It’s been clear for some time that partnerships were critical to cable’s marketing. We were reminded of that point several times recently.
Tuesday morning, June 3, USA Today reported that Charter Communications was partnering with oil companies by offering gas cards of $25, $50 and $100 to subs who upgraded their video, voice or Internet services.
That evening, in a large multi-purpose room at Milwaukee’s gorgeous Miller Park, CTAM Midwest devoted an entire panel discussion to cable’s sports partnerships. Appropriately, before attendees could gain entrance to the magnificent ball yard, they witnessed part of a partnership in the flesh. Their CTAM passes (and tickets to the subsequent ballgame) were distributed at Time Warner Cable’s trailer, nearby the statue of Henry Aaron. More important, the MSO also offers discounted baseball tickets to its subs from this venue. Want an even more direct tie to Milwaukee’s cable provider? Inside the trailer patrons could witness demonstrations of video, voice and Internet access, providing the only triple play fans would see this night.
Discovering A Green Planet
The next night, some 732 miles away in Washington, D.C., and in a handful of other cities, Planet Green, Discovery’s newest channel, launched, with the help of Major League Baseball. Apart from the green of the grass, the connection between an eco-friendly channel and baseball didn’t spring immediately to mind. That’s where the creativity of Planet Green’s staff and its partners entered the scene. The new ballpark in Washington is the first major stadium in the country accredited by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Part of this was an accident. The architects failed to provide adequate parking, forcing most fans to use public transport. Planet Green pounced on that one like a third baseman gobbling a weak grounder. As fans departed Washington’s Metro system Wednesday night they received return train tickets, courtesy of Planet Green. “Thanks for doing your part by taking the Metro,” read the green and black ticket jacket (no doubt made of recyclable material).
But the park also includes construction materials composed of up to 20 percent recycled material; energy-efficient lighting; a 6,300-square-foot green roof; and adjustable, low-flow plumbing that could save 3.6 million gallons of water yearly. As unobtrusive signs throughout the park inform, a storm-water management system is designed to prevent debris from polluting the Anacostia River, adjacent to the stadium. In other words, what a great place to launch cable’s first green channel. But how best to do it?
What’s Your Sign?
Rick Schlesinger, an EVP with the Milwaukee Brewers, put it well during the earlier mentioned CTAM Midwest panel on sports sponsorships. “Advertisers want more than signage at the ballpark,” Schlesinger told a crowd of nearly 100 cable marketers.
Schlesinger’s observation was evident in D.C. In addition to the Planet Green signage on the park’s many digital screens and a huge green carpet outside the stadium, inside the Nationals had abandoned their fire house red caps in favor of green hats. The same headgear was sported by all the ushers that evening. Adding to the sartorial green theme, fans had been told to wear green to the park; many complied.
Inside Discovery’s plush suite, above home plate, was the usual game time fare: hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack and beer. This night, though, dark-green M&M’s and lime-green jellybeans augmented the buffet.
Adding to the unusual evening was the chance for a Discovery a cappella group to sing the National Anthem before the game. Even earlier, the opening minutes of Planet Green were shown on the park’s tremendous HD scoreboard.
A Green Presidential Race
And it wouldn’t be a Nationals game without the Presidents Race, where oversized Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt emerge from centerfield and race halfway around the park. Why was this night different? The racing chief executives were sporting green costumes.
The crowning event, though, was the chance for Discovery chief David Zaslav to throw the night’s first pitch, joined by Planet Green chief Eileen O’Neil and Planet Green talent Emeril Lagasse, all sporting red-and-gold Nationals jerseys. [For the record, Zaslav’s Nikes featured green swooshes, and O’Neil’s dark-green footwear was most appropriate.]
At 6pm, 1 hour before game time, Zaslav, a former college tennis player, was pacing nervously in Discovery’s crowded suite, mixing small talk with concern that his heave homeward might not travel the requisite 60 feet, six inches. Fears of abject failure in front of some 600 Discovery employees and guests danced more uncontrollably in his mind than a Tim Wakefield knuckleball.
As it happened, none of the on-field festivities occurred. Appropriately for the launch of a channel concerned with climactic change, Mother Nature took center stage, hurling a tornado into the D.C. area that crippled the region and postponed the game. But a good partnership endures hurdles, even bad weather. Most of the festivities will be staged again, before a game next week. Zaslav says he’s keeping his arm warm.