FamilyFantasySports.com, my startup, has now stepped up to the plate. Our game engine is going live this week and people will have the ability to form teams and join/create leagues for the NFL 2008 season.
On Saturday, I took a small guerilla team and headed to Redskin’s Park in Ashburn, VA for Fan Appreciation Day. NFL training camp started recently and the teams offer many opportunities for fans to come watch their favorite teams and players practice. The Redksins, though they have an incredibly loyal fan base, have one of the most ‘closed’ training camp policies — meaning the fewest ‘open’ practices.
The description of Fan Appreciation Day and the limited schedule made it clear there were going to be a lot of fans there and probably a lot of families (free summer entertainment). Turned out to be true.
Because we decided to hit training camp rather late, we were limited in what we could use a marketing tool. We wanted to order mini-footballs, but given the short time frame we had to get them (we decided on footballs about a week before Fan Appreciation Day) they would have cost about $3.50 each. Normally, the footballs would be about $1 each, but the rush nature of the job and the express shipping ballooned the price.
Clearly we didn’t have the budget or time to pay to be an official sponsor. I am sure the Skins were negotiating with this year’s sponsors before I decided to launch this biz.
Moreover, the Redskin’s owner (Dan Snyder) has a reputation for being tight (in the past the Redskins have charged fans to attend training camp and park — very unheard of in the NFL from what people tell me!) and controlling of the Redskins, their brand, and media related to them. Of course, that is his right, he paid something like $800 million for the team.
But many people warned us that if we showed up and tried to promote FamilyFantasySports.com we would be thrown out of Redskin’s Park because Snyder was not a ‘nice’ guy. (Check the bottom of this post for an example of his marketing techniques)
We went for it. We put on FamilyFantasySports.com T-Shirts (some great quickies we ordered from Zazzle.com — a firm founded and run by campus entrepreneurs) and had some basic, color fliers printed up.
The place was packed! We were in single lane, 5 mph traffic when we got about 1 mile from Redskin’s Park. We arrived, parked, and filled our short pockets with the post-card sized fliers. We decided to hold off on handing out fliers as there were lines to get in and we didn’t want to get ‘busted’ before we even got in.
Redskin’s Fan Appreciation Day was great with the band, cheerleaders, and coach Zorn all coming out before practice.
For our guerilla efforts, we basically walked up to anyone we saw with kids and told them about out site, our prizes, and handed them a flier. Many people were appreciative, especially when we explained that the grand prize was $25,000 for a qualified 529 plan — basically a huge chunk of change for college/grad school expense. (We are giving away another $15,000 for college/grad school to others who do well during the NFL 2008 fantasy season)
Also somewhat uplifting was the fact that there were a bunch of paying sponsors with booths, but we were the only ‘uninvited’ marketers on the grounds. After a few hours of pressing the flesh we were burnt (it was about 90 degrees and sunny the whole time) and headed to the parking lots. There we placed fliers on some cars and headed home. It was a good day of guerilla marketing.
Perhaps the key takeaway for entrepreneurs and guerilla marketers and all marketing efforts in general is to make sure you are marketing in a target rich environment. Make sure that wherever you are marketing is a place where your target market spends time. Sounds obvious, but it is not always followed.
Here is an example of Snyder’s marketing techniques; according to the Redskin’s website, to get into training camp you had to print out a ticket (which would admit two). In order to print out a ticket you had to register to give over all kinds of information — name, address, email, age, etc. Moreover, the boxes to receive promotional emails from the Skins and partners were pre-checked and well away from the submit but. (Personally, I have always found this contrary to internet ‘ethics’/mores). We printed out tickets and even fell for the checked boxes. (We’ll see how much spam we get). When we got to camp, no one asked us for our tickets. So Snyder and the Skins got all our info and their sponsors (REMAX) got their image on all those printouts!