Camp professionals can learn much from this year's Super Bowl XXXIV but not necessarily about the sports skills or the sportsmanship. There was far more to analyze in the strategies, the playmaking, and the utilization of resources — not among the coaches and the players but among the advertisers.
Let's explore some observations that have relevance to camp marketing.
Marketing Is Still Valuable
#1: The marketplace is not becoming numb to marketing overall, and marketing efforts are not losing their value.
Superbowl XXXIV attracted more viewers than its predecessor did a year earlier — and achieved this in a year when neither team was from one of the nation's largest cities. Why the still-growing audience? Several marketing experts claim that heightened interest in the commercials themselves — rather than the usually-ho-hum game — is continuing to build the annual audiences for the spectacle. In short, whether you like it or not, advertising has not gone out of style.
Take Time to Craft Your Message
#2: Many of the high-stakes advertisers were neophytes who plunged in ill-prepared — and executed belly flops.
A bevy of brand-new advertisers, principally dot-coms that thought the name of the game was to attract attention by any means whatsoever, bought airtime. They had the part about attracting attention right, but then too many rushed into the creative process carelessly. They failed to go for attention that was relevant to the product and, thus, would lead viewers to form a relationship between the message and the sponsor.
Build Name Recognition
#3: Too many of these new advertisers came out of nowhere, planted a single message, and expected to walk away with significant returns on their multimillion-dollar investment.
In an Adweek survey, 13.1 percent of viewers remembered no dot-com commercials whatsoever. The only two e-commerce advertisers that registered significant recall were E-Trade and Pets.com. There is value in continuity. Pets.com scored highly, not merely because its sock puppet spokes-thing is clever, but because its message had been seen before. Theirs was indeed a new commercial but it capitalized on previously built impressions of an ongoing campaign. Instead of doing something brand new simply because this was the Super Bowl, Pets.com took its property and simply took it to a higher level. It worked.
Appeal to a Broad Audience
#4: As a total group, Super Bowl advertisers recognized that the audience is larger than just men and, for the first time, some bought time to appeal primarily to women.
It's not a simple market out there. Both men and women watch the Super Bowl. Thus, Tropicana, Bud Light, and Oxygen Media bought in where they have not previously. Even though viewers may be gorging on six-foot submarine sandwiches, nachos, and beer, they have feelings, too. Thus, viewers saw public service announcements from the U.S. Census and the National Heart Savers Association.
What Can Camp Professionals Learn from This?
Taking Time to Craft the Message
It seemed like many of the Super Bowl advertisers, save for the old pros like Budweiser, may have given little more direction to their advertising agencies than "Quick, go make a commercial for the game." The parallel here is the camp director who hires a photographer, videographer, or Web designer and says, "Go capture images of the camp" or "OK, get a site up as fast as you can." The key to good results is careful strategizing. You want more than clear, colorful photos; you want meaningful photos. You want more than a Web site; you want a browsing experience that will distinguish your camp's Web site from other camp's and other Web surfing experiences.
At the ACA National Conference in Albuquerque, one seminar attendee claimed that he just couldn't get his mind wrapped around marketing and that he needed a little motivation. He was advised to adopt a new and perhaps self-centered attitude toward marketing: After you have tackled programming, staffing, maintenance, upgrades, risk management, training, and orientation, your marketing program is your opportunity to show off. It is your way to say, "Hey, look what I've done!" The by-product of this proud display, of course, is new campers.
Steve Cony is a marketing consultant who assists children's camps with the development of strategic plans and the execution of marketing materials. Camps directors may contact him at 914-271-8482.
Originally published in the 2000 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.