Stanford, 49ers Demonstrate How To Maximize A Glocal Partnership Strategy


Stanford Graduate School of Business marketing professors Navdeep Sahni and Sridhar Narayanan recently completed a study to determine the effectiveness of retargeting campaigns. The results have interesting implications for the sponsorship industry with the San Francisco 49ers being a case study for how to potentially implement their findings.

Retargeting campaigns occur when a cookie is inserted into a browser to track a person’s online activity to serve advertisements. More specifically, this means “when you visit an online [site], the vendor places on your browser a cookie that ad exchanges can detect and use to push related ads onto other websites you visit or social media apps you use.”

The most important insight from the study was the benefit of immediacy in retargeting ads. More specifically, the researchers found “if a user is not advertised to in the first week, advertising later might not be effective.” These benefits accrue even at relatively early stages in the marketing / buying funnel, including when an online shopper simply looks at a product page without adding it to a shopping cart or if the shopper has seen the ad before.

The 49ers renewed focus on local sponsorships demonstrates an interesting application of this idea. The team recently announced the San Francisco-based Gold Bar Whiskey as the team’s official whiskey partner. This is part of a strategy to partner with more local companies while still embracing its Silicon Valley geographic roots via global partnerships with large technology companies such as Yahoo! and Foxconn.                   

How can a team like the 49ers be both targeting global and local partnerships at the same time? While this may seem counterintuitive, the 49ers demonstrate how going “glocal” (global and local) can work in practice. In previous posts, we have discussed how Block Six Analytics’ (B6A) Corporate Asset Valuation (CAV) model examines the quantity, quality, and engagement of partnership activations. We have typically focused on quality (what is the fit of the audience to a company’s target demographics) and engagement (how likely is an audience to interact with an activation).

Helping companies reach a larger audience, however, can be particularly valuable to the local partners such as Golf Bar that have relatively little brand awareness as compared to the 49ers. Our CAV research has shown that increasing brand awareness and engagement has a strong and statistically significant impact on increasing the probability of revenue growth. The 49ers can also aggregate large audiences at specific times (typically on gamedays or concerts) that enable Gold Bar to maximize the recency effect critical to effective ad retargeting at scale.  

It is difficult to think of companies that understand the value of these types of strategic considerations for digital advertising more than those based in Silicon Valley. More specifically, Yahoo!’s core business model focuses on how it uses search, email, messenger, and sports content to maximize advertising revenue. The 49ers’ partnership announcement with Yahoo! in 2013 emphasized this idea by highlighting how the Silicon Valley-based company would become the “exclusive online sports content, social networking, as well as photo and video sharing partner for Levi's Stadium and the 49ers.”

 The 49ers now have the opportunity to leverage its global Yahoo! partnership to determine the most effective digital marketing strategies for local partners such as Gold Bar. For example, the 49ers can use the Yahoo!’s expertise to more effectively help local companies maximize reach and increase market share through digital strategies such as ad retargeting. The team can then help Yahoo! build case studies that highlights the company’s strengths in advertising and sports for the team’s local partners. This unique combination provides a way for Yahoo! differentiate it from companies, such as Google, in the marketplace through its 49ers partnership.  

Retargeted ads and cookies have a complicated ethical track record. There are real questions on whether any company or person should have the ability to track user activity online even when steps are taken to anonymize personal identifiable information. Teams and their partners should consider these factors when contemplating the use of retargeted ads and cookies.

However, the Stanford research does demonstrate that these retargeted ads are effective even when a customer is at the start of the buying funnel. The 49ers demonstrate the opportunity to employ a glocal strategy based around this tactic that can be effective for both properties and partners.