Rosemont, Ill. — Campaigns linked to the National Football League, with its continental reach and fanatical following, can prove extremely effective, but the awareness and loyalty of an NFL association comes at a significant price and budgets often don’t allow for it – especially when working with regional retail players.
Procter & Gamble has been winning in this manner by engaging shoppers at grocery on a market-by-market basis, developing customized in-store and digital solutions that leverage individual teams and players rather than the league as a whole, which is both more economical and more targeted to fans’ true loyalties.
“Today is not about spending big dollars on big partnerships with big sales,” said P&G’s Carrie Birth-Davis, brand manager, North America, regional grocery, during a Path to Purchase Expo presentation in September. “It’s about the thousands of doors of regional groceries with tiny budgets but huge challenges.”
The NFL not only has a large, passionate fan base, but it’s a very diverse group, including about 60% of women and 60% of the growing Hispanic market, according to Katey Rybski, director of business leadership at Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide, which regularly partners with P&G. “It’s kind of everybody. It transcends every income bracket, every age, every race. But if we’re trying to talk to everyone, we’re kind of talking to no one.”
So P&G and Blue Chip drilled down into particular demographics in specific locations, with the goal of not only reaching shoppers but also building baskets and creating scale programs with templates that could be executed at any retailer, Rybski said. “People are not fans of the NFL, they’re fans of the local team,” she said. “What inspires fans? It’s what’s going on in their community, conversations they’re having with their friends about their local teams.”
Local retailers are already part of the community, Rybski said. “We knew we could bring a localized story to shelf in their stores in a way national retailers can’t,” she said. Given that more than half of NFL “super-fans” already use P&G products, “We realized we could change their behavior if we could make that connection.”
Team-based campaigns can include everything from signage to circulars to social media, Birth-Davis said. “It’s taking the culture of the team, literally the players on the field,” she said. “They’ve got a customized item they can’t find anywhere else.”
For example, to target Hispanic shoppers in the Los Angeles region, P&G undertook research that highlighted the importance of family and togetherness around the holidays and football. The campaign centered around an offer of a Los Angeles Rams Christmas ornament if a shopper bought a certain threshold of basket size. It also included radio ads, bus stop signage as well as endcap and in-aisle displays.
With sales increases of up to 600% at the retailers involved, P&G grew its overall sales among Hispanic shoppers in Southern California by 2%. “That’s a huge jump among a base [that size],” Birth-Davis said. “[The success] shows the value of getting into a shopper’s mindset, with the insights about family, and delivering against it.”
P&G also targeted a regional chain in the New York City tri-state area called Key Foods, which has about 200 stores, with a campaign tied to the NFL’s Giants and Jets, building off the local reality that any given shopper’s brother, cousin or best friend might be a fan of the other team. “New York football fans are kind of their own breed,” Rybski said.
Two seasons ago, when the campaign was activated, the Jets and Giants played each other late in the season, so P&G activated a season-long execution with Prince Amukamara and Eric Decker, recognizable players then for the Giants and Jets, respectively. The players kept sending “burn” tweets back and forth to build up the sense of rivalry with Key Foods hashtags, which gave the grocer the opportunity to retweet.
To keep costs down, the campaign did not specifically reference the NFL or either team, and in the associated visuals, the two players did not appear in uniform, Rybski said. “This felt like a Key Foods promotion, but it’s something they probably could never have done on their own,” she said.
Since “player endorsements cost a fortune,” Rybski added, neither player specifically endorsed Febreze or Old Spice or Bounty. They were just pictured in front of shelf sets containing those products. “This was a really deliberate, creative workaround to be able to execute an endorsement, but at a much lower cost,” she said. “It was an amazing NFL execution, and it was never an NFL execution.”
Over the course of the season, the campaign garnered 250 million total impressions and 4 million video views for a local retailer, which, Rybski noted, “is insane.”
“Treat each game with its own playbook,” Birth-Davis said. “You wouldn’t use the Walmart playbook to win at Albertsons. And you can make your dollars go really far.”