IN MY OPINION

Imagine you've just been put in charge of the advertising and promotion of a major product and have inherited sports licenses for the brand. You're not quite sure how all these logos fit in your advertising and you're not quite sure what to do with them in your promotions. Yet you have this nagging feeling that there is a lot more you could be doing.If this is you, you're not alone. In the rush to

Imagine you've just been put in charge of the advertising and promotion of a major product and have inherited sports licenses for the brand. You're not quite sure how all these logos fit in your advertising and you're not quite sure what to do with them in your promotions. Yet you have this nagging feeling that there is a lot more you could be doing.

If this is you, you're not alone. In the rush to get into sports marketing, many companies have purchased sports logos and team marks without really knowing what they're going to do with them. Often these sports licenses languish.

How can you optimize sports licenses? Here are a few suggestions. One thing you can do that has been proven effective is create an engaging consumer promotion such as a game, contest or sports balloting program. Looking for a way to stimulate subscriptions and reach its hard core sports audience, USA Today linked up with Major League Baseball and became a key sponsor of the All-Star Balloting Program. This balloting program has since become the second largest election in the United States after the presidential election and the trial subscriptions rolled in. The secret here is involvement. Fans are given a simple forum for expressing their intense feelings and loyalty to their favorite players.

Another way to create major customer involvement is through a phone-in-and-win mechanism. Searching for a way to drive sales in October, and take full advantage of its National Football League license, Coke's "Monsters of the Gridiron" program was regionalized with each NFL team having its own NFL monster character and offered both high- and low-level prizes to attract fans to its sweepstakes. More than 30 million calls were generated.

Most companies, however, don't have the huge budgets of a Coca-Cola and often end up offering sports premiums as a way of using their license. The problem is that many of these offers are so generic that there is no real point of difference and the response can often be disappointing. If you are going to offer a premium, make sure it's unique and different enough to capture your customer's imagination. Pizza Hut's "Final Four" basketball offer is a good example of a premium that has just enough creative edge to capture consumer interest. A plain ball with a logo would not have achieved the same results.

If you want to create an easy way for consumers to be part of the sports experience, provide instant gratification, not barriers for entry. Really promote the event so that people know it exists. Your sports promotion will have a much greater chance of success and your sports license will become a much more valuable part of your marketing equation.

David Essertier is creative director of Essertier & Braverman, an advertising and promotion agency in Fairfield, Conn.