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Putting Points on the Board

As we slowly move from summer into fall, the changing of the seasons means many things; leaves changing colors, apple picking season, new TV shows, 2010 planning, and FANTASY FOOTBALL SEASON IS BACK BABY!! This is the year I will completely dominate my league in a flurry of trash talk and virtual high stepping as I mock and embarrass any team that is pitted against WWDD (What Would Ditka Do?). I spent hours upon hours researching who the 3rd string running back for the Cleveland Browns is in preparation for a 4 hour live draft, and track injury reports weekly to see if Anquan Boldin's hamstring is feeling any better today. Why do I do this? Well, if I win, I receive a bobblehead doll that is likely valued at about .73 cents, of course! At least I know I'm not alone in my ridiculous pursuit of Fantasy Football greatness. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association there are approximately 27 to 40MM people in the US playing fantasy sports. And Fantasy Football is big business ' with an economic impact of approximately $1 to $2 billion annually. There's even a TV show launching on FX this Fall called 'The League'?, which is centered entirely around Fantasy Football. So, as marketers, what can we learn from people who spend huge amounts of time pretending to be a General Manager of a pretend football franchise? Outside of starting up a fantasy office pool (with the first pick I'll take Jim in Accounting, lots of upside there, knows excel very well, punctual to meetings and can type 80 wpm) there is a simple and intuitive strategy built into the fantasy football machine that can translate to any business ' when you create an experience that is personal and relevant to consumers, they will come. Ok, I know that's a baseball analogy ' but as an example I (or most of the football loving population for that matter) would never in the past have cared about a Tampa Bay vs. Cincinnati game, but now that I have Cadillac Williams and Chad Ochocinco on my fantasy team AND I'm playing for a .73 trophy, I can't help but watch. It has fundamentally changed the way fans interact with the NFL product as not just one game every week matters ' every game now matters. We executed a campaign to drive viewership for the NBC Olympics built from a similar strategy. How do you get 18-34 year olds to tune into sports they never played growing up, with limited awareness, that aren't the core four (baseball, hockey, football, basketball)? We made the experience relevant to consumers by focusing on the athlete's lifestyle interests rather than the Games themselves. As an example, many consumers are unfamiliar with the sport of shot putting, and it's a sport without a large audience. Our goal was to leverage USA Shot Putter Reese Hoffa's personal story and hobbies as a way to get people interested in him and follow his journey to and through the Games. As it turns out Reese is an avid gamer, so we created customized angles to reflect his life beyond his sport, and he was pitched and placed on a variety of Gaming outlets including Kotaku.com and Wired.com. We did this for many of the athletes across many lifestyle channels (surfing, being a pet owner, playing poker, being in a band, and more) as well as personal backgrounds (ethnic heritage, relationship with parents, being a parent and unique tales of overcoming the odds) and in the process helped drive record viewership for the Games. So as we head into the 4th quarter, if you're looking for ways to put points on the board with your consumers, consider creating experiences for them, which they can relate to on a personal level, and will become part of their life experiences.

Buy or Cell?

Imagine a world without wallets, money, cashiers, or anything else slowing you down from buying stuff (read in summer blockbuster movie trailer voice for full dramatic impact). Instead of greenbacks, duckets, dolla dolla bills, wampum, cash money, or your monetary expression of choice, all you will need to pay for your stuff will be your cell phone. I'm not making this up ' this is not part of a futuristic Hollywood screenplay where Bruce Willis saves the economy and the world with his cell phone, although that would be AWESOME. Someone somewhere please make this happen. The reality is that with a growing emphasis from brand marketers on shopper marketing tactics, the increasing number of consumers with smart phones (roughly 15% of the cell phone population), and the rise in mobile online shopping in its current format, this day could actually be coming to a store, or theater, near you sooner than you think. The big picture idea here is that brands will be able to serve you offers directly to your phone via in-store signage using a technology called Near Field Communication, and customize the offers based on your past purchasing history, as well as your location in the store. When you go to purchase the product(s) you will be able to hold your phone up to a scanner at the register to both redeem the branded value offers, as well as pay for your products. Pretty Jetson. And perfect for a generation that has never clipped a coupon. There are a myriad of things currently happening in the mobile retail space that seem to indicate we could see this in the next few years. The first is the advancement of mobile couponing. A recent study by Juniper Research suggests that by 2013 over 200 million consumers will receive and redeem coupons via their cell phones worldwide. Retailers like Kroger and Stop & Shop have tested in store mobile couponing models, and now ShopRite in conjunction with Unilever are jumping into a test program as well. The second big evolution is the growing market of mobile shopping. According to a recent Nielsen Mobile poll, approximately 9 million US mobile phone subscribers reported using their handsets to pay for goods or services. Victoria's Secret is the latest brand to launch a mobile e-commerce site that enables people to 'get sexy anywhere'?. I guess you never know where or when you need to get sexy, so it seems like a smart, sexy idea. And I know about this only because of all the press they've received, I SWEAR. So the natural evolution of mobile shopping would be paying at retail with your phone. Consumers are already somewhat pre-accustomed to this behavior pattern with the prominence of Speed Pass for gas/convenience stores, and a number of different transit passes, such as EZ Pass, providing contactless payment. Security will certainly be a big hurdle to clear, but consumers eventually got over their fear of ordering stuff online, so I would imagine with some time, great marketing, and maybe Bruce Willis it could happen.

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