Best practice, best value and best approach to sponsorship
We live in a media-flooded world, subject to constant bombardment of advertising and marketing. Brands and organisations are constantly looking for new channels, approaches and mediums to connect with their customers, and position their product as the natural choice in its category (as they should).
In my previous blog I discussed Morgan Spurlock’s documentary film POM Wonderful presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, an investigation into product placement in films, and the means, methods and outcomes employed by marketers to embed a desire for their product both consciously and subconsciously into consumers.
If product placement and neuro-marketing are ‘under-the-radar’ forms of marketing, their overt cousin would be corporate and brand sponsorship. From sports teams to music festivals, stadiums to corporate speakers, almost every asset, engagement experience and branding opportunity can be purchased if the price is right – and in doing so, provides one of the greatest opportunities for brands to achieve two major goals, to change opinion and drive action (purchase!) for a favourable outcome for their product.
Unfortunately, sponsorship can be a murky field, with discussion coming in thick and fast around the best ways to conduct and leverage it. Regardless of your opinion, there are several trends evident in the marketplace that clearly highlight what to do and what not to do. The clearest point of what not to do is remarkable in its simplicity, and seems to indicate a basic lack of understanding by organisations of their target audience and sponsorship in general.
Sponsorship at its most basic is an opportunity for a brand, at the very least, to share an experience with its target audience, and at best, improve that experience for the audience (a key factor that is often missed). The attendees at the event or concert have willingly paid to be there, and impinging on that experience shows that the brand in question has a clear disregard for the audience’s interests and lack of respect for their chosen activity – the brand basically doesn’t ‘get’ them.
To provide an example, one of the major rugby tournaments in New Zealand has very bullish brand activity in motion during play by a major sponsor – its eye catching and attention grabbing and does an excellent job of distracting you from the game. Does this indicate that the brand cares about your experience, or wants to share it with you? Hardly! Rather it demonstrates they’ll happily disregard your paid-for experience by blasting you with overt branding and exposure.
On the flip side of this is a new wave in best practice activity – focusing, not on a big win for a few lucky people (thus tripping the inevitable lack of expectation of winning), large-scale branding (studies show this delivers exceptionally poor recall) or send-in-to-win campaigns (buy our product!), but really connecting with the target audience and delivering a small meaningful win for as many people as possible.
An absolutely superb example of this was showcased by Hyundai’s sponsorship of the Aussie Rules ‘Hyundai A-League’. Having conducted the usual sponsorship activity for years, and seeing diminishing returns, they went back to basics. What did people not like about going to a game? Abysmal parking. Why not have a VIP parking area for all Hyundai drivers right next to the stadium? That’s right folks, park easily, get in early and hey, enjoy the game – we’re happy to make it that much easier for you. We’re not here to shout in your face with brands, we’re Hyundai, and we enjoy the game too.
The above is a classic example of a small, meaningful win – something simple, but something that connects Hyundai with people’s love of the sport. It says Hyundai cares about the game, just like you do. It’s these simple activities that can cost very little, but deliver immense value from the sponsorship dollar. While branding, the number of logos and calculated values all have their place, it’s the creative and simple ideas that really return to the point of sponsorship – using it as a vehicle or conduit to show your target audience you know them, understand them, and want to share and enjoy an experience with them together. You get them, and that’s why your product or brand will be their natural choice.