Going the Extra Yard
The run-up to February’s Super Bowl (the “Big Game,” in the parlance of retailers, who are not allowed use the NFL’s copyrighted name) is the ideal sticky marketing period. For one thing, unlike Christmas, it’s non-denominational. For another, despite earlier starts to Black Friday every year, the fall and winter months of football season still offer independent dealers of CE and peripherals the longest stretch of time by far to promote assorted aspirational products - besides big-screen TVs – that yield decent margins. It also affords dealers large and small the chance to leverage their communities’ love of the sport on a local level, through promotions involving local high school and college team programs.
At Dallas-based Starpower, the season brings with it the chance to promote to both the husband and the wife, said David Pidgeon, CEO. The company has just doubled the size of one of its locations to 15,000 square feet and is using the extra acreage to showcase live kitchens and concept appliances right alongside the usual selection of electronics. It’s a play for higher margins, but it’s also an opportunity for customers to learn how to have a fuller football experience while saving money in the long run.
“We are pushing ‘feel like you’re there’ as a promotion,” Pidgeon explained. “The price of football tickets has gone up so much. So what we say is, rather than throw it all away on one game, you can enjoy it for years to come. Seeing football with a big 120-inch projector and surround sound, you feel like you’re part of the action, and with those buttery soft leather seats, why would you ever want to go to a game? It’s basically having your own stadium seat in your own house without the gummy floors, and without having to fight the crowds.”
The store recently hosted an event featuring the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and a Sony 4K Ultra HD TV party, and is used regularly by vendors for high-profile technology introductions. Starpower holds an annual Expo event in November, open to all, with special football watching VIP parties.
“We have everything you could imagine to show, technology-wise, to drive customers into the stores. It doesn’t mean we’re always selling that, but people always want to see the latest and greatest,” Pidgeon said. “We mix that with some special pricing on certain models to drive traffic, but we want to make sure we’re able to cater to all customers so that anyone can feel comfortable coming to Starpower.”
Pidgeon sells to many national celebrities and athletes and drives his business mainly through the installation services he provides; even with 35 crews available, he is backlogged 10 days. But he also aggressively promotes to local customers who follow all the teams in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, such as Texas A&M and Texas Tech, and makes his store available to charities for Monday Night Football events where part of the sales proceeds are given to the charity. Pidgeon ties together all promotions, including e-blasts, Twitter and Facebook, and has deployed eight digital billboards throughout the Dallas area. And things get even better if the Cowboys have a shot at the playoffs.
“We drive that and use it to get people excited about video and audio and our custom leather chairs, which we manufacture ourselves in Texas,” he said. “It’s the package we sell, because you don’t want to be just into selling TVs.”
At 228-store hhgregg, football is also about selling more than just TVs. With headquarters in Indianapolis, the company has partnered with its neighbor Klipsch Klipsch to make the most of the season. Jeff Pearson, hhgregg senior vice president of marketing, told of two promotions with Klipsch that have been running since mid-October that make use of the Klipsch brand ambassador, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Lucky Sweepstakes, which ran through late October with a drawing slated for just ahead of Thanksgiving, has a multiple grand prize that includes four Colts game tickets, an Andrew Luck autographed jersey, a Klipsch Music Center, and a private tour of the Colts complex with Luck and defensive player Robert Mathis.
The other promotion, which will be effective across the retailer’s entire 20-state territorial footprint, is called Luck 300 for 20. “What it means is that every time Andrew Luck throws more than 300 yards per game, beginning Oct. 12 through the end of the season, Klipsch will allow customers to print coupons for 20 percent off Klipsch products at hhgregg,” Pearson said. “We’re promoting it in print, online and via our social channels. Last year, in the 16-game season, he threw 300 yards seven times – maybe 40 percent of the time. It’s a pretty good offer, I think.”
In terms of TV promotions, hhgregg is in its third year of working with Sharp in giving away one 60-inch TV each day in October, while giving entrants three chances a day to register for a drawing in its “31 Days and 93 Ways to Win Ultra Sweepstakes” program. The grand prize is a Sharp Aquos 70-inch Ultra HD TV. This promo ties into a social gaming app the retailer has devised called Endless Blitz, which launched in mid-August and has been played more than two million times in its first six weeks.
At Chicagoland’s Abt Electronics, a prime focus is naturally on the Bears, said co-president Billy Abt, but local-team promotion also factors into the company’s marketing strategies. “We just did one with LG for college football, and Samsung has a neat promo that provides a Galaxy tablet free when certain models are purchased, he said. “It’s great for fantasy football fans, who can check their players while they’re watching a game.” The store also offers to local media its services as experts of cutting-edge technology. The team, for example, does TV segments on football-themed products that go beyond electronics to include tailgating essentials like keg coolers and grills; one ssegment last year featured the store’s “technologist” Josh Davis.
Abt also runs a private sale the first weekend in November with a big-screen and audio focus; it’s one of three such sales it runs every year. Only about a fifth of the company’s extensive mailing database is alerted for each of the sales; names are rotated so that there is no “bombardment fatigue,” Abt said. As the Super Bowl approaches, financing offers also “tend to get extended – instead of one year, they will stretch to two or three years, starting in mid-January,” he said. And the most aggressive pricing on 50-plus-inch TVs occurs in the two weeks just before the big game “either of drop-in models, or there are very intense rebates,” Abt said.
Those are just the doorbusters. What is excites his customer base are the new UHD and Curved OLED TVs, which are prominently displayed. While the prices are much higher than the regular LED line models, “our guys know how to step people up and explain the differences.”
Of course, Abt hopes the Bears make the playoffs. If they do, he said the store will offer same-day Super Bowl delivery that whole week, and by-the-game delivery if a TV is ordered by 6 p.m. Saturday. “It’s all about forecasting properly and getting product in a timely fashion,” he said. “It’s better than sitting on inventory, so you really need to be aware of the team’s performance and up your forecasts a month or six weeks out.”
At Kimbrell’s, a North Carolina-based 50-store electronics/furniture/appliances chain, TVs historically sell well during football season, with a 10-to-15-percent volume uptick at that time, said company vice president Michael Wong. The store heavily plays on the fan base for both the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and on college allegiances that include teams from Clemson, North Carolina State and other universities. In promoting the Panthers, the store will increase its bundles. With the sale of certain 55-inch-and-above large-screen TV models, for example, the buyer can receive either a free recliner or a sofa/loveseat. In November, the offer includes a free 32-inch Tier 2 or Tier 3 TV instead of a furniture piece. Although the 32-inch sets are given as freebies, the company has stopped carrying such small screens for sale.
While very small TVs don’t fit into Kimbrell’s SKU mix, neither – at this stage, at least – do 4K UHD or Curved OLED TVs. “The issue I have with 4K is that the Super Bowl isn’t going to be in 4K,” Wong said. “If you’re a satellite subscriber, they’re HD is only up to 1080i. The ability for me to advertise something that the manufacturers are touting as new technology is hard when the content is not going to be there. That’s a real challenge. Manufacturers say this is what we need to promote going forward, but I can’t really find the connection between that and the sports world yet. ESPN had a 3D channel, but that fell flat and Super Bowl in 3D was a better proposition for the consumer. But my challenge is there isn’t technology coming out that is going to increase the experience of the consumer over the next football season.”
Wong said the price-points are still too high, and at this point, UHD and Curved OLED are “just eye candy. Appeal to carry just for eye candy is not worth it. I’d rather have a good-looking 65- or 70-inch TV rather than a 55-inch curved OLED that’s five times as much. That’s not our customer base,” he said. “And until the content catches up, it would be a hard sell for me, promoting 4K for the football season when the football season isn’t in 4K. Why tout 4K when it’s not in 4K?”