Sponsorship decision-makers shared insights galore at IEG 2017.

Below, executives from Alaska Airlines, MillerCoors and PNC share insights into the airline, beer and financial services categories.

Molly Sapienza, director of regional marketing, PNC Bank
Declining interest in category exclusivity; a focus on local properties; finding success with arts organizations.

Less interest in category exclusivity
“For many brands, it’s hard to afford or own full exclusivity. Retail banking is a huge category, and lots of times it comes with debit cards and other rights. We have been willing to give up pieces of the category to afford partnerships.”

In cases where it has dominant ownership of the financial services category, PNC looks for the right to lock out competitors in categories it does not own.

“We like to be prescriptive in terms of who else we will accept that will potentially have the other pieces of the category. We may dictate certain companies that properties can sell wealth management to and others that they cannot. That way we’re willing to coexist with other financial services companies.”

A focus on local properties
“All of our decision-making and funding happens in the local market. Being local is very important. We care about the things our customers care about.”

Market presidents and community relations directors in 35 markets are responsible for PNC sponsorships and grants, she said.

Arts organizations work best
While PNC sponsors everything from professional sports teams to local festivals, the company has found the biggest bang for its buck with arts organizations.

“We have found the biggest lift with cultural and performing arts. Those types of properties resonate with our consumer. They are aware of us because of the branding we get from sports teams, but as you lead them through the purchase funnel in terms of driving affinity and purchase intent, it is driven more strongly through local cultural and performing arts organizations.”

Marques Jackson, sports & entertainment marketing, MillerCoors
More interest in properties that provide access to millennials; the importance of sponsor cross-promotions.

More focus on properties beyond stick and ball sports 
While MillerCoors sponsors everything from the NFL to college athletics and professional rodeo, the company is placing increased focus on eSports, music festivals and other properties that provide access to millennials.

“Miller and Coors are somewhat aging franchises, so we’re always thinking about how we can reconnect with millennials and recruit new drinkers. Now we’re looking at eSports and music and entertainment.”

“It’s always about what’s innovative, what’s new and where millennial interests are going in terms of a trend perspective, and how we can do a better job as marketers in terms of connecting their passions with our brands.”

The importance of sponsor cross-promotions
MillerCoors works with NBC Sports and the NHL to host Wednesday Night Rivalry viewing events at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants across the country. The company supports the initiative through a partnership with retired NHL player Jeremy Roenick, who makes appearances at the events.

“We think about how we are truly activating and elevating our partnerships and we do that through our media and retail partners,” said Jackson.

Buffalo Wild Wings is MillerCoors’ largest on-premise U.S. account, he said.

Kelley Winn, manager of brand sponsorship & partnership marketing, Alaska Airlines
More interest in programs that drive brand loyalty.

More focus on unique experiences
Alaska Airlines is placing more focus on accessing unique experiences that appeal to two audiences: millennials and older consumers.

“You have a group of millennials who are more likely to purchase experiences than objects. That is a focus of ours. How do we deliver on those experiences that millennials are searching for?”

On the flipside, Alaska Airlines also looks for experiences that appeal to older consumers with discretionary income.

“Our target is anyone who is older than 18. We have sports, music and participatory sports in our portfolio, which gives us coverage over a large group of people.”