Shopping Center Sponsorship Conference: Huge Success
Industry professionals exchange success strategies at the first trade conference devoted to sponsorship and advertising in malls.
The first Shopping Center Sponsorship and Advertising Conference was abuzz with industry catchphrases like scalable, big data, and brand-direct. The trade event, exclusive to the shopping center industry, was produced by Pinnacle Publishing Group (parent company of Specialty Retail Report). Seventy-five seasoned partnership-marketing industry professionals, representing more than 3,000 shopping centers in North America, attended the event held in New York City, August 14-15, at the American Management Association’s Executive Conference Center in Times Square.
The conference brought together partnership marketing leaders, brands, agencies and media companies for both networking and education—to discuss best practices and innovative new staregies for increasing sponsorship and advertising sales at their properties.
Alan High, CEO of Clear Channel Communications provided the keynote address. He said, “We wanted to provide our point of view about how the mall industry can improve and grow.”
The conference, which included a variety of dynamic speakers including three panel discussions. The conference also allowed plenty of time for networking. Blue Media, a firm that provides signage and materials solutions to malls—from large format banners to floor graphics—sponsored a cocktail party while EYE Media, a firm that provides solutions through static directories, sponsored every coffee break throughout the conference. Exhibitors included Britten Banners, one of the largest banner companies in the U.S., which produces large-format digital printing and event signage, and ParkMarx, a firm that turns parking lots into creative advertising outlets.
Impressive speaker lineup
Andy Mantis, Group Head of Business Solutions at MasterCard Advisors Information Services, shared how 160 million credit card transactions per hour can provide a number of data-mining and market research opportunities for retailers and shopping centers.
A panel of developer professionals shared insight into their companies’ partnership marketing strategies and departmental organizational structures. The trailblazers on this panel included Jim Ward, Senior Director, Brand Development at CBL Properties; Rebecca Graf, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships/Business Development at General Growth Properties; Gerritt Smith, Senior Manager, Partnership Marketing at Glimcher Realty Trust; and Erik Carlson, Vice President, Partnership Marketing, Westfield.
Smith said that Glimcher delivers partnership results through marketing teams at the center level. At General Growth, “by and large, our management teams are incented by NOI [net operating income] so they all work closely with strategic partnership deals we bring to the centers,” Graf said. CBL’s Ward shared a success story about a deal for a mall play area sponsored by United Way and Oscar Meyer. The larger developers shared that 60% of their sponsorship business is through national deals with the rest being made up of regional and local ones. For REITs like Glimcher and CBL it was just the opposite—40% national and 60% local sponsorship deals. All developer panelists report success with acquiring sponsors for play areas and mall walker programs.
Speaker Matt Yonan, Founder and President of Tigris Marketing in Denver, spoke of the importance of building lasting relationships with potential sponsors. “Treat them like they are million-dollar customers no matter how much a brand is spending,” Yonan advised. He urged partnership marketers to develop a story about their portfolio or an individual center that is easily explained. “There are four winners in any partnership: the customer, the partner, the retailer and the bottom line,” Yonan added.
Experiential marketing space
The second day of the conference was devoted to brands and media. Mike Kelley, Executive Vice President, Pierce Promotions and Event Management, presented the breakfast keynote entitled: “Beyond The Rate Card.” Kelley provided insight into the competition shopping centers face as brands search for, and choose, far more affordable experiential marketing space. “Malls are competing with retailers, grocery, Walmart and Home Depot,” Kelley said, “And brands like working with retailers because they can get shelf space to sell their products.”
According to Kelley, sponsors want centers to provide more creative hospitality opportunities. He does recognize the limitations though: “A mall will never be able to provide what the NFL does—like a suite and tickets to the Super Bowl!” Kelley believes growth will come from key categories like pharmaceuticals and gaming companies and the challenge for shopping centers will be to integrate these types of brands into their properties. “Shopping centers still need to be more proactive in developing long-term partnerships. They need to shift the way they frame themselves to competing for marketing dollars much more broadly,” Kelley said. “There are examples where partnership planning is happening, but by now this should be the norm vs. the exception.”
Kelley added, “From an experiential standpoint it is no different. Greater shopper experiences will naturally occur through a more deliberate planning process with brands—a planning process that involves understanding the short and long-term objectives and creating solutions which deliver against those objectives.”
With the London Summer Olympics fresh on everyone’s minds, Erik Carlson of Westfield, invited brand partner, Griffin Technology’s Todd Word, to share how Westfield US partnered with Westfield’s Stratford City in the UK to open Griffin’s first showcase retail store; an inline retail space near the Olympic Village. Griffin Technology is a design and manufacturing company that creates technical solutions for iPhones, iPods and Kindles. Westfield US approached Griffin at the Consumer Electronics Show where they participated as a vendor. Carlson and his UK team assisted Griffin every step of the way to get the UK store open within 60 days from that first meeting at the Consumer Electronics Show. “It was the worst possible time to do a store rollout, but we are glad we did,” Word said.
Carlson concluded the panel discussion by adding, “We need design and capital resources within partnership marketing so that we can bring more brands like Griffin into shopping centers.”
Future growth direction
Speakers Dave Parsons, CEO of McGavern Guild Malls, and Alan High of Clear Channel Malls, both underscored the challenge in the shopping center industry: malls are not measured media in an out-of-home media buy. Both speakers think malls need to standardize media sizes and dimensions to make it easier for agencies to purchase advertising space.
High believes malls are underserved and under-recognized even when compared to airport media revenue. The standardization of backlit signs and billboards in airports makes it simpler for media companies to buy. Media buyers attest that mall media, with no standardized metrics, is confusing to buy. High encouraged developers to “get with the program of measured media.”
Parsons added: “Traffic is not your sales pitch. It is eyeballs, and shoppers who are ready to make purchases, and the fact that you are the social hub of the community and the closest to the point of purchase.”
Keith Burman, Senior Shopper Marketing Manager for Coke, traced the history and the evolution of the vending machine and talked about beverage partnerships in shopping centers. Berman said Coke has developed vending payment systems such as credit cards, mobile payments and will offer rewards to frequent buyers.
Patricia Norins, CEO of Pinnacle Publishing Group, was delighted with the conference’s outcome. “We saw a pressing need to bring together all the players in the shopping center industry who wanted to learn more about this growing business channel. Sponsorship and advertising partnerships have become more sophisticated than in years past,” Norins said. She added that based on demand from recent webinars on this topic, she felt a need to have a dedicated conference. “The biggest takeaway for me was the knowledge and insight I gained from my peers and industry leaders who participated in the conference,” said Erik Carlson, Vice President of Partnership Marketing at Westfield.
Norins hoped the conference “provided actionable ideas for shopping center professionals to grow their revenue; out-of-the-box ideas for prospecting and deal-making and creative ideas on structuring new deals.” The plan for 2013 is to “attract more developers, brands and media agencies and introduce different educational tracks for attendees with different levels of experience.”