If you sponsor it… will they come?

Recently, rDialogue went to SunTrust Park and watched the Braves beat the Mets in an exciting game. The stadium is beautiful and… well, we could go on and on. In fact we did and here you can read all about rD’s outing at the ballpark. But here, we want to focus on the name on the side(s) of the ball park: SunTrust, along with the broader topic of sponsorships and activation of those sponsorships.

If you read our first Braves blog, we mention SunTrust a lot, (15 times!) and every time the word “Park” followed right behind. The point being that if SunTrust (STI) wasn’t the name of the stadium, we’d have never mentioned them. But never the less they are. So it seems fitting to wonder what they’re doing to enhance the customer experience, not just for Braves fans, but for SunTrust customers at SunTrust Park.  And for SunTrust customers considering or planning a trip to the park.

Let’s start with what SunTrust has at the park.

You can find SunTrust ATMs throughout the park, so that’s a nice little convenience and likely a fee generator for STI. Just outside the park in The Battery, is the SunTrust onUp experience center. If you haven’t heard of onUp – and as SunTrust customers we had not until we visited -- it’s a SunTrust program that encourages financial confidence for everyone, not just SunTrust customers.

The onUp experience is a smart brand play on SunTrust’s part. There you can learn interesting financial facts as well as enjoy some Braves themed experiences, such as pictures wearing Braves gear and trying to hit virtual homeruns out of SunTrust Park. While SunTrust designed the onUp experience as a place for everyone, it feels like it was born to be an acquisition tool. This is one smart and expected way to activate (and payback) a sponsorship, especially one that cost the bank $250 million over 10 years

But what about existing SunTrust Customers?

An essential and basic component of customer marketing is differentiating between customers and prospects.

We are both Braves fans and SunTrust customers, and as such are also opted-in for apps and communications with both brands.  I have a checking account, a savings account, and two cards with SunTrust. In addition to being personal banking clients, rDialogue is a business customer of the bank, likewise holding multiple accounts and even having a banker.

In the months leading up to the stadium and season opener, we heard very little directly from STI, regardless of channel.  While Phil might be perceived as a more valuable customer for SunTrust, our experiences were no different and remain so. When we go to a Braves game, our experience isn’t more enhanced than any other fan, nor is there any difference as a business customer versus a “retail” one.

There are numerous opportunities for STI to better leverage its sponsorship.  Let’s say Phil buys tickets to a Braves game with his SunTrust card. If he didn’t buy tickets to the SunTrust Club, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to recognize him as a valuable bank customer and elevate his experience to the SunTrust Club?  Certainly SunTrust and the Braves have the information on when he’s going to SunTrust Park and where he’s sitting, so why not surprise him with a complimentary upgrade or at least a relevant offer that acknowledges they recognize him as a customer?

 Now for me, an upgrade to the SunTrust Club might be a bit of a stretch (maybe one day), but that doesn’t mean my experience shouldn’t be enhanced more than a Braves fan that’s not a SunTrust customer. I’m looking at the SunTrust app on my phone right now and at the very bottom is a SunTrust deals tab. There are 20 brands where I can take advantage of SunTrust deals but none of those brands are the Atlanta Braves. Having a SunTrust deal specifically for tickets or restaurants at SunTrust Park seems like an easy, scalable way to provide value for all SunTrust customers when they come to SunTrust Park.  And for STI, it means gaining further leverage and ROI from its SunTrust Park sponsorship “investment”.

SunTrust has a great opportunity to move from just being a very traditional sponsor, to a partner, or more fittingly, a teammate of the Braves and of its bank customers. The opportunity to rethink the old-school mass marketing strategy (which is slowing down) and flip its efforts to focus on existing SunTrust customers. And I’m willing to bet the investment would be less than $250 million. The technology in SunTrust Park combined with the “strategic teammates” the Braves have made is very Loyalty 3.0 but the execution isn’t there. We are hoping, for the sake of STI and its shareholders, that the strategy is there, but timing is such that execution is following at some point in the future.

The mobile and digital world the Braves have moved towards is 2.0, but the teammates are lagging behind in 1.0, and in this case 1+2 doesn’t equal 3. To maximize the experience at SunTrust Park, the Braves and their teammates need to step up to the plate to help create a holistic experience. It’s not enough, nor should brands want to slap their name on the side of the stadium and call it a day. So the ball is in your court SunTrust… or your field in this case, don’t strike out on an opportunity to elevate SunTrust customers’ experience. After all, your name is on the stadium.