Bryan HarrisIn order to reach the fan, there’s been an increasing gravitation toward integrated marketing approaches. Clients, particularly in the sports world, are seeing the benefits of connecting with audiences across all types of media. They’re seeing their brand as more than simply as a mascot or a logo.

Today, sports brands transcend the playing fields that dominate our screens day-in and day-out. They transcend the court or gridiron or diamond into the boardroom, the Realtor’s office, the neighborhood and, as we’re all aware, our social media feeds.

This move toward integration has been fueled by what I deem the “Three Es”:

Efficiency. Integration leads to efficiency for the client. Rather than devote considerable time and resources to basic project coordination, the communication process is streamlined through the utilization of one fully integrated firm.

Expertise. Clients are increasingly seeking diverse expertise from their firms. The business of sports is increasingly business-oriented, and that means possessing expertise in multiple industries, ranging from real estate, legal affairs, public policy, etc. Possessing individuals with those types of industry experiences is appealing to traditional sports clients as they deal with issues related to internal communications, construction projects and consumer-oriented campaigns.

O'Dwyer's Nov. '14 Entertainment & Sports PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Entertainment & Sports PR Magazine

Effectivity. Clients need their firms to be effective. At the end of the day, results matter, and the right results matter. A summary report showing 487 media hits doesn’t cut it; what’s the impact on the business? Each client has a series of goals they wish to accomplish, and integration — through enhanced collaboration, a streamlined approach and deep reserve of resources — enables firms to meet them.

How have we seen these trends play out? Consider these two examples:

For the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience, our firm’s mission was to be with its team every step of the way. The College Football Hall of Fame’s story was largely focused on the construction of a new facility, and the opening of a new world-class attraction, in downtown Atlanta. This required our firm to tap into the pool of our skill sets, from event planning to media relations to digital media strategy.

For the Atlanta Braves, it was to shepherd its message and counsel its executive team throughout the process of building a new ballpark in the heart of Braves Country. While the future successes of the franchise will be realized on the new diamond at SunTrust Park, the client’s ongoing needs revolve around the construction of a significant real estate project and massive economic development opportunity for the metro Atlanta area.

In both instances, clients needed expertise that went beyond a simple public relations campaign designed to boost fan attendance or promote an accomplishment on the field. They needed integrated, strategic counsel that provided guidance and direction in industries where they weren’t as well versed. 

That’s where the sports business industry is moving, and that’s where real opportunity for growth exists: helping those teams, franchises and organizations navigate unfamiliar waters. 

Jackson Spalding has positioned itself in the world of athletics, sponsorships and activations, yet I am proud to say that we are not, and never will be, a sports public relations firm, just as the Pittsburgh Steelers is not a social club of steel mill workers getting some exercise. The business of sports has evolved, and the way in which public relations and marketing professionals serve these clients has evolved as well. 

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Bryan Harris is Sports Practice Leader at Jackson | Spalding.