The Expansive Role of Marketing Part II

an interview with
Tim McDermott Chief Marketing Officer, Philadelphia Eagles

This is part 2 of my interview with Tim McDermott, CMO of the Philadelphia Eagles.  In this portion, Tim discusses youth marketing, social media, fan passion, social responsibility and the expansive role of marketing within the Eagles organization.  Again, even if you’re not an Eagles fan or a sports fan for that matter, I think you’ll find it most enlightening.  Also, click here for my article on FastCompany.com related to this.

Neisser:  You mentioned your target is very broad.  Are you doing any more targeted efforts?
McDermott: There are two areas that we feel that we can grow more significantly. The youth market being one and the woman’s market being the other. We launched a three-prong youth strategy back in 2004. We had a kids TV show. We had a kid’s website, and a kid’s club. And we had the largest kids club membership of any sports team in the world. And this year we are reshaping that to continue to grow our impact amongst the youth market.

 

Neisser: Your fan base is famously enthusiastic to put it nicely. Talk to me the role the fans play in building your brands.
McDermott:  If you are a sports executive or even if you’re an owner of a sports team, I think you are really a steward of a brand. It’s really a public trust. And that’s the way you really need to look at it. And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with owners both on the football side, and in the hockey world who always made that their statements, that they are responsible for a public trust. And I think if you take that approach and you think of it as the fans are the true owners of the team. Then you’ll always do the right thing.  You simply do what is right for the fans. And it takes a lot of the complexity out of it.

Neisser: How are you handling social media and community management?
McDermott: When I returned here in January 2010, we reorganized a bit, and part of that was to set up a digital department. And the department is fully devoted to all things digital (i.e. apps, mobile apps, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest– whatever the latest platform is that’s coming down the pike.) So that’s the way that we’ve decided to structure ourselves, because we felt that the world had shifted. And we needed people who were 100% dedicated to evaluating, understanding, and determining how to create, how to use some of the different new media technologies that they’re coming out there. So we do have dedicated social media coordinators, who do evaluate all of the different “what’s next?” and making suggestions on how we can use it.

 

Neisser: Can you articulate what the Eagles brand is about?
McDermott:  Sure. In fact, a couple years ago we went through an exercise with Landor, to put together a brand book and style guide. So we do have that in a very refined piece that we can then share with both the internal as well as with corporate partners. Our brand has some unique brand attributes. We’re well known for our tough as nails, passionate fan base. And it’s a unique sort of passion–I know a lot of teams would say that their fans are passionate, but our fans are passionate. I really don’t think most teams have the breadth and depth of passion, and exemplify it in the way that we do. At the same time we’re a very community oriented brand. Social responsibility is very important to our organization. So those are some of the key hallmarks.

Neisser: And I notice that there is a lot of social responsibility on your website. I imagine that’s handled separately from marketing, is there a group that is dedicated to that?
McDermott: Sure. In fact, a couple years ago we went through an exercise with Landor, to put together a brand book and style guide. So we do have that in a very refined piece that we can then share with both the internal as well as with corporate partners. Our brand has some unique brand attributes. We’re well known for our tough as nails, passionate fan base. And it’s a unique sort of passion–I know a lot of teams would say that their fans are passionate, but our fans are passionate. I really don’t think most teams have the breadth and depth of passion, and exemplify it in the way that we do. At the same time we’re a very community oriented brand. Social responsibility is very important to our organization. So those are some of the key hallmarks.

Neisser: What else do you have going in this area?
McDermott:  So back in 2004 we created a tackle, called Tackling Breast Cancer campaign. And in 2004 the first year of it, we sold pink hats with the Eagles logo. And in a period of 30 days during October, which is breast cancer awareness month, we sold 32,000 pink hats. That’s probably more hats than most professional sports teams will sell in an entire year.  That was all around raising money for breast cancer awareness. And that became a platform that we have now run for the past eight years. We’ve dedicated over — are getting close to two million dollars in donations from that.  And we’ve made it an ongoing platform since 2004. In fact, we were recently named the global sports team of the year for all of our various off the field activities.

Neisser: How big is your marketing department?
McDermott: About 35 to 40 people, about 40 people. That includes all of the merchandising staff. So we oversee our own retail shops and our own pro shops at the stadium. We oversee our outlet store. We oversee our online e-commerce. We oversee the game day sales.  We have a television production group–we call it Eagles Television Network, where we produce, or co-produce or partner on, eight different weekly TV and radio shows. So it depends upon how you define marketing. If you want to define marketing in the more myopic approach instead, it’s relatively small. It’s probably seven people that are just in the so called “marketing department.” If you want to define marketing in the more myopic approach instead, it’s relatively small. It’s probably seven people that are just in the so called “marketing department.”

Neisser: When you look at ahead at the Eagles brand building activity, what’s on your sort of wish list?
McDermott: Well I keep looking at all the possibilities coming through digital media and what’s next. I’m fascinated by some of the augmented reality concepts that are coming out there. And really excited about what might be and just how quickly some of these augmented reality concepts have come to fruition. You can have a print ad in a newspaper, and all of a sudden you can have that ad be the full 30-second TV commercial through augmented reality. So every year we send out tickets to people with an image on those tickets. Now through augmented reality you could actually bring that ticket to life.

Neisser: How do you rationalize this kind of experimentation from a strategic point-of-view?
McDermott: Strategically, I think sport teams are really media companies. We aggregate millions and millions and millions of impressions.: where the people who look at us at games, come to our games, watch us on TV shows, websites, Facebook, Twitter all the different vehicles that are out there. And at the end of the day, we can aggregate communities of people through all these channels. And as a result of that I think you’ll see us acting, and executing in ways that more of a media company. And again, just the way we produce content, the way we distribute content is just one example of that.

Neisser: Do you have any words of wisdom for other marketers?
McDermott:Any time I tell somebody outside of my area of expertise, on what they can do I want to give that a little extra thought. I know that there are very bright very smart marketers out there, and quite honestly I think that often times, we in the sports world are borrowing and stealing the ideas that we see from other people so.

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