Game, Set, Match - Xerox and the U.S. Open
Partnership is one of the corporate buzzwords du jour. From grand corporate alliances to short-term consulting contracts, companies doing business together are increasingly claiming to “partner” with each other. Yet, when you peel back the layers, you find everything from truly mutually beneficial relationships to firms simply working together on certain projects and referring business. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but true partnerships should be more.
Then there are sponsorships. This is where a company plunks down some serious bucks to promote its brand in conjunction with another organization—such as sports teams, the arts, museums and the like—to increase branding and garner some halo effect from of the sponsored organization. The hope is that the promotional aspect turns into sales. As a friend who’s a NASCAR fan likes to say, “If a product isn’t on the side of a race car, we don’t need it.”
But sponsorships and partnerships can also be combined to provide real benefits for all involved. We haven’t seen too much of this in the printing and document industries, but that’s changing with the Xerox presence at the 2011 U.S. Open tennis championship that’s underway in New York City. I’d spotted the Xerox logos while watching the Open on TV and remembered it has some involvement beyond mere logo and ad placement, so I made a few calls.
Xerox is hardly a stranger to alliances in the world of sports, having been behind the scenes at various winter and summer Olympics. Its new sponsorship strategy is one that seeks to extend the brand—and business—through tennis, the arts, music, science and more.
Five year deal
According to Jon Levine, vice president for Global Experiential Marketing & Communications, Xerox has cut a five-year deal with the U.S. Open to be the exclusive office equipment and document technology and services provider for both the U.S. Open and Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. Much of the work is behind the scenes stuff, but combined with the associated document production at the Open, creates a story that Xerox hopes will resonate with a large segment of a key target market—corporations seeking document and print management services and equipment.
The sponsorship integrates Xerox document technology into the Open’s tournament and business operations in the media center, and encompasses scanners, printers, fax machines, mobile and multifunction devices. This lets the folks running the U.S. Open focus on delivering great tennis while Xerox software and technicians make sure the document side that supports it works round the clock.
On the production side, the big volume piece is the Daily Draw Sheets, the fans’ daily guide to the entire event. At the end of the final match each evening—which can be 1 a.m. of the following day—all the data is sent via FTP to Xerox’ production facility on Morton St. in downtown Manhattan. There it’s used to create the Draw Sheets—16-page, full color, 11x17˝ saddle-stitched documents listing every match of the coming day, which court each will be played on, assorted images, and a map of the U.S. Tennis Center.
In all, 127,800 Draw Sheets and more that 2 million pages will be produced over the two weeks of the Open. Each night, five Xerox 8000 AP color presses fire up to produce pages that are bound using Horizon 8000 bookletmakers, then shipped back to the Tennis Center by 8 a.m. It’s quite a shift from the previous process in which Draw Sheets were printed in Boston and trucked three and a half hours to New York. Now the truck just crosses the East River.
The production operation aside, I was actually more interested in the thinking that had Xerox popping up in a widening range of venues and with a disparate selection of partners. After all, in recent years the company has been a sponsor/partner with Sting, the New York Mets, the Buffalo Bills, Operation Blue Planet, the Rochester International Jazz Festival, and more. The U.S. Open and Cirque du Soleil are two of the latest, and others are in the works.
These organizations all have two things in common. All have extensive document production requirements and they all are strong brands with global reach and recognition. Further, their other sponsors and partners are also premium brands with high recognition. Sponsoring the U.S. Open, for example, puts Xerox on a big stage and at the same table as Mercedes Benz, IBM, J.P. Morgan Chase, and American Express, among others, making it as much a business play as it is a brand play.
Levine says there are four parts to these alliances:
• First, the organization or “property” becomes a customer because it needs the kinds of document management technology and services Xerox can provide.
• Second, the details of that relationship turn into a relatively deep case study that provides examples which can be used in advertising and marketing. “This validates the brand story and helps differentiate Xerox from its competitors,” Levine explains. “It’s different than what we’ve done in the past, and better shows the kinds of things we’re able to offer. Meanwhile, it frees our partner to focus on what they do best, providing a great experience for their fans and customers.
• “Third, we’re able to leverage many of the customer’s brand attributes and be associated with their brand. This has more value than using generic images of people climbing a mountain or something else that has no connection to what we do as a company.”
• Lastly, there’s the old-school side of such deals—hospitality. This is still important, because it lets the company bring customers and prospects to events they might not otherwise be able to attend, while showing them how Xerox technology is working behind the scenes. During the Open for example, Xerox is holding presentations and workshops for customers and giving them a look behind the curtain to see how the Open functions—and how Xerox technology plays a part.
“It’s important that Xerox be thought of as more than an equipment company,” Levine notes, “and these kind of alliances are an excellent way to do that.”
So what’s else is in the works? Levine isn’t saying, but like the U.S. Open, it’s sure to provide some interesting stories.