I met John Digles in June 2009 as he produced video interviews for the Business Marketing Association Conference. John's background is fascinating; he's an award-winning film maker whose work has gained critical notice, including at the Sundance Film Festival.
John is also founder of entrepreneurial incubator StrategyDeli and sits on the DePaul University Marketing MBA Advisory Council. As Chief Marketing Officer of XanGo, John implemented a number of innovative programs, including:
- Negotiating a category-creating jersey-front deal with Major League Soccer
- Creating the award-winning XanGo.TV social media site
- Leading an international marketing program in more than 25 markets
John's innovative track record earned him an invitation to address the WFDSA World Conference XIII in Singapore.
Sponsorships represent great marketing opportunities if approached strategically and with activation plans fitting a brand's business objectives. Today, John shares his perspective on how XanGo put together an innovative sponsorship program that's led to the brand being featured in tonight's Major League Soccer championship on ESPN.
Jersey-front sponsorships are a long-running international soccer tradition. Global corporations such as Samsung and bwin invest millions supporting top teams and showcasing their brands on the playing fields of the world’s most popular sport. But when XanGo, a 4-year old emerging nutritionals leader and direct sales company based in Utah, inked the first jersey-front sponsorship in U.S. Major League Soccer history in November 2006, it was the first of its kind in North American professional sports.
The innovative deal to place the XanGo brand on the jersey-front of Real Salt Lake (RSL) was a perfect fit for the XanGo healthy lifestyle brand and its reputation as a “company of firsts.” We faced risks, however, that come with introducing this kind of advertising. Some wondered if American soccer fans would accept a branded jersey, while others considered a direct sales company an unlikely sponsor.
Exploring the jersey sponsorship, we formulated an activation program designed to mobilize hundreds of thousands of independent XanGo distributors and “make every game a home game” for RSL. Reaching a new consumer constituency would provide opportunity for distributors to teach the business as they filled the stands and hosted their own events at local soccer matches.
XanGo rolled out with an advanced digital strategy and a branded web site celebrating the game and teaching soccer basics. Research showed the site became a destination for parents whose kids were discovering soccer and joining leagues across the country. Many of these visitors learned about XanGo for the first time.
XanGo distributors and employees made RSL’s branded kit one of the league’s top-selling jerseys. FIFA Soccer by EA Sports, one of the world’s most-popular video games, featured XanGo on the jersey of the game’s RSL team. And the XanGo Cup hosted friendly exhibitions between RSL and international soccer superpowers – and their TV audiences.
Measurement data showed the jersey deal became a key factor in boosting global brand recognition, web traffic, and recruitment.
Weeks after the XanGo sponsorship announcement, David Beckham signed with the L.A. Galaxy and global nutrition and direct sales company Herbalife secured the next jersey-front deal. Jersey sponsorships with major brands followed around the league, including BMO with Toronto FC, Best Buy with the Chicago Fire, and Amway Global with the San Jose Earthquakes.
Network marketing is a passionate, loyalty-driven business. As direct sales brands cut their jersey deals, distributors from each sponsoring company became more vocal and competitive in showing support.
Three years after the first jersey-front deal, Real Salt Lake and the L.A. Galaxy have reached the MLS Cup, taking two direct sales titans to the league’s biggest stage.
While the category-creating deal surprised some, the trend of direct sales sponsorships has aligned thriving nutrition brands with the game, increased consumer awareness of the business and converted millions of passionate distributors into active fans for Major League Soccer. - John Digles