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Why FedEx Chose Orange Bowl Over Super Bowl

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While FedEx is sitting out the Super Bowl again this year, it's going heavy on sponsorship of such events as Monday's Orange Bowl, a college football game held at the Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Steve Pacheco, advertising and marketing communications director at the nation's top shipping company, said such sports sponsorships over the years (FedEx is a 20-year sponsor of the Orange Bowl) have resulted in "significant dividends" for the brand. In an interview with Brandweek before the game, Pacheco spoke about the new ads that aired last night -- all of which are tagged "We understand" and show what happens when consumers choose to ship with FedEx.

Pacheco also discussed FedEx's advertising and marketing plans this year, and whether its Super Bowl absence is hurting the brand. The New York office of BBDO, which has held the FedEx account for as long as the company has sponsored the Orange Bowl, created the spots. The ads can be viewed here.

Brandweek: FedEx broke a series of spots with the "We understand" tagline during the Orange Bowl last night. What's the goal behind this campaign?

Steve Pacheco: Part of our goal is to leverage the investment we've made in the Orange Bowl and the Bowl Championship Series by powering that up with some new creative in the new year. It's important that we have some fresh work ready at what is a huge event in our media year.

Why the whole focus on "trust" and "reliability?" Do you think that message is still as relevant now that the economy is bouncing back?

When people talk about FedEx, trust and reliability will always come up. With the "We understand" tagline [in all of our new spots], we're reinforcing the fact that we know how tough the past year's been for decision makers, we know they will be very focused on growing and successfully running their businesses and we want to give them all the opportunities they need to make that happen.

I think the message of trust is always going to be relevant because very few brands can play that up and we've earned the right to be able to talk about it. It has to come from a stance of empathy, which is what the "We understand" platform allows us to do. We understand you need trust from your shipping company and we're here to deliver that.

FedEx is sitting out the Super Bowl again this year. Was that a tough decision to make? Did not advertising in the Super Bowl last year significantly hurt the brand?

It was the right decision at the time. Like everyone else, we had a very tough year last year in light of the events in the economy [and its impact on] our business. Specifically, we made the decision to stay out of the game for the first time in 12 years. That was due to cost constraints, obviously. So, I don't regret the decision.

This year, we're out for a little bit of a different reason. There is a new [way of thinking] in America and beyond where folks are sort of reexamining events. It's been called the "reset economy" to some degree, and so, we're giving every marketing investment greater scrutiny than before. In this case, we want to leverage the FedEx Orange Bowl investment in a more powerful and impactful way, [to the point where] we'll be well served not to have advertised in the Super Bowl, and to have our own Super Bowl with the FedEx Orange Bowl.

How has advertising in the Orange Bowl for the last 20 years benefited the FedEx brand?

It's cemented our relationship with a lot of powerful decision makers, and college football fans are also very fervent and loyal to their team. [The sport] has become a great media backdrop for a lot of different brands.

But it's not just the Bowl Championship Series. We're also sponsors of the NFL, the NBA, the PGA Tour with the FedExCup, and we're very involved in Nascar, not to the extent of official sponsor, but we participate in a lot of different sports. We think sports programming [provides a great platform for advertising]. People want to watch major sports events in real life and real time, and as our advertising and marketing efforts unfold, our investments in sports have paid some significant dividends over the years.

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