Universal Sports & Entertainment (USE), a division of Universal Media Inc., was launched in 2022 to open fresh opportunities for corporations, brands, and businesses to maximize experiential marketing campaigns backed by value, attribution, and lift. Celebrating its second year, USE has quickly become a sports and entertainment resource for growing organizations including National Fitness Partners/Planet Fitness, Members 1st Federal Credit Union, and Penn State Athletics.
UMI President and CEO Anne Carnathan appointed Nick Mickley as VP Integrated Media and Marketing Partnerships to lead the new division. A media veteran who spent the past 17 years as an iHeart Media executive, Mickley is driven by a measurable impact on audience and consumer engagement.
“Sports and entertainment marketing must reach beyond placing signage in stadiums or names on arenas. We build campaigns that capture how to connect your consumer to your brand in a way that creates interest, engagement, and interaction. Consumers and fans want to be ‘engaged with’ and not ‘marketed to’—especially with immersive sports and entertainment technologies. And when fans believe you have their best interests at heart, your brand is invited on a personal, long-term relationship that transcends a single concert, event, or game,” says Mickley.
“At National Fitness Partners/Planet Fitness, we value participating in sponsorships to expand our brand presence and grow our membership base,” says Christine Smith, Chief Marketing Officer. “We did not have the tools in-house to properly evaluate the true media value of our current partnerships or evaluate new opportunities. Working with USE has given us the ability to have a third party evaluate current partnerships and negotiate several new ones, while still maintaining the partner relationships we value. The USE team has helped us save time and money and has become an extension of our in-house marketing team as we strive to make Planet Fitness a Judgment Free Zone that is accessible to all.”
Developing effective attribution models to maximize sponsorships is what sets USE apart from traditional media marketing. Creating opportunities for new sports and entertainment partnerships and sponsorships, Mickley develops and negotiates on behalf of clients expanding on a growing list of partnerships with brands including Penn State Athletics, LAFC, Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia Flyers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Guardians, and Live Nation Entertainment. In addition, Mickley and his team are significantly engaged in the NIL (Name Image Likeness) space and are working in collaboration with Happy Valley United to grow and evolve NIL partnerships.
Amplifying brand exposure, brand association, and business relationships, USE adds a powerful fourth component that bridges technology—community involvement. “Understanding how your brand can support fans or consumers when they leave an arena, and creating a holistic campaign that brings real impact to their communities is where we use our proprietary data to turn marketing dollars into meaningful community investments,” says Mickley.
“Millions of sponsorship contracts and influencer campaigns are initiated every year, and we bring fresh eyes and audits to existing commitments while also foreseeing new opportunities to engage consumers and drive business growth. Instead of a sign-and-forget sponsorship engagement, we create a campaign that connects the company and the consumer in an experience that changes purchasing decisions. We take an obligatory golf sponsorship, or once-in-a-decade stadium naming, and ignite a campaign that combines influencers, endorsements, live media placements, and sell-through for a first-of-its-kind campaign that builds on your standard sponsorship contract,” says Carnathan.
“We built this division around data,” says Mickley. “Every CEO and marketing executive is asking ‘What is the platform and activation doing for us?’ We have three decades of experience in the fundamentals of broadcast, print, outdoor, and multi-media and have added a digital media research arm and placement department. A comprehensive campaign might include digital signage, courtside signage, stadium signage, influencer campaigns, and brand awareness built into live sports and entertainment events. The most important deliverable is a significant return on investment for the client and a memorable return on time for the concert goer and sports fan.”
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