Fall 2014 Metrics Matter

The third annual Shopping Center Sponsorship & Advertising Conference drove home some important lessons for attendees.

Provocative questions provided an ongoing platform for dialog at the third annual Shopping Center Sponsorship & Advertising Conference held in New York City, at the Grand Hyatt on August 4-5, 2014. Keynote speakers challenged the attendees to think about how the shopping center industry can get its share of the sponsorship and media dollars comparable to the sports industry. The conference brought together shopping center partnership marketing executives, brands, agencies and media firms for education and networking, and discussing best practices in
the industry.

“More money is spent in sports marketing than in entertainment marketing, the category where shopping centers fit,” said Alan McKeon, CEO of Alexander Babbage, a market research firm that regularly studies the retail real estate industry. McKeon, a keynote speaker, set the stage by pointing out that $12.8 billion was spent last year in sports marketing sponsorships, compared to $2.1 billion on entertainment. He suggested that making programs that are quantifiable will help centers sell more sponsorship packages especially geared at women who  make important purchasing   decisions. He suggested that malls are not making programs that are quantifiable. He challenged the group to look for what it is that the sports industry is doing to attract dollars. “How can we increase the interconnectivity between customers and brands?” he asked. One factor is that the “halo effect” of sports makes the fan feel better about themselves. “How can malls tap into this?” he asked.

Michael Ruckman, President and CEO of Senteo, delivered a lively and provocative talk on experiential marketing—a strong undercurrent of this year’s conference. “If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, you need to understand their wants, desires and dreams,” Ruckman said, as he encouraged the attendees to create what he called “disruptive relationships” within the framework of experiential marketing. He encouraged marketers to string together a series of experiences in their shopping centers that create relationships that are relevant with the brands; build trust in wanting to belong to a group; and promote growth and self esteem.  Using Harley Davison motorcycles as an example, Ruckman called it a disruptive brand because of what it means to own a Harley and belong to a group.

Developers’ discussions

The conference included a Developers’ Panel where participants shared insight into their companies’ partnership marketing activities. The panel, moderated by Jim Ward, Vice President of Brand Development at CBL, included: Dawn Banket, AVP Marketing at Macerich; Jim Roberts, SVP, Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications, Urban Retail Properties; Angela Sweeney, VP of Marketing, The Peterson Companies; Amy Hall, Senior Director, Local Leasing GK Development; and, Trey Peckenpaugh, VP Specialty Leasing at Rouse Properties.

The business structure of partnership marketing remains varied among developers. According to Dawn Banket of Macerich, “The roles of Macerich marketing people and specialty leasing and business development all add up to one chief marketing position.  This allows us to do deals flawlessly.” At the Peterson Company, Sweeney says, “We saw the opportunity to grow and cultivate sponsorship opportunities and we established a relationship with Cloudburst Marketing, a third-party resource.”

The group discussed the challenges of secondary market center locations, which, according to Amy Hall, “You can meet with local ad agencies to get connected to advertising opportunities. The sky’s the limit as to what they go out to look at while they are canvassing for mall as media,” she said. “We have empowered everyone on our management teams to sell, from the administrative assistants to managers, and they are incentivized for their efforts,” said Jim Ward.

A group of media buyers pointed out that out-of-home spending in malls is ten percent of all their media buys. According to Jason Kiefeer, Chief Commercial Officer, Billups Worldwide Media, “malls need stronger metrics. For the same amount of money I can buy a billboard on a highway and know I am getting viewership because of the metrics.” When moderator, Matt Yonan, President of Tigris Marketing asked: “On a scale of one to 10 how important are metrics for the shopping  center industry?” The collective panel in unison said, “It’s an eleven!”

Larry Gresham, CEO of Unitel Mark-eting, a South African media company said, “You do have to have a standard if the mall industry wants to be competitive with all the other out-of-home media…they need to come into the metrics world.” In the end, the media buyers agreed that malls must standardize their offerings and make it easier for a media
buyer to buy.

Sponsorship success

Dan Brugner, EVP Strategic Alliances and Entertainment demonstrated his producer capabilities by sharing the production details of “A Hollywood Christmas at The Grove,” a major seasonal event underwritten by sponsors and held annually at The Grove in Los Angeles. As executive producer of the Christmas tree lighting event, he created an event that rivals the east coast’s Rockefeller Center’s Tree Lighting. Sponsors underwrite the costs of the talent, trading fees for publicity and exposure to the 25,000 guests and the syndicated television broadcast. And according to Brugner, “Our retailers embrace everything we do, they stay open for the after-show period. The center is closed for four hours.”

New to the conference this year was Gary Hawkins, CEO, Center for Advancing Retail & Technology, LLC who along with John Dee, President of Placewise Media brought to light the enormous desire on the part of consumer package goods companies, who according to Hawkins, “want to engage the shopper in creative ways and get more attention from them in unusual places like the shopping center.” How do malls get a piece of this pie?  Hawkins advises: “Pick the right products that fit your audience, look at your existing partners, build relationships with agencies and integrate. Be open to new brand relationships from Tide detergent to Kraft, Mac ‘N Cheese to Pantene hair products.” Hawkins believes it is simply a matter of time until we will see Proctor & Gamble doing “pop-up stores.” “Your most valuable asset is the people moving through your malls and the digital network connected to the mall. Retail today is driven by shopper intelligence,” Hawkins said.

Industry recognition

Each year at the conference one shopping center is awarded a trophy for producing a “Best Showcase in Sponsorship or Advertising.” This year, four companies: Caruso Affiliated, Coca Cola, CBL and Morguard submitted entries and shared a 10-minute story about their program. The audience participants voted and Kristina Lowes, Marketing Manager at Morguard’s Uptown Shopping Center in Victoria, British Columbia won for creating an “H&M Lounge Experience.” The lounge, a personal shopping room underwritten by the retailer, was the first in Canada and had a dedicated style director. H&M’s experience was so successful that they renewed the agreement for a second term.

Rick Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer, Billups Worldwide, a media-buying agency gave an inspirational keynote luncheon speech on the second day. Describing the media director’s responsibility to a client, Robinson said their goal is to get the right message in the right place at the right time. He challenged the audience to “tell the mall story with a unified voice because it has scope, size and scale—it’s a great story,” he said. He specifically asked for great photos of proof of display; mall lease plans that professionally show advertising locations; and lastly, TAB (The Advertising Bureau) measured metrics on mall traffic.

Several financial brands represented at the conference, MasterCard and The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) have used the shopping center environment to grow their credit card business. “Banks have money and every shopping center should be approaching their local banks for partnership opportunities,” said Steve Medcalf, President of Magnet Engagement Group in Toronto, ON. Medcalf along with Mary Cipriano, Manager, Specialty Leasing and Brand Activations at Yorkdale Shopping Center shared how RBC was able to develop a pop-up boutique with complimentary curbside valet, customer service kiosks, gift wrap, coat and package check, a coffee bar and brand ambassadors at the entrances who represented their Avion credit card brand. The results were double-digit growth for Avion card sign-ups. Similarly, Crystal Rouhani, Director of Business Development at Turnberry Media, showed examples of MasterCard’s naming rights installation at Aventura Mall with ownership of five valet stations and the concierge center staff with tri-lingual ambassadors. All aimed at polishing MasterCard’s image.

The conference, which included a variety of presenters also allowed plenty of time for networking and deal making. McGavern Guild Malls was a headline sponsor for the conference. Dave Parsons, President of McGavern Guild also gave a concurrent session presentation on strategies for closing a deal.

In its third year, the conference is now operated by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Duffy C. Weir

Duffy Weir is the former vice president and director of specialty retail and marketing at The Rouse Company of Columbia, MD. Now an independent retail marketing and sponsorship consultant and writer, Weir travels the world searching for what she says "makes marketplaces tick." She can be reached at or 410.252.8885.
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