Success is in the Details

August 27, 2013 by Gary Heise

I attended a Major League Baseball game recently and while absorbing the sites, sounds and smells of the ballpark, I did a 360-degree observation of my surroundings. Do you know what stood out for me?

It wasn’t the hot dogs or nachos or the music and game production. It wasn’t even anything happening on the field.

Corporate logos were everywhere – scoreboards, ribbon boards, outfield signs, upper deck, lower deck, party deck, product displays. You name an area, and it had at least one corporate logo attached to it. I counted 92 in all. Try standing out to the consumer amidst a panoramic display that features 92 different brands. It won’t happen.

Maybe we’ve gotten so used to it that until I actually counted them, I had no awareness of there being that many logos. It’s tempting to blame the professional sports organization for cluttering its stadium. However, understanding there is pressure on pro teams, universities and major events to squeeze every dollar out of their venues on game days, it’s not surprising this lack of quality control exists.

Despite a bad economy and a proliferation of events and causes to connect with, sports sponsorship dollars continue to grow. According to a 2012 IEG sponsorship briefing, major brands still see sports sponsorship as the best way to increase customers and build awareness and loyalty. Companies are projected to spend almost $20 billion this year on sports sponsorships – up more than five percent from last year. Seventy-nine percent of the money spent on sponsorships in North America will be spent on sports and entertainment. In the meantime, traditional advertising is expected to grow only 2.6 percent this year.

So, how is a company’s brand supposed to stand out in a field of 92?

I believe both the rights holding organization and the corporate partner have to be more flexible in creating sponsorship packages that answer a company’s needs.

At the point of negotiation for the partnership, the focus for brands is typically on fighting for the right marketing assets to get included in the package. It can be a challenge to weed through all the “stuff” that properties try to push into a package to bump up its perceived value. So, yes, it’s very important to strategically work through the process of landing the best assets to make your sponsorship the most effective vehicle to achieve your goals.

But marketers need to take it a step further. Questions need to be asked about how their brand identity will fit within the overall scheme of fulfillment.  So, using the example of the MLB game, it’s one thing to say “okay, we get (x) minutes of exposure during designated games.”  But there’s a big difference whether you are positioned as one of four brands visible together versus one of 92 as I witnessed during my recent outing.

Sponsors can negotiate that type of detail. And, based on the response from the property, the valuation of the marketing assets should be adjusted to take into account its “real value” on game day.

Creating and managing successful sponsorships has become a laborious task. If done correctly, though, it is still one of the most effective forms of reaching a target audience. It certainly should be part of an overall marketing and advertising portfolio. But, make sure you know all the details of how the property will be implementing your deal points before signing off on the partnership.

If you are a company, ask the right questions, and demand a quantifiable measurement of success. If you are a property, consult with your potential sponsor. Offer measurable data and fan research and find ways to take the sponsorship off the field of play and into the community.

Certain sponsor benefits look great on paper, but can turn out quite different depending on how they are ultimately viewed by the audience.