Dr. Jeremy Weisz 7:32

the wasn’t a match a perfect match match,

Vicki Higgins 7:35

it wasn’t a match. So I kept kind of holding them in the wings and then continually you know, pursuing some other opportunities and I just could not get way out of my mind. So I contacted them again I said, You know, I realized you know, official vehicle maybe that’s where we land and that’s fine because we have our face to face conversation. So I said for meeting I went to the meeting and I kid you not I was sitting in the meeting and my contact had to go take a call real fast. And then she was coming back into the room and I just had this feeling come over me that this is the naming rights partner I just knew it I had chills I was like these are this is the partner that has to be on this arena. So I had my presentation all ready to go for official vehicle. And she came back in the room and sat down and we started talking I’m like, What is the goal for the dealers that are in this area? What is the What do you want to how do you want to connect with the consumers? What are the things that you’re doing and I just started asking her questions. And then I said you know I’m sitting here prepared to talk with you about being in the official vehicle, no problem and I respect that that’s where you want to go. But I closed my computer. And I said listen, heart to heart. This is your market. These are your people these people are driving to LA they’re driving priuses they’re driving you know trucks they’re you know working they’re family oriented like these are your people I said this I just don’t want to put any other name on this building other than Toyota and like this is the market this is this has to be the right fit like I just want to see if there’s any way we can make this happen. And so she said I really get it she’s like I have looked through everything and we’ve been trying to figure out what we were going to do in that market and she’s like I think that this could be a good fit, we need to present it to the board and go you know through that. The board the dealers you know we need to talk with them. We need to talk with corporate we need to see how this will work. So, in about 10 minutes, I had a tentative Yes. And then we moved on down the pathway to talk to the Board of Directors provide all of our presentations, all of our legal to corporate. And in July of 2019 we were able to do the big unveiling of Toyota Arena in Ontario, California and it was such a proud moment but it’s one of those things just trusting your guts, and also really not giving in I think the other wealth management company would have probably even been more money on but I just felt like it wasn’t the right thing. And so I really wanted to stay with my heart and know that this was the right fit for that market.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 10:17

What are the that’s an amazing story. I love it. And what were some what are some of the options for a sponsor? So the stadium like, okay, Vicki steams out of my budget, what else? What other options are there when someone’s talking about a venue like that?

Vicki Higgins 10:33

You know, with all of our clients, we actually go through a process. And it’s the CSP methods. So any venue, or even an event, I we sit down and we take a look at like, Who are they? What are they all about? Who’s the audience, and we do an asset inventory, and we look at the inventory of every single thing they have to offer. Most places, like most venues, or events, are really selling themselves short, they don’t realize some of the things that could be incredibly valuable to a brand. And they don’t even include it in their packages, because they don’t realize that they’re sitting on a golden egg. But I sit down and go through the asset inventory, my team does a really deep dive in that we look at all kinds of opportunities that we could help connect that brand, the sponsor with the audience. And so the asset inventory is really one of the first things that we do, the newer thing that we’re doing within the asset inventory is not only about marketing, or signage, or digital advertising or on site activation. But now we’re also including in that inventory, corporate social responsibility initiatives, can they engage their employees? Can they do things that are helping the community? Can they partner up with this venue to do something around women’s empowerment or black lives matter or diversity, equality inclusion, so we’re really enhancing the assets now, because we know that that is very important to brands. So the first step in the CST method is the asset inventory. The second step is creating packages, that would be not only aligned with a title like naming sponsor like Toyota, but also it might be aligned with the official beverage, or it might be aligned with a founding partner. So we develop some different packages. brands are really tired of the bronze silver gold initiatives. So we try to get very creative and customizing those packages for what the brand needs. And then the third step in the CSP method is evaluation. This is something that’s really important in most venues, and events put like, Hey, we need X amount of dollars. But really, what we want to do is we want to come up with a number that is a fair market value. So if you’re buying this set of assets, in San Francisco, or in Texas or in New York, you’re getting a fair market value for those assets. So that’s something that’s very important to the brand’s, they want to make sure that if they’re spending on something in one market, it’s equal to what they would be spending in other markets. So we do a really deep valuation on what those sponsorship assets would be valued at for for our clients. And then we help create a presentation and then we pitch and go and go sell to clients. And so those are the steps in the CSP method. And that every venue is a little different. Every event is a little different. They have their own unique twist, we try to find those unique pieces and really highlight them so it can attract the right brands. We’re all about fewer, bigger, better. So that’s how we work with our clients.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 13:41

I’d love to hear some examples of creative sponsorship. I mean, basically, you come into organization and you create money out of thin air. I mean, it’s not out of thin air, but I mean, you find money for people. So it’s like, I mean, I can envision so you work with events, and venues or any other type of companies that you tend to to work with.

Vicki Higgins 14:06

Well, actually, because I appreciate you asking that most of our history has been with venues like naming rights deals or high level partnerships, and large scale events. Typically our events have been over 200,000 people. So when we are asked to work on a project, typically we’ve had some minimums that we needed the clients to hit. Now we have some online digital tools that were able to serve more people. And we also recognize that because we are taking this step to help brands see how they can better use their diversity, equality inclusion or their corporate social responsibility funds, and marrying those funds with their marketing budgets. We’re now working in venues, events and also the film and entertainment industry. So we’re really excited to have that opportunity. We’re working with A great group called bridge x media, and they’re doing some amazing films that are all about diversity, equality inclusion, they really hit initiatives that we are dealing with today. And so we’re helping them to find Brand Partners, that would be a great fit for those films as well.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 15:18

Yeah, the reason I ask is because when I think creative sponsorships, I’m trying to get the frame of mind and I’m gonna have you talk about some creative sponsors, but I picture you know, the traditional, if you’re, you know, either at a large venue, obviously, at Stadium, you know, you can have the banners around, or if you’re an event, it could be the bags, it could be the something they’re wearing around their neck, it could be, you know, the signs in the rows. Some, you know, I’ve seen, you know, out of stadiums, like people have bricks on the stadium, and I’m in Chicago, there’s like stuff around Wrigley Field. So I’m sure this is stuff like you’re in the matrix, you probably just see this stuff, and then everything, all the code around it, what else can be done? So I would love to hear to get the brainstorming and juices flowing. What are some examples of some of those creative sponsorships?

Vicki Higgins 16:09

Oh, I love that question. On the more traditional, right, yes, there are marquees and electronic billboards and signage opportunities. That’s pretty standard. When we’re looking at a brand, we’re also looking at ways that we can help serve the brand. So we have a really long conversation with all right, Toyota as an example, what else could Toyota benefit from? How can we help them? How can this venue be helpful to them? So one of the great examples that we created for Toyota Rena, is that we allow them a certain number of days a year that they can use our venue. So normally, it’s

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 16:46

awesome to pay me up. And yeah,

Vicki Higgins 16:49

so normally, they would have to pay to go rent a venue to shoot their commercials or to have a big parking lot sale or something like that. So How fun is it that many of the Twitter or Toyota commercials are shot at Toyota arena, you may not see Twitter in the background, but it gives them the opportunity to utilize that space, have their photo shoots have the trucks, the semis set up. So we really tried to look at ways that we could help them save budget and also be really creative to be serving them. So that’s one of the things we’ve done

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 17:23

when you’re really quickly so like you’re doing a deep dive with the that sponsor you may find, oh, you you know, when you do that deep dive, you may find Oh, I didn’t realize that you have these company wide events, right? And so you’re, you know, saving them money as well with the sponsorship.

Vicki Higgins 17:42

Absolutely. So it’s really truly a strategic partnership. You know, when we’re talking with a brand, like Toyota, or we’re talking with any of our sponsors, we’re really trying to understand like, what are the ways that we can help you save money, what are the ways that we can help get your name out there, what are your goals so we can help you accomplish those goals, we really want this venue to be a great partner to you. That’s why I say a lot of venues and properties like events, they’re sitting on things that they don’t think about would be very valuable to a brand so a venue we we entered into this agreement with a number of very unique qualities like using the parking lot for sales or for commercial shoots or actually using inside the venue for commercial shoots you see somebody running up the stairs with Nike or you know something like that, like we have that opportunity to use the venue in a variety of ways in addition to concerts and sporting events. So when it is a Tuesday morning and nobody’s there you know what else can we be doing that’s going to help you know the venue and also help the brand so we try and create things like that we also talked to them about employee engagement so right now especially in our world, so many businesses are struggling to get employees and keep employees and one of the things that we’re looking at are how can we serve our clients How can we serve the sponsors and help them create more fun engagement opportunities maybe if you are you know achieving a certain level in sales or maybe if you’re hitting a an attendance record or something you can bring your family to a Disney on a show or you have the opportunity to use tickets to the suite so we’re really trying to find ways that we can help the brands engage their employees and do things that are you know, even having a an online job, you know, fair that they can come to Toyota

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 19:37

read it’s a huge perk. I mean if your company and you’re like oh I could maybe go to the box once a year that that’d be great.

Vicki Higgins 19:45

It’s really inspiring because you know the brand. You know what, like FedEx, they’re looking for people to come on and work for them right now. And so as we talk to them about different opportunities, like having an opportunity out on the patio, where they You can have a job there and then bring everybody to the game or something like that. That’s a really fun perk that not always been used in events, think about so we try and talk about employee engagement, we also try to talk about, what are the things that they’re doing from a corporate social responsibility? Are they into education? Are they into sustainability? Are they supporting black communities, brown communities, we’re working with a bank, they do a lot of financial literacy programs. So we have a program where we give, you know, a set number of tickets to the bank, and then they can use that for all these kids and families that are going through this financial literacy program. So we really try to make sure that our partnership can

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 20:39

bridge their mission and social responsibility to, you know, incorporate that into whatever sponsorship, they’re, you know, the perks of that sponsorship,

Vicki Higgins 20:49

Coca Cola has a huge sustainability initiative, we just had a meeting with them, and they were talking about all of the things that they can do to better enhance our venues. So it’s really more encouraging for people to recycle. And, you know, they’re also doing a number of different things to put water in cans and give really cool creative things that they’re doing from a brand side, we love being the first to know about it on the menu side, and my agency is the bridge, you know, my agency is bringing the two together. So I love being creative about that. And, and I love companies that are taking a stand, you know, often a venue or an event is working with the marketing department or the marketing agency or the advertising agency. So one of the things that I really love is when we have the opportunity to not only have the marketing conversation, which is normal and traditional in the sports industry. But now when we have the opportunity to have a conversation about how can we help you from an HR perspective? How can we help you from corporate social responsibility? What are you doing in the community is there a corporate giving or community relations initiative that we can layer into this. Now this does two things, it helps the brand, the coke, the Toyota, the Amex, the Lucas soils of the world, the Nikes of the world that helps them forward their mission, and it helps the venue or the property, because now you’re not only working with a marketing budget, you have a social responsibility budget, or you have corporate gaming budget, or you have budget coming in from different areas of that company. And it really is a great way to enhance the revenue coming to that property. So I’m really excited about it. There are so many creative things US Bank is doing some great stuff on LGBTQ communities. Toyota is doing a ton of initiatives on mobility and helping communities get mobile and make sure people have vehicles. McDonald’s is doing some great things around community and equality and diversity. And a lot of people are doing employee engagement. You know, Walmart does a really great employee engagement in their communities and helps their employees get out into the community and engage. And if we can bridge that and help that happen at our venues or at our events, then it just really bolsters that initiative. So it’s not just the brand talking about it. Now there’s this huge opportunity for the brand and the team or the brand in the arena to talk about it. So it really makes a big impact.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 23:12

I want to talk Vicki about venue and versus sponsor for a second but are there any other before we move on to that? Are there any other creative sponsorships we should make sure to mention, I see how you can partner with local, you know, banks or communities or businesses to help you know push through an initiative or social responsibility. I can see how you know, you can use the venue for different things. You should be the Airbnb for stadiums. I mean, yeah, it’s like, oh, you need this. I’ll Airbnb. That’s

Vicki Higgins 23:48

great. That’s awesome. I mean, I think you know, we there are so many great examples out there right now of brands that are doing good things in the world. You know, Nike made a commitment of over $89 million, just in 2020. to impact that’s their impact portfolio. They’re doing things around getting active, they’re doing things around, get their communities, they’re doing things around diversity, equality and inclusion. And I think they’re really you know, taking a stand which is great. You saw that with a Colin Kaepernick message, you know, stand for something, even if it means sacrificing everything, like that message was so powerful. And I think we’re seeing brands take a stand. And you know, with that brands are putting people in charge of corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion, and it’s become a much more important aspect. And I think it needs to be talked about when it comes to sponsorships. We don’t want the sponsorships to lag behind. We don’t want the sponsorships to be the same old traditional sports themed, you know, advertising, marketing, digital sponsorship, we want the sponsorships to really move ahead with the brands and be able to serve the brands and have other things that The sponsors need and have the these properties and venues be able to offer that. So that’s really what we’re about as we work with venues and events and, and even brands, we work with venues like arenas and stadiums and sports teams and fairs and festivals and events, those are all sort of considered, quote unquote, properties, because they’re the ones that need the money, they’re the ones that are trying to get the sponsors. And then on the brand side, they are the sponsor, they’re the ones spending the money and trying to get a return on investment or a return on impact in the community. And I think those things are incredibly important. And we work with the brands to end or their agencies on what that strategy should be, how can we get really creative, um, to grow, you know, return on investment, grow their exposure, grow their impact in the community, and even you know, grow the messaging around their corporate social responsibility. So that whole strategic planning for their brands is something that we really love to do. And then by doing that, we are now teaching the venues and properties how to how to better serve their their sponsors,

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 26:07

Vicki, so I was gonna ask kind of, you know, I could see all the venues come to you and like, Listen, this is overwhelming. We have all this stuff. What do we miss? What are the low hanging fruit? What are you missing out on what we could doing better? or different? Or at all? Do you also have than some of the sponsors or brands come to you asking about strategy or where they should go? Or is it more from the venue side,

Vicki Higgins 26:30

it’s been mostly from the venue side, because right now, when we look at our specific place in the world, a lot of venues have been closed for 15 16 to 17 months, you know, so they’re reopening, they’re trying to get people back in their venues. But they’re also at a really skeleton staff. So trying to get things back up and running. So a lot of venues and events are really reaching out to ask for help, we can be an extension of their team, we can train their team if they have a young team. And or we can come on and be an extension of their team and help them get everything up and running from the preparation of all their asset inventory and all their packages, to really getting them ready to go to prison to brands. If they want us to train our team, we can do that. Or if they want us to hit throw, we can do that as well. Now, when it comes to the, to the, to the specific companies, the sponsors, I’ve just started getting outreach from corporate social responsibility, diversity and inclusion has, in addition to marketing, people who have seen what we’ve done in different different case studies, and they’ve said, Hey, gosh, we want to talk about this. Because our brand is really focused on Black Lives Matter. Our brand is really focused on women’s empowerment, our brand is really focused on diversity and inclusion or sustainability or saving our oceans. And so while we have more of our experience, on the venue property side, we are now starting to have a different division that can really serve the brands on a strategic side, and also their agencies. So the ad agency often has advertising experts, but sometimes they don’t have a sponsorship expert that can really dig into the details like this. So we are trying to be a resource to the to the ad agencies as well as a resource to the brand. So if they want to bring us on for a project is to have us do an audit of everything they sponsor, see how we can maybe we would recommend to make some edits to that and enhance what they’re doing. So it’s more of a cohesive machine with marketing, in addition to corporate social responsibility and what they’re doing in the market.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 28:34

You know, I want to talk about shifts in the sponsor industry in general, but, um, anything you mentioned briefly about Coca Cola on sustainability. You know, if there was anything else that you want to mention on that,

Vicki Higgins 28:48

well, I think they’ve done a really great job. You know, they’re a leader in sponsorship across the board. They do a number of things as many companies, but they’re really taking it very seriously the impact that their bottling has had on our environment. And so they have a huge initiative for sustainability and recycling and finding new ways to package. So I love that they’re taking on that responsibility. And they’re trying to integrate that into the venues that they work in as official beverage. The other thing that I really liked that they’re doing is they’ve committed hundreds of millions of dollars to minority people in the beverage industry. So they’ve done a huge initiative to really support minorities, women, and people in the food and beverage industry to help them you know, grow and make it a little bit more equal. They’re making a huge initiative to have more equality in their workforce. And they’re very public about all of that. So I think that the more we can help support that by activating on the venue side, you know, the more we have a great long relationship with them. So I really like the steps that they’re taking into their being so public And taking on responsibility about it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 30:02

Yeah. And when we talk about shifts in sponsorship in the sponsor industry in general, I mean, the the world has gone through some crazy times in the past couple years, what are you seeing on the forefront of sponsorships?

Vicki Higgins 30:17

Um, you know, I think at the forefront of sponsorships, we are seeing them come back, you know, we know that people want to get out there and they want to be at events, we know that people want to be entertained. It’s almost like this relief when they get this opportunity to go to a concert or spend time at a sporting event with their friends. And, you know, just like you feel this immense amount of joy there there are so the crowds are so good. You know, at the events that I’ve been to at the venues that we will we work with, the crowds are amazing. And you know, even though the rules are changing all the time about masks and, and all of that the crowds are awesome. Like they think everybody’s just so happy to be out there, they’re really, really excited. that bodes well for the sponsors, because the sponsors want to connect with people, I think now more than ever, we’re seeing brands, not just put an advertisement out, but they’re creating a message that connects with people, they’re being much more thoughtful around how they can connect with the human person that is attending an event or concert or a sporting event. And they’re really bringing in the emotional aspect of it. And I love that. And they’re not just talking about it, like a lot of the brands are actually doing something about it, you know, they are committing funds, they’re making, you know, new initiatives, they’re changing things that they do in their workforce and in their workplace. So the sponsorship industry, as I see it, in my own personal opinion, the sponsorship industry cannot go back to the old school sports model of advertising, media, and signage. Like we just can’t go back to that. It’s great to have that that’s very important. But I think now, the sponsorship industry has to step up and say, This is advertising media and signage, and digital and all of the normal things that you would get in a sponsorship. And this is what we can do for you. From a corporate social responsibility. There is more of a relationship that has to happen. More people need to be at the table and talk about what their goals are, how can we together make a positive impact in our community? How can we together create change in our community or in our world, and I think those conversations, brands have the funding. And they want to work with a venue or a team or a property or an event that they trust. And they want to be able to do that in a way that really makes an impact. And so I think we see this, the corporate sponsorship world and the sponsorship packages as a whole shifting to a new layer of the of the game, which is building in that community component building in that corporate social responsibility components, and building in activations that are not just about sales, but really about making an impact. I really see that and I am so happy to see that shift in our industry, because I think these teams and these venues, see millions of people, and that is a great opportunity to shift some things that are happening in our world.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 33:42

I think, you know, with COVID, there were so many shifts that happen with people with companies with business models. And I’d love to I know that you’ve been doing more in the film entertainment industry. How does that work? Talk about that, you know,

Vicki Higgins 34:01

we were approached through a contact on clubhouse. And one of the main, or main owners of the company of the of the entertainment company reached out and said, Gosh, I love what you’re talking about. Our films are all about diversity, inclusion, and creating a message that’s entertaining, but it’s also educating. And so they have some films coming out in the next seven or eight months, and they wanted to partner with brands. So we’re actually going out to a lot of these brands that have made large commitments to Black Lives Matter corporate social responsibility, diversity inclusion, and this, this suite of a variety of films has messaging, there’s you know, one that’s targeted more toward teens. There’s one that’s targeted towards, you know, women of various colors and different challenges they’ve gone through and the overcoming of that. I think they’re really really great topics and I wanted to be a part Part of that I was just like, gosh, I want to be behind something that is this. This is what we need in our world. And if I can do this with venues and events, then I’m sure we can do this with with film. So we’re just dipping our toe in the water of being in the film industry. We’re so excited to have some great conversations happening around how we can support these films, from product placement and sponsors of the films and just helping to get them made. So I’m really excited to have that in our new lane of vertical that we can offer. I

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 35:31

love it. Vicki, I have one last question. Before I ask it I want to point people towards CXPagency.com. Check out what you’re doing there. Are there any other places we should point people online to check out?

Vicki Higgins 35:45

I’m on all the social channels, it’s always under CXP Agency. So Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, we are present in all of the those social channels anyway. Um, so yeah, any of those places are great, but CXP Agency is our website. So check us out

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 36:02

there. Last question, Vicki. I know you’ve worked in in around the NBA for over a decade. And so I want I’d love to hear your favorite NBA story.

Vicki Higgins 36:16

Oh my gosh, I worked for the Indiana Pacers when Reggie Miller was our star player. And I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to the New York Knicks game where Reggie scored like a number of points to win the game in the last couple of seconds. Spike Lee was there there was this whole big thing happening and it was incredible. I was like 10 rows off the floor in a corner and just we were going crazy. Um, so it was really, really such a fun time to work for the team. I worked for the Indiana Pacers for 10 years, I was so blessed to have the opportunity to go to a number of different finals, games and playoff games all around the country, and really just blessed to work with such an amazing group of people I was so I stayed there for so long because of Donnie Walsh, who was the general manager at that time. And his guidance and leadership was really, really powerful to me, and also my boss and my team at the time. They were just great. I’m still friends with all of them. Um, we’ve kept in touch even though many of us have gone on to different directions. But it was like a family and you know, to have the opportunity to work for a sports team for 10 years in the NBA as a woman, I was really blessed and I learned so much I mean, that’s just the the crux of the lessons and the values and the relationship, the relate the importance of relationship, all of those things are things that I build into my agency today. And, you know, I just hope that I can be as good of a mentor as I had when I was when I was working for the NBA team. And, and I’m just really grateful for that time in my life because it was not only a blast, it was really such a learning experience for the trajectory that my career has taken. And it’s I feel like I live in a dream every day. It’s really incredible.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 38:16

Thank you. There’s a disparity today. I can’t imagine what it was when you were in the NBA probably much bigger. Right? What was it like as a woman working in the NBA.

Vicki Higgins 38:30

There were two women on the sales team. And really the rest of the women were mostly support staff. There was one woman that ran our community relations and one woman that ran media. And I you know, I think at that time, the Indiana Pacers were wonderful because it was a very diverse audience or very diverse office. And they did give us a shot. You know, they I had a shot just like all the other guys on the team to sell. And I may have had little post it notes in my office to make sure I knew what I was talking about. But I really I really felt at that time. They were very progressive. I know. You know, at that time, there were definitely challenges in for women in sports. And I feel like I was really blessed to have great bosses and great mentors. So although I know that there were very few women in the sports industry, I felt really fortunate to be one and to be able to have such a long career and I made the choice. I got my MBA and I was like, ooh, maybe it’d be more interesting to be on the client side. So I went to an airline and managed all the sponsorships for our airline with within North America. So the NBA NFL teams, Major League Baseball, PGA NHL, so I got to negotiate for our brands on the client side for for many years for the airline which was also a really great learning experience as well. So I think all Have the signs? Yeah, all the steps that I’ve taken have given me a lot of background and also a real keen understanding of the behind the scenes, you know, what does it take to really build a sponsorship that has longevity and purpose and is going to be a win win on both sides. And that’s really what we’re about. We’re really about creating connections and partnerships that make an impact. So CXP stands for connections and partnerships that make an impact in the world. And that’s really what I wanted to build my brand on. Was that how I was raised in the industry.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz 40:39

Vicki, I was the first one to thank you everyone. Check out more episodes of the podcast and InspiredInsider, check out CXPAgency.com. Thanks. Thanks, Vicki. Thanks, everyone.

Vicki Higgins 40:49

Jeremy, thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.