Raptors score with online promo

The Toronto Raptors have shown they're pretty good at one-on-one coverage on the basketball court. Now, they're hoping they can show a little one-to-one panache in the marketing arena....

The Toronto Raptors have shown they’re pretty good at one-on-one coverage on the basketball court. Now, they’re hoping they can show a little one-to-one panache in the marketing arena.

In what is the first project of its type for the team, the Toronto Raptors recently teamed up with Toronto-based TD Waterhouse Group for an online promotion that gives fans a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida next month to watch Vince Carter and the boys take on the Orlando Magic.

To enter ‘Score with TD Waterhouse’, fans simply have to click on a contest banner that appears at www.raptors.com or TDwaterhouse.ca. Prizes, which are drawn every Thursday morning during the eight-week campaign, also include a pair of season’s tickets, one of 10 Motorola digital phones, free airtime, Raptors merchandise, and Bell Sympatico High-Speed Internet access.

Supported by print and TV, as well as point-of-purchase advertising at all TD Waterhouse branches in greater Toronto, the contest is the first of its kind for the NBA franchise team, which, according to league rules, is restricted to a 75-mile radius for its marketing and advertising activities.

Beth Robertson, director of corporate partnership services for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the owner of the Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs, says the campaign respects that geographic limitation by asking Web site visitors to provide their postal codes. If they reside outside the marketing territory, they’re automatically bumped to a generic site where the promotion isn’t featured.

‘We’ve managed to use a global medium and talk to TD Waterhouse consumers, while still respecting the rule,’ says Robertson. ‘This certainly paves the way for similar efforts in the future.’

‘Score with TD Waterhouse’ also allows contestants to bolster their chances of winning by referring their friends, which increases traffic to the site, adds Robertson.

This isn’t the first time the Raptors have dabbled in one-to-one online marketing. In January 2000, the franchise launched a consent-driven e-mail marketing program called Raptors Insider, which is currently being revamped, according to Alon Marcovici, director of new media-Internet for the Raptors. ‘We learned a lot, so we’re able to manage it better internally and promote and market to fans with a lot better content,’ he says. (The company also launched an identical effort for the Maple Leafs at www.torontomapleleafs.com, called Leafs Insider, last November.)

Raptors Insider is linked to Raptors.com. When consumers click on its logo, they are asked basic information – first and last name, e-mail address, postal code and birth date. Then they choose topics they’re interested in, such as team news and ticket information. Depending on those choices, registrants are sent regular e-mails that offer such information as a five-day outlook, trivia and game notes.

‘We’re trying to connect with them so they feel relevant to the Raptors,’ says Marcovici, who adds that 11,000 fans have signed up so far.

Along with the Raptors’ Web site, which was redesigned this month, the Raptors Insider will be rejigged with more graphics and tools to ‘target the market a lot better,’ says Marcovici.

‘We will be able to hold fan polls and increase graphic capability. Our biggest challenge is increasing sign-ups and attracting people with different levels of knowledge about basketball, including older folks who have grown up with hockey.’

By summer, Marcovici says the company hopes to have a full-fledged database that will allow the team to better understand and utilize its target demographic information.

Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment hasn’t promoted Raptors Insider since its debut but now that the e-mail program has been redesigned, the company will boost support by sending information to season ticket holders and marketing it in the Air Canada Centre, as well as in game programs.

Meanwhile, the new-and-improved Web site has been transformed into ‘Raptor World,’ says Marcovici, with more content, half-time show highlights and even a ‘Raptor cam’ where visitors can get a view of the Air Canada Centre during games.