The Marketing Genius of Jim Irsay


irsayOn Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Tennessee Titans to become the AFC South Champions. Before the game, however, Colts owner Jim Irsay ran an absolutely brilliant marketing campaign over Twitter.

In case you weren’t up on the details, let’s review Irsay’s tweets from December 31st:

TO WIN A PRIUS AND $4K—At 1:15pm this Sunday there will be a black Prius parked on the north exterior plaza outside Lucas Oil Stadium…

TO WIN A PRIUS AND $4K—Entrants must be 18 yrs or older AND following @jimirsay on…

TO WIN A PRIUS AND $4K—ONE entry per person, multiple entries disqualifies you (not kidding)!…

TO WIN A PRIUS AND $4K—At 1pm this Sunday I will tweet a question. You can enter by tweeting your answer.

TO WIN A PRIUS AND $4K—Ur tweet MUST contain your name as it appears on your driver’s license AND include @jimirsay AND #gocolts.

Let’s dismiss the obvious advantages of this kind of promotion. Any time you give away a valuable prize, you generate lots of buzz and interest in the brand. You strengthen loyalty. You make a lot of people happy, and potentially one person tremendously happy. Contests are usually great.

But the Colts marketing team did something absolutely brilliant with this campaign, something that would be expensive and time consuming to do otherwise: They crowdsourced an accurate list of Colts Fans and Twitter handles.

Think about it! Great marketing requires a clean, accurate, cross-referenced database. The development of new technologies such as Twitter means that there are new ways to reach people, but at the same time, it’s tremendously useful to be able to connect fans to Twitter accounts.

Take a look, as an example, at Twitter user @DeadStroke96. You can tell he’s a huge NFL fan just by reading his Tweets. But there’s no way to know who he is, since this user did not provide a name on his Twitter profile. In fact, lots of people just use an alias, a first name or a nick name online. There’s no easy way to cross-reference with all of the official data you might have on someone, such as purchase history, marketing databases, etc.

But now, Jim Irsay (and everyone) knows that @DeadStroke96 is George Ketchman. It looks like hundreds—if not thousands—of people voluntarily gave clean, accurate data for this contest. Head over to Twitter Search to see for yourself. (You can search for “#gocolts @jimirsay footballs” to narrow the results.)

One of the best ways to increase productivity is to shift work to other people. The Colts could have spent countless hours tracking down all of Jim Irsay’s followers, looking at their profiles and their tweets to try and determine their full legal names. Or, they can run the same contest they would anyway, and let people do the work themselves.

Good work, Jim Irsay and the Colts marketing team!


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      It is a great idea…but what’s the ROI? When I first read a tweet about the promotion on Saturday @jimirsay had roughly 18,000+ followers. I just checked and it’s now 20,000+. Was the cost worth two thousand new followers?

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        I doubt the cost was even close to $30k. We know it was at least $4k in cash. It’s possible that they got the car at no direct cost whatsoever in exchange for some marketing trade.

        If the Colts use the data, then yes, it’s absolutely worth $4,000. It would take a sizable team many weeks to cross reference all of Irsay’s followers with actual real people, and that wouldn’t cover the many Twitter users whose identities you can’t deduce.

        Of course, there’s one more piece of information: Anybody can get this list now, not just the Colts. That should tell you something else about this campaign.

        • 4

          You also have to factor in the cost of the ‘sizable team’ then. Say you can cross-reference 1 person every 3 minutes, or 20 an hour. For 20,000 followers, you’re looking at 1000 man-hours of labor. Throw that at a reasonable $10/hour data entry position, and you’re in another $10,000 for cost. Now you’re back to $14,000 if the car is free, $30,000+ if it’s at a discount.

          (Oh, and you better get them started on it today before wipes it all away in about a week hahahaha! 🙂 )

          I think Irsay is GREAT at building buzz, getting people talking, etc. And I think we’d all love for him to utilize the data like it can and should be, but I just realistically don’t think it’s happening.

          What’s his main objective? Get people talking and excited about the Colts (and him), and continue to show that he has lots of money and can give stuff away. Did he succeed in that? Yup.

      • 5

        ROI isnt just in Twitter followers Steve. No way you can measure ROI of a trickle down thing like this. Its not about how many followers Irsay got its about the face of an organization getting publicity all over town. Heck its nearly worth it for all the pub they are getting from marketing geeks like us. The games are sold out well in advance so other than merch sales the Colts have no room to improve their ROI per say.

      • 6

        The Colts can obtain revenue through tickets… but quite a bit is obtained through sponsorship. Sponsors pay for big numbers. Unlike a typical company, fans of sports teams stick around. So a better question might be – what’s the lifetime value of a Colts fan…. and did Jim Irsay make any Colts fans by doing this? I think he may have. People are tired of teams always taking… this is a nice gesture of giving back a little.

      • 7

        It’s not about the ROI, the followers, or the cost. It’s about the egomaniacal ramblings of a billionaire with more money than sense. I mean really…he paid $1M for Jerry Garcia’s guitar. Do you really think he’s concerned about $30k?

        • 8

          While I agree that money and sense have nothing in common, I’m not sure I agree that Irsay is egomaniacal. In most cases, Irsay has done everything possible to avoid the spotlight. I work with some that have a lot of contact with him and they’ve told me he’s an amazing guy with a very soft heart. If you do some searching, you’ll find that he keeps many charities going here in Indiana.

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    Im with Brad on this one, sort of. Robby makes a huge assumption that the Colts will leverage the info. I am skeptical at best on that front seeing as they have one of the worst (because its nearly non existent) presences in the social space for a pro team. Now granted their fans do alot of their bidding for them online and thats ok but now that Irsay is tweeting his stream of consciousness and giving away tickets and cars doesnt mean the organization has wised up. The parameters of the contest point to someone with some Twitter knowledge getting in Jim’s ear. Perhaps Doug and his friend Pat Coyle can speak to the Colts as an organization better than I. The other value in this is for potential future sponsors. Toyota got some great pub out of this, although they could have gotten more help from Jim and their local dealers probably didnt promote it and leverage it like they could. A social savvy company looking to partner with the Colts would be licking their chops at a deal like this. The cost to the Colts was probably nothing for the car or severely discounted due to Toyotas partnership with the team (car probably cost team under $20k if they paid for it) The Colts as a team would have gotten more traction had the prize been more structured around them & their product but the publicity doesnt hurt. Its a great thing to see Irsay’s tweets not being filtered but from a marketing standpoint I still see alot of opportunity and room for improvement.

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    According to Jim Irsay’s car/cash giveaway rules, the tweet needed to include your name as it appears on your drivers license. Though this could be for data mining purposes, I think it was to prevent cheating. He had a one-tweet-per-person limit; you were disqualified for multiple tweets. The “full name” rule discouraged multiple guesses from someone with multiple Twitter accounts.

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