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"The Softer Side of Sponsorship"

Throughout history, women have been criticized for allowing emotions to play an important part of their lives. The criticisms have ranged from “ignore her , it just her emotions” to “she cannot possibly be correct, she is reacting to emotions”. Today, however, women have become a dominant force in sports marketing, and making great strides, by acknowledging the fact that creating brand loyalty with the consumer stems from making an emotional connection and tapping into passion points.

Strong women are confident with the fact that their emotions control a major portion of their lives. They do not think it is a sign of weakness or complacency. They accept that despite their best intention, emotions will impact major and minor decisions in their life. As a women's role evolves in sports marketing (as athletes, marketers, etc.), it is imperative that we maintain the balance of sports popularity, attributes and brand alignment with the sponsorship equities that can be used to make an emotional connection with consumers and fans alike and meet business objectives.

When you consider the devotion fans give “their” sports team or idol…from the apparel, the flags, the cost of tickets to attend games/races to the overall unwavering devotion, you hit at the core of emotion marketing. The thing, the person, the thought, or even the dream that makes someone say “I will support that” or “I will believe in that” is an example of emotion marketing that can be best achieved through the utilization of sports and entertainment properties . Being able to ignite the inner passion that gets someone's heart pounding, or gets someone's emotions racing allows a brand to break though the marketing clutter and create a bond with consumers. Consumers make buying decisions based on emotion and use logic and reason to back-up the decisions.

Emotions such as devotion, commitment, and loyalty, are okay, and when kept in balance are attributes to be praised. As CEO of a female owned business, I run my business with a devotion to my employees and commitment and loyalty to our clients. It is my role and responsibility to make sure that my team understands that an emotional connection, is okay. Emotion is only a negative thing when the results of a particular emotion are out of control, and cloud sound decisions and direction. I harness the positive results of emotion, both in marketing and in life, without letting emotions rule my thinking or decisions.

So if you ask me what is different today from 13 years ago when I started in sports marketing, I would have to say it is the influence that women are having on the sports world…from the athletes, to league commissioners, corporate marketers and agency executives, the effects can be felt everywhere.

•  Danica Patrick, IRL driver and personality

•  Carolyn Bivens, LPGA Commissioner

•  Lesa France Kennedy, President International Speedway Corporation

•  Delana Harvick, Co-owner Kevin Harvick Inc

•  Bea Perez, VP of Sports Marketing The Coca-Cola Company

•  Dockery Clark, Director of Sports and Alliance Marketing, Miller Brewing Co.

These are just a few of the women that are positively impacting the sports industry and controlling millions of dollars that are spent each year. The industry as a whole has embraced this transition and is benefiting from the evolution of sports marketing from being a “big shrimp” hospitality occasion to being a tivo proof, one-on-one dialogue platform legitimized by tapping into the emotion and passion points fans have for their favorite pastimes.

Kristi S. Atkins, CEO a|i|m MARKETING SOLUTIONS

Kristi's favorite fishing hole is the Nieman Marcus shoe department…OK…I am a girl!

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