March Madness is upon us and you may be asking yourself, “what does a ruby haired, goggle wearing guy with a painted fake mustache have to do with promoting home loans?!”
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Lonny Sigler and there is certainly nothing new about the t-shirt toss at sporting events. However, during the 2016-2017 Missouri State University basketball season, over a period of about 30 men's and women’s home games, an experiential campaign to promote an online home loan product put a serious twist on this fan-favorite, in-game promotion.
In 2016, The New York Times published an article about the phenomenon of the t-shirt cannon and how people will risk life and limb for free promotional goods at games. However, one small local bank has taken this tradition one step further.
The Systemania T-shirt Get Down Campaign, designed by Swagbot Creative, completely reimagined the traditional t-shirt toss by integrating:
- live screenprinting (powered by Bigfish Screenprinting)
- Social media outreach via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
- Pre-game couponing to drive engagement
- Announcer read script
- Video board animation
- Data capture from the t-shirts
The purpose of the activation was to build brand awareness of a new, online loan product from Systematic Savings Bank (aka SSB): a small local bank that has been in business in Springfield, Missouri for 94 years.
Through the character creation of Missouri State Superfan Lonny Sigler, a variety of giveaways, coupons, and incentivized social media sharing, we were able to personalize the game experience for attendees and meet the three primary campaign objectives for both us and our client:
- Build Brand Awareness - By utilizing the activation as a launch vehicle, we were able to quickly build brand awareness for the hashtag, #systemania, across the three major social media networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
- Gather Information - Target and capture valuable customer data within the key demographic of our client, leveraged to market an online loan product.
- Foster Relationships - To reinforce Systematic Savings Bank's long-standing relationship with the community by partnering with Missouri State Sports Properties to create an even more exciting fan experience during games.
MSU Superfan, Lonny Sigler, is a trained, licensed and certified t-shirt cannon and apparel munitions expert who has two passions in life: gift giving and heavy artillery.
How The Activation Worked
Facebook, Instagram & Twitter accounts were created for Lonny, where he could interact with fans and post photos from the home games, then create apromotional video for sharing the experience after the activation was complete.
During the first media time-out, Lonny entered the court with the t-shirt cannon in-hand, alongside the MSU Sugar Bears Dance Team. Together, they launched t-shirts into the anticipating crowd. The tossed t-shirts were printed with instructions, directing those who caught the t-shirts to the bring them to the main level of the arena.
Once at the main level, the Bigfish Screenprinting team greeted fans and would swap out the tossed t-shirts for a high-quality t-shirt in one of four sizes (S-XL), with a choice of five on-demand printed designs. In exchange for their custom t-shirts, we collected their contact information and requested a photo with the hashtag #systemania across the social media platform of their choice:Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, showing off their new custom, on-demand printed t-shirt.
It should be noted that most promotional giveaways of this type have no call-to-action. However, during the activation, there were over 700 names, emails and, in some cases, addresses collected. In addition to the positive goodwill created by the experience itself, we reached an average of 4,000 fans per game, 75K through a targeted social campaign bearing the Missouri State logo, and over 100k impressions through a variety of channels, both paid and organic.
Our partnership with SSB allowed us to work together closely to achieve their goals in a new and interactive way, to reach their demographic. While typical sponsors are looking for brand recognition and goodwill, through our campaign, we were able to incentivize an existing targeted demographic group in more organic fashion.
Overall, we received an overwhelmingly positive response from the MSU fans thanks to the uniquely personalized experience we created. We identified three keys that made this campaign not only unique, but also successful:
- Different - We have searched both professional league sports and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and have been unable to find another campaign that utilized this type of promotion, whether in-game, pre-game, or as part of their general marketing mix with social media and video interaction. Taking the tradition of a t-shirt toss and changing the familiar into a novel experience once again, as well as intriguing to the fanbase, contributed in making this activation a success.
- Interesting – The fan response was overwhelmingly positive because they received a comfortable, appropriately-sized t-shirt with a personalized experience. Many of these fans were additionally incentivized after short surveys with rewards, such as free concessions and $5 gift cards to the popular Andy’s Frozen Custard. Creating the “Lonny Sigler, Missouri State University Superfan” character and corresponding social media and video content made the experience fun, unique and interactive for all attendees.
- Engaging - By building off a platform of the high-quality MSU fan experience, we leveraged this momentum by incentivizing fans to take action in return for a tangible artifact of that experience. With a well-known, local client such as SSB, our choice to partner with other known local companies such as Bigfish Screenprinting and Andy’s Frozen Custard only benefited us further by incentivizing the growing interest from fans and participation to support these businesses. We had an average engagement rate of 73% — an aggregate reach of 125k from the in-game attendees, video views and social media posts and interactions.
Utilize these moments with fans by bridging the tangible and experiential with social media and video, to spread those experiences. Then track, measure, and improve each time the activation is deployed.
There was constant iteration occurring throughout the season: from the t-shirt cannon firing into the crowd— making initial contact; to the printed instructions on the t-shirts— causing a direct interaction with people; to the design of the t-shirt order form— allowing us to keep in contact with them in the future.
For venues, service providers, agencies, and sponsors, rethink each element of existing inventory and explore opportunities to create engagement using the Organic Triangle (story + product placement + amplification).