It’s corn maze season again, so sports marketers get moving.
It used to be a simple act of passage for families every fall. A local farm would carve a simple maze into its now depleted cornfield and charge a few bucks for kids to roam around for a few hours, then have some cider and donuts and go into a field and pick a pumpkin and head home. All on a day of fun, especially, for those urbanites looking to head to the country for a few hours.
However technology, as it has for most things in our lives that used to be simple, has changed all that, and now high tech corn mazes sprouting historical figures and even company logos have propped up across the country. Then you factor in drones and simulation tools, and the ability to market in a field from ground and sky becomes that much more interesting. The trick is that those participating in the maze have no idea what they are running through, only an aerial shot retrieves the image, and then the image gets pushed out through cyberspace as a unique “promotion.” Now of course there are clues and even some prizes for participants to enhance the experience, which is generated usually by computer technology and carved out by companies with machines to match the image, not by ma and pa farmer and the kids.
Not to be outdone, sports branding has placed its way through the corn mazes in a big way in recent years, giving us a Sixers “Trust The Process” maze, a Damien Lillard maze, the obligatory Tom Brady maze, even a Shane Doan retirement maze in Arizona. On the cause side there are anti bullying mazes, and if someone can get the program in an uncut field, maybe we get a Take A Knee maze pretty quickly.
It is great promotion for those involved, especially with its uniqueness and the fact that the team or the athlete or even the cause involved usually doesn’t spend much with these “tribute” mazes. Of course there is the hope that the person or brand or team being idolized shows up to sample the field, say thanks and gets some added pub, but that is probably not always the case. LeBron James probably didn’t show up to mug for the cameras and run through the field looking for clues sponsored by Nike for his maze last year, but maybe some star molded in husks will someday.
Now there haven’t been url’s or twitter handles dropped in yet to further commercialize the process, but rest assured those could be coming soon. Of course the value of the branded maze diminishes over time, as the corn stalks do eventually wither and winter still will take it’s due course, but for a last grasp of summer and an early handle of fall, the corn maze appears to have been grabbed from the ranks of simplicity and also catapulted into the realm of marketing, whether those being depicted are aware or not. It is a nice little ambush play for a brand, one that can get a splash, even if it again turns a simple right of season into yet another commercial venture.
Farmers gotta pay the bills somehow.