Balancing a Portfolio of Traditional and Non-Traditional Partnerships
During his seven years at Bose, Pat LaCroix has overseen brand marketing, activation, media, social, sponsorship and community relations, including global marketing partnerships in sports, entertainment and health as well as paid media and social media. This has included key partnerships with the NFL, Mercedes Formula 1 Team, US Ski & Snowboard Assn., Premier Lacrosse League and esports, as well as deals with NFL, NBA and PGA Tour players, entertainers and musicians.
Pat joined host Jim Andrews for an All-Access Interview exploring how changing times have led to new sponsorships and new activations for Bose while retaining a focus on determining KPIs and other success metrics.
Below are edited highlights of the conversation.
Jim: You said recently that events of 2020 naturally accelerated a shift to online engagement and that Bose has picked up new habits and new “muscle memory” as a result. Can you elaborate on that and share what some of those new habits are?
Pat: Like many other categories and brands, Bose had to accelerate its focus on how to serve customers through digital in their shopping journey and ultimately in their purchase path. Ecommerce is increasingly becoming more important in not just how people shop and research, but also how they buy.
Jim: Clearly that type of engagement is here to stay, but as we proceed through 2021 and fans begin the return to live events, what do you see as the balance between on-site activation and online engagement? If the average ratio was perhaps 80-20 pre-pandemic, what do you think it’s likely to be post-COVID?
Pat: It’s difficult to say. Our ratio was not that high. We should initially see an uptick in live experiences as people will want to get back to those, but direct engagement through digital will continue to be at a high level and even increase a bit.
Jim: You recently had an interesting digital initiative called Sound Sanctuary. Can you tell us what that was all about?
Pat: Sound Sanctuary is about getting our products into the hands of those who deserve them or need them. At its essence its about folks who are going through a tough time or who have really put themselves out there and how we can get them Bose products that will give them a better experience or help them through something.
We did a big play around the program at the Super Bowl, where we were able to leverage our partnerships with the NFL and certain clubs and players to have premier partners like Baker Mayfield, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Russell Wilson personally deliver—over Zoom–Bose Soundbars and other accessories to frontline responders and healthcare heroes in their local communities.
Jim: The Bose sponsorship portfolio has grown and diversified in recent years, with new partnerships in esports and Premier Lacrosse League added to longstanding relationships with the NFL, Mercedes Formula 1, etc. I’d love to hear how some of those decisions were taken, for example, were they chosen to reach new audiences, achieve different objectives, access different benefits?
Pat: Sponsorship is an easy term to put on this, but we’re not always seeking a sponsorship in the traditional sense. It’s often simply a partner who we feel can demonstrate and communicate in a really compelling way what Bose and our products can deliver.
The PLL is an example. Its founder, Paul Rabil, reached out during the early days of quarantine with a series of lacrosse workout videos he made with our Bluetooth speaker. We felt it was really creative content and it started a discussion with him about what we could do together.
It met a crucial need for us as we shifted to virtual demonstrations that required highly compelling and informative storytelling. And it unlocked for us how we could use a platform like TikTok to convey key product benefits in an entertaining way.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done with the PLL since, but it didn’t start out with a strategic roadmap where we were looking for a sponsorship.
So that’s one segment for us: Working with content creators and folks who understand how to tell stories effectively on key digital platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube, etc.
Some of our other relationships are a bit more traditional, like our partnership with Riot Games and League of Legends in the esports space, where we introduced a gaming headset.
Jim: The PLL story is such a great example of what a partner can offer to a brand beyond “sponsorship benefits,” in this case their expertise in a new medium.
Pat: We’re all learning together as the landscape changes so rapidly. And it’s also an example of how organic partnerships can come from conversation and ideation rather than sitting down with a list of objectives and basically saying, “Here’s a brief, can you deliver on it?”
Jim: I’m always interested in how brands are determining the success of their partnerships, and I know that Bose has historically taken a very disciplined approach to applying metrics to measure its return. Are there new approaches, tools, or methodologies you are using in terms of evaluating your sponsorships?
Pat: We certainly don’t have all the answers, but we do take a “if you can’t measure it why do it? approach. But we don’t have a set playbook in terms of KPIs for partnerships. It depends on the initiative, the audience, whether it’s focus is short-term or long-term, etc.