Q&A: John Cimperman

 

With clients including MLB Network, NFL Network, Fathead and LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers, Cenergy is putting the beef into Buffalo, NY marketing


By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor, NYSportsJournalism.com

(Posted Feb. 23, 2009)


East Aurora, NY, located about 20 southeast of Buffalo, is not generally considered one of the top media centers in the nation. But Cenergy Communications, founded in 2000, is doing its best to change that. Included among the agency's clients are MLB Network, NFL Network, NHL, Cleveland Cavaliers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Blue Jays, Fathead, OXY Acne Solutions, Aussie Vineyards, TBS, Time Warner Cable and Comcast. The top dog there is John Cimperman, managing partner, who had nearly two decades of executive sports experience before forming the company, including tenures with the Buffalo Sabres, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia 76ers and Cleveland Cavaliers. Cimperman spoke with NYSportsJournalism.com about the pros and cons of sports marketing.

NYSportsJournalism.com: What type of feedback are you getting from clients regarding the economy and activating their messages?
John Cimperman: In the last six months I've heard our clients use the word "activation" more than ever. Nine months ago, a year ago, we didn't hear the word "activation" all that much. We were the ones preaching "activation." And now our clients really understand the importance of it. Making sure your message motivates people to do something.

NYSJ: What are you hearing about using athletes as spokespersons, especially in light of the recent situations involving Charles Barkley, Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez?
Cimperman: As it relates to those three gentlemen we haven't heard anything because our clients do not directly work with them. But what I always advise our clients is that when you work with current athletes there is always a risk because their performance on and off the field is under a microscope and can change We direct many of our clients to look at [retired] athletes because there is less risk in how they are perceived by the public will change.

NYSJ: Cenergy works with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Pittsburgh Penguins, so that involves LeBron James and Sidney Crosby, respectively, two of the most popular athletes in sports who also are popular among marketers. So there are active athletes out there who are in demand.
Cimperman: Absolutely. There are athletes who are credible and reliable and are viewed that way by the public. For brands looking to differentiate themselves and looking for a positive endorsement, that's the way to go. But for the upside there is also a downside, not in particular with the two players you mentioned, but overall.

NYSJ: Are your clients looking more for experiential and interactive programs or are traditional venues still in play?
Cimperman: Whether it's traditional, which is really one-way communication, or digital, interactive or Internet, which is two-way communication, when we talk to our clients it's how can we get them to do something. Build a data base. Build the brand. [Get consumers to] call a phone number. More [teams and leagues] are using text messaging, digital and the Internet to reach fans and consumers, and more companies are aware of how important that is. What we want to do is make certain our clients are using these tools to their best advantage. The new campaign we did for the Pittsburgh Penguins (pictured), for example, is intended to drive fans to the team's Web site and newsletter and encourages them to follow the team using cell phones and text messaging.

NYSJ: At the NBA All-Star Game fans were able to vote for the winner of the Sprite Slam Dunk contest. So getting clients to build marketing the encompasses two-way communication certainly is resonating with fans and leagues.
Cimperman: Exactly. And at the NHL All-Star Game, for example, fans were able to use their cell phones to text message their votes, and could text message in to vote for the player who they felt won the breakaway challenge [which was won by Alex Ovechkin].

NYSJ: Cenergy has worked with the NHL and the outdoor Winter Classic, which seems likely to be played in 2010 for the third season. And the Super Bowl has been around for 45 years. Both drew great ratings. So it seems as if there are both new and tradition events behind which sponsors and marketers can activate.
Cimperman: Companies understand that these are great properties and great opportunities for positive associations. What we preach to a lot of our clients is that even if the cost [to buy] traditional media at these events is higher, but it's the quality of cost they have to consider and how many people will be watching a spot [during the Winter Classic or Super Bowl]. So we are seeing more clients activating behind digital and the Internet, but still using traditional media when it is to their advantage. Back to Home Page