who paid $250 to $500 weekly for 22 weeks, and shared the "billboard" at the top of the contest's promotional space. First year, 2009, billed $89,000 and second year, 2010, achieved $100,000 in sponsorship sales.

Letting the advertisers play in the contest and publishing their scores also helped make this broader model work by giving merchants added community celebrity status.  Making multiple sponsorships exclusive by category adds security and prestige to the buy. 

One way to size-up your market is to make a hit list of merchants, and call on the largest ones first, and get a general feel. 

6. Best categories are auto, fast food and beer

We made a list of sponsors from Second Street's partners around the country:

Pappa John's is one of the most aggressive marketers looking to build it's own data lists and seems to pop-up on a lot of contests. Do you know the regional
contact in your market? Other fast and semi-fast food partners include Dairy Queen who developed a text-back campaign around high school sports, Wendy's, Hero's Pizza, PopEyes and Buffalo Wild Wings. Get to know the marketing manager for your city or region. 

Auto dealers also love local football sponsorships. Dealerships we've seen sponsoring these around the country include Honda, Toyota, Suzuki and Chevrolet as well as pre-owned lots, but your list really includes any dealer with whom you have a relationship. 

Beer sponsors we've seen stepping up to football contests in include both Budlight and Miller Light, and Pepsi has shown up as a title sponsor in one market. 

Sports stores and sports bars
also like football contests. If you have a weekly contest, you may allow sports bars to buy the weekly "The party's at..." sponsorship. Several media have attracted, for the  prize sponsors, a home electronics store who gives away a flat screen television - a great tie-in with sports fans.

7. Don't be afraid to go after sponsors for  mid- or late-season contests

If your company is starting late or wants to add a contest, mid- and late- season contests have the advantage of an increasing fan base and intensity of interest. Contests around tickets to bowl games have huge turn-outs. Superbowl contests can include a number of trivia style predictions, such as how many yards, points, etc. Similarily, fan photo contests and tailgate recipe contests  all work best once the season is revved up. About five of our top ten contests can run anytime during the season. Just one example is the Journal Sentinel, which sold Budlight on a end-of season play-off contest. 

8. Partner-up

We are seeing more partnerships between print and broadcast for football contests, which require lots of promotion. 

Examples from our ten top contests list include the Wichita Eagle who cashed in $100,000, and  partnered with a morning talk show, and CityBeat, an alternative weekly in Cleveland, who is in a full partnership this year with a broadcast station. Get to know media partners in your area; however you will have more negotiating power when you have more to bring to the table in the second year of the contest.

Any number of high profile "players" vying against eachother and the public adds life to the season. 

9. Consider Second Street Media as a platform.

We saw many of LMI's members who ran contests move up to Second Street's platform with big increases in votes, traffic and revenues. A subscription from $136 a month is one of the great bargains in the media software subscription universe, and subscribers get a number of pre-loaded contests (football and more). This partner is expert at football in particular (it’s where the company got its start) and provides terrific support including the Resource Center to look for contest ideas. 

10. Start early 

This report published late - mid-August 2010. Not too late to generate new dollars for mid- and late- season contests. But the big money comes from full season contests with a full-blown sales effort such as Fox11 online's Football Challenge, which has a number of side contests and other moving parts.

So how early to start? One local media generates $42,000 from their high school football contest by starting to sell the next one  as soon as the last season ends, when sponsor can re-commit and other local companies who missed the opportunity remember seeing it. 

Don't expect to close deals until just before the season, but it's a good idea to line up your team of sponsors well in advance. 

Many thanks to July Foley and Matt Coen of Second Street for providing the case studies and webinars on media partner experiences that are the basis for this report. 

Alisa Cromer

The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and  MediaExecsTech,  developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine,  to showcases perspectives from around the  world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.

football, second street, contests, revenues