During ESPN’s “The Last Dance” documentary on the Chicago Bulls’ run-up to the championship title during the ‘90s, I couldn’t help but feel bombarded by its advertisers, most notably State Farm insurance and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chocolate candy.

It seemed like every five minutes there was a State Farm or Reese’s advertisement. This led me to think, why would these companies spend so much time, effort and money on a sports mini-series that took place more than two decades ago?

Timing is Everything

First, we have to ask why “The Last Dance” was released in April 2020 when it obviously was filmed long ago. It could be a mere coincidence, but I’m thinking a smart and successful network such as ESPN has a contingency plan, if and when, sports schedules are interrupted. In a brilliant and strategic move, ESPN has been able to capture inevitably all of the viewership and related television ratings due to the pandemic. As a matter of fact, ESPN has reported that the mini-series represents the most-viewed original content broadcast on their networks since 2004.

COVID-19 has affected virtually every aspect of business the world over, but these two advertisers found a way to get their message through regardless. With the wide world of sports being closed since March, State Farm and Reese’s found an effective channel to share their message with the people that keeps their proverbial ‘lights’ on. In marketing, as in life, timing is everything.

Put the Horse in Front of the Cart

In good times and bad times, companies must remember strategic and sound marketing leads to sales. Getting a company’s brand, message, product or service in the marketplace is what drives sales. Too often, companies spend more money on their sales teams, manufacturing facilities, supply chains and accountants. What they forget, is none of that happens if marketing isn’t beating the drum, supplying the cadence, spreading the message and inspiring businesses and consumers to purchase that product or service.

State Farm and Reese’s are taking advantage of the lack of sports and related hunger for sports to inform and remind their target audiences that they exist, that they protect your house, your automobile, your family, or fulfill your chocolate and peanut butter cravings. By making the spend and putting their marketing “horse” in front of their sales “cart” during these challenging times, they’re better positioned than their competitors when the nation and the world – and their respective markets – open back up.

Strategize Your Spending in the “New Normal”

Of course, companies must be strategic with their ad spends, even more so during times like these. The pandemic has forced people, families and companies to truly find out what’s important and what’s not. It’s caused everyone to rethink their purchases, their savings, their habits and so much more. And it’s taught them all not to spend it all in one place. It’s time to look at every possible way to use your company’s marketing spend — advertising, branding, communications, content, door-to-door, events, guerrilla, influencer, investor relations, lobbying, online, public relations, search engine optimization, social media, tradeshows, virtually and more.

Times have changed, and from what the news is telling us, they’re going to continue to change. The companies that can adapt and evolve along with these changing climates are going to come out on top in the long run. More so than ever before, companies need to dust off their marketing plans and strategies, and start asking questions. … Who are you selling your products and/or services to? What do they need? Where do they purchase them? When do they prefer to buy them? Why should they care? How do they experience your brand, your people? … Sure, these seem like Marketing 101 quiz questions, but they are mission critical in 2020.

By analyzing the “new normal”, you’ll notice variants, changes in the marketplace that we’ve never seen before. Businesses, their employees and their consumers have been forced to experience brands and companies differently, and many of these experiences will be sticking around for a while. ESPN, State Farm and Reese’s were way ahead of the curve. They were extremely responsive when the coronavirus hit our shores and they’ve been able to reap the rewards: NASDAQ shows, State Farm’s stock price has been on the rise since March and the NYSE shows the same for Reese’s (The Hershey Company). They’re smart companies who have proven marketing leads to sales even, and especially, during challenging times. So, one more question. … how smart is your company?

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