How Vistaprint is using its partnership with the Celtics to court small businesses in New England

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Vistaprint designs and supplies business cards, labels, banners and other kinds of branding and advertising materials for millions of small businesses around the world. It’s no wonder, then, that the company touts small businesses in its advertising, as doing so likely helps them acquire new customers.

With some of its marketing efforts, the company takes a localized approach to the small businesses highlighted in its advertising. As part of its multiyear partnership with the Boston Celtics jersey patch sponsorship, Vistaprint has featured local New England businesses in its advertising during the NBA Finals as the team strives to win its record breaking 18th championship.

Since becoming a sponsor for the Celtics two years ago, Vistaprint has seen an 18% lift in awareness in the Northeast region, according to Ricky Engelberg, Vistaprint’s chief marketing officer. And the company has hundreds more customers coming through every week because of the partnership, Engelberg added.

The partnership is a way for Vistaprint to “introduce ourselves to the next generation of small business owners,” Engelberg said, adding that “we’ve certainly seen from an awareness standpoint an increase in the Northeast area.”

The strategy “helps put [small businesses] in that spotlight, but also helps give them motivation and in some cases understand that someone’s there and sees them and appreciates what they’re doing every single day,” said Engelberg. And through the multiyear partnership with the Celtics, Vistaprint’s own brand awareness has increased.

Aside from highlighting small businesses in TV ads that run during the NBA Finals, which are currently airing on ABC and ESPN and have an average viewership of 12 million, Vistaprint has also rolled out digital out-of-home ads on Uber and is “doing [Celtics] merch drops at different small business locations,” Engelberg said. At the same time, the company has beefed up its organic content on Twitter. “Twitter is where the conversation for basketball takes place,” said Engelberg. 

It’s unclear how much Vistaprint has spent on the partnership or how the company divides its ad budget, as Engelberg declined to share specifics. Engelberg did share that there was a higher percentage of Vistaprint’s advertising budget spent on social media than on print media. Throughout 2021, Vistaprint spent $6.4 million on advertising, down significantly from $20.4 million in 2020, according to Kantar data. That said, those figures exclude spending on social media, as Kantar doesn’t track ad spending on social media platforms.

“The latest campaign from Vista and the Celtics is another great example of how mainstream brands can come together to support small business and help local communities thrive,” said Adam Palmer, director of brand at GoDaddy, another company that serves as a vendor for small businesses and highlights them in advertising. “It’s important that we continue to shine a light on the individuals who are making their own way as entrepreneurs and are the bedrock of our local neighborhoods.”

Within the last two seasons, Vistaprint partnered with over 250 small businesses, including Rock City Pizza, Cupcake Therapy, White Lion Brewing Company and others in the New England area.

Small businesses make up the largest share of the U.S. economy, accounting for 44 percent of businesses overall. Therefore, it makes sense that Vistaprint should target those small businesses. One issue, however, is that they are often not adequately serviced, according to Maria Pergolino, chief marketing officer at customer experience automation platform ActiveCampaign, who noted that some small business-focused campaigns don’t do enough to make a real impact for small businesses.

“Sometimes we see campaigns that come forward and it’s the small businesses kind of get the end of it or there’s maybe a piece of it that might impact them,” Pergolino said, adding that it’s key to keep the impact for small businesses top of mind. 

In New England, Vistaprint has worked to do more than simply feature small businesses. In 2021, the company joined forces with the NAACP and the Celtics to launch a power forward grant program, to give grants of up to $25,000 to Black-owned businesses throughout the region and create design partnerships with them.

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