How an NBA team used email signatures to hold onto a sponsor

Creative use of employee email by the basketball team helped convince a major sponsor to renew for another year.

Basketball team the Indiana Pacers put a clickable banner in employees' email signature lines, a strategy that helped convince supermarket chain Kroger to renew its opening night support by providing concrete results that underscored the value of its sponsorship. 

While email is most commonly utilized for providing information, sending promotional offers or conducting transactions, it can also be used more creatively to achieve specific marketing goals. For National Basketball Association teams like the Indiana Pacers, sponsorship sales can be a challenge because they are typically selling a “vision," meaning benefits for the sponsoring brand are ambiguous and intangible. To put numbers behind the value of such partnerships for its current sponsor, Kroger, the Pacers used employee email signatures to get the Kroger name in front of a large audience.

“We were able to show Kroger the exact number of impressions on each email, and to use this in tandem with the numerous other places we were highlighting their game night sponsorship,” said Michael Lake, Pacer's Corporate Partnership Sales Director, about the campaign.

Putting the plan into action

The Pacers had already been using email signature marketing to promote ticket sales for almost a year, and Lake thought the tactic could create new value for corporate sponsors like Kroger by getting the brand in front of a wide audience with a direct tie-in to the team on a corporate level. The actual nuts-and-bolts of the effort were handled by Sigstr, an email marketing firm.  

“Employees at any given company send, on average, around 10,000 emails a year," said David Duke, VP of Customer Success at Sigstr. "That’s 2 million 1:1 human emails for a company of 200. Michael knew this was an audience hand-picked by his team, and included his important contacts and stakeholders.”

Duke added that the approach supported the Pacers’ individualized approach with its sponsor partners that includes offering them “hyper-customized plans that don’t hinge on the team’s performance, but rather measure the sponsor’s impact with concrete metrics.”

The campaign itself involved putting opening night game sponsor Kroger into a clickable call-to-action banner within the employee signature for 175 Pacers’ employees promoting the October tip-off. 

The exposure resulted in 53,000 views and 228 clicks, data the Pacers shared with Kroger as tangible results of its opening night sponsorship. After receiving these KPIs immediately following the campaign, Kroger signed an agreement to retain opening night sponsorship for the 2017-2018 season.

Lessons learned

The Pacers are already looking into ways to leverage email signature marketing as a way to promote other initiatives such as individual and group tickets, season tickets, promotional event and team-branded apps across the different Pacers Sports & Entertainment brand audiences.

Email is one of the more traditional digital marketing channels. Email strategies have long moved past simple “batch-and-blast” campaigns, and the channel has been one of the key beneficiaries of marketing technology as well as being a testing ground for now common digital marketing activities such as data collection, audience segmentation and targeting as well as personalization. And email remains a major component of multi-channel marketing programs.

The Pacers example illustrates how an old workhorse like email can still offer flexibility for creative marketers who can look beyond the obvious uses of email and take advantage of the channel in unexpected ways.

“The Pacers were able to add this new digital channel to their corporate partnership strategy and prove the value with tangible metrics,” Duke stated. “The same approach can apply to your most important marketing initiatives, whether that be event attendees, webinar registrations or e-book downloads. Add this new channel to your digital marketing toolbox and use a platform to measure the results. Track views, clicks, click-through rates, and even conversions, and compare these results with your activities or channels.”

Filed Under: Campaigns Mobile marketing trends
Top image credit: Twitter Indiana Pacers