A Valentine's Day special...
Yes, today’s the day. You know, the day you were supposed to do that special thing for that special someone, but it’s very likely you forgot. So instead you’ll go buy a card, a gift or a flower (or maybe lots of flowers) after work and pretend that was the plan all along. It’s okay, we’ve all been there. I’m not here to shame you.
For me, Valentine’s Day has never been a very big deal. Maybe it should be, maybe I’m just not a romantic, or maybe I like to use the excuse that I love my wife as much every day, so Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be any different (that's a copout, I know). And as much as I'd like to express my undying love in the form of a dying bouquet of flowers, my wife agrees that buying her roses is a waste of money.
Being that I work in the sports industry, and because of my cynical attitude toward Valentine's Day, I thought it would behoove me to find some positive collaborations between sports and love. And what better example is there than sports marriage proposals!? There's not one, I looked. After a comprehensive scouring of the internet, I was able to narrow down the top sports marriage proposals, either at a sporting event or by athletes themselves. I've picked the top five, although they're all winners in my book (it's a short book with lots of pictures).
Now, would I have ever considered proposing to my wife (Heather) at a sporting event? Heck no! Just getting her to a sporting event would've required more planning than a wedding itself (this is pretty indicative of Heather's enthusiasm for sports). And the chances of her saying yes after I got her there... pretty slim. I would've been that guy that got humiliated in front of a full arena. (Sorry about that, guy. You're probably just now getting over it and I had to bring it up again.)
But other than the clearly significant act of celebrating one's love by asking for a significant-other's hand in marriage while being surrounded by fanatic fans, bratwursts and beers, there's also a marketing element that comes into play with each of these marriage proposals. It's an opportunity that every sports team should be taking advantage of because every team has at least a few fans each year that would probably be willing to use a gameday experience to help pressure their significant-other into saying "Yes, I do". And that's the entire point of this blog.
I'll run down the short list of my top favorite marriage proposals, but I also want to point out why they're significant from a sports marketing point of view. Sure, people are making life-altering decisions, but what can you do as a sports marketer to capitalize on it? I mean, isn't that the very essence of Valentine's Day? Yes. Yes it is.
The first proposal comes from the San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium, which was the very first proposal at the new stadium- before the stadium was even completed. As far as stadium proposals go, this one was unique in that sense.
Marketing takeaway: Events like this are great PR, especially for something as impactful as a new stadium. It's not only showcasing more behind-the-scenes construction updates with photos, but the chances are your story will reach demographics beyond your typical fanbase. People everywhere are seeing how the 49ers created a special occasion for two of their biggest fans, and that connection leaves a strawberry-goodness taste in everyone's mouth.
Here's another proposal that likely ended with a "yes", but it's a good example of making your sponsors part of the event.
Marketing takeaway: Sponsors love to see their names associated with positive events. Find ways to make their sponsorship meaningful. In this example, you not only have everyone at the Heat game seeing the logo, but also everyone following on social media. It's a great promotion that couldn't be more fitting with this particular sponsor.
Similar to the proposal above, except this one involved one of the Bulls dancers. It was a nice, positive half-time event that gave fans a glimpse into the personal lives of the Bulls organization.
Marketing takeaway: Let your fans experience moments with people from your organization. Fans love their teams, but they really like to feel they're a part of the team. No better way to do that than to get them involved in something like a marriage proposal for one of your own.
A little back story on this one, the guy is (or was in 2013) an assistant soccer coach at Fresno Pacific University. He set up the proposal plan with the women's soccer coach, as his then girlfriend was a senior on the women's soccer team. The acting wasn't great and the guy seemed to drag this one out a little too long, but kuddos for pulling this stunt off.
Marketing takeaway: In 2013 when this happened, the marketing buzz word was "viral". And this one had "viral" written all over it. With over 3 million views, I'd say it was a success. It shows how the power of the unexpected can spread like wildfire, and this video leaves a positive impression for most of the world that's never heard of FPU.
I'm not gonna lie, this one stings a little. But only because seconds before this proposal (which seemed to be on the top of everyone's sports proposals list), the Broncos had just beat my Sooners. It was an incredible game for anyone but a Sooners fan, and Ian Johnson ended it the right way. If he was uncertain that his cheerleader girlfriend might say yes to his proposal, there was no better time to ask her than right after he scored the game-winning 2-pt conversion. I just have to think for them as a couple, that was the highlight of their relationship together. Gonna be hard to top that during their lifetime together.
Marketing takeaway: This is what you call a freebee. You're riding the gravy train with buttered biscuit wheels. You did absolutely nothing to deserve such a fortuitous situation, but you will surely benefit from it as an organization. Live it up while you can.
So after digging into all this and providing some takeaways, I might not be quite as cynical as I had thought. Or maybe I'm slightly more convinced now that love and sports can work together in a meaningful way! I feel like the Grinch whose heart grew three sizes today!! Thank you, Valentine's Day!