ConAgra isn’t interested in being a sponsor of a lot of big-name sporting events. In fact, the past few years have seen the company pull out of a slew of sponsorships—many of them in the motor sports category.
Why? For two reasons, says Chris Sinta, director, integrated planning and sponsorships for ConAgra, Chicago. The first was the economy. “We had to get very, very focused. There weren’t incremental dollars to spend on sports sponsorships that weren’t being [used effectively].”
Second, Sinta knew that the direction of some of the company’s branding initiatives had changed and many of its previous sponsorships “really didn’t make sense from a brand objective position anymore.”
The solution: Go deeper with properties that reach the brand’s target audience for its edible seeds. That strategy led to ConAgra’s 2009 sponsorship of Little League Baseball, which it uses to market its David Seeds brand.
The three-year deal with LLB allows ConAgra to capitalize on the “direct affinity between seeds and baseball,” says Sinta. “We know if we can get the 12- to 16-year-old boys into the franchise at an early age, they will typically stick with the brand throughout their lives.”
It’s a good approach, says Chris Caldwell, senior vice president, Velocity Sports & Entertainment, a sponsorship and event-marketing agency in Norwalk, Conn., not only because the property aligns directly with the brand’s target audience, but because smaller properties like LLB are generally more flexible when it comes to developing specific programs for sponsors. These properties are more willing to “turn themselves upside down and recreate the way they go to market to help a particular sponsor,” says Caldwell.
For ConAgra, the company is already seeing value from its partnership with LLB, and is even working with Honda, another partner of the league, on some joint marketing programs and events. In March, the company kicked off a three-city experiential mobile tour to tie in with the league’s opening day ceremonies. As part of the tour, David Seeds will travel to Scottsdale, Ariz.; San Antonio, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M., and will partner with Honda to offer fans a chance to win a 2010 Honda Odyssey. Fans will also get to test their pitching skills, try their luck in contests, and get their photos taken at the games.
By partnering on promotions, David Seeds and Honda can realize greater efficiencies, says Dede Patterson, vice president, group director, for Velocity Sports & Entertainment. “We are seeing a trend toward greater collaboration between different groups on these types of events.”
“Obviously our main objective is to drive sales,” says Sinta. “We know that by engaging the kids at a young age, we are driving loyalty to the brand.”