If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It

May 15, 2012

Associating your brand with something that people feel strongly about is an incredibly powerful way of building brand equity. But, sponsorship is complicated, and making a sponsorship worthwhile in terms of ROI requires incredible attention to detail. Look at this still from a Santander TV ad :


Santander has a great campaign going here – they’re neatly tying their F1 support back into products and using it to support their overall comms. But, look again at this image. Vodafone and Mercedes branding is all over this ad. It’s something Santander just have to work with, but i’m sure they consider it less than ideal. Remember all the way back when Tiger Woods was endorsing Accenture? A Nike logo, whether on his shirt or hat, was front and centre in every ad. A bonus for Nike, but a bit of a problem for Accenture.  

Sponsorships can be made to work brilliantly, or can fall short and fly completely under the radar. What is really clever is when brands manage to build a meaningful association without putting an official sponsorship in place.

On the slightly more ham-fisted end of the spectrum, there are brands which have patently lied about their associations, but have done so in a sufficiently tongue-in-cheek way that they’re forgiven (by the public at least, if not the regulators). In 2010 and 2011, we saw Hunky Dory’s hijack Irish rugby and Gaelic Football and receive a rap over the knuckles for both, the latter of which was upheld as recently as this week.

But there are many ways to skin a cat.

Research carried out by Brandwatch between December 1st 2011 and February 7th 2012, showed that 7.7% of online conversations about the Olympics were associated with Nike. By contrast, Adidas was bringing in only 0.49% of conversations, despite spending a reported £100m on the official sponsorship deal, and an unknown amount amplifying through advertising, PR etc.

In January, Nike ran a #makeitcount campaign which made use of their own sponsored athletes, many of whom are Olympians. In the year that’s in it, it’s an obvious enough thing to connect sports brands with the Olympics, and sports brands generally will no doubt feel the positive effects of this year’s event. But Nike have managed to create an association stronger than those of any official sponsors (at least according to online buzz), just by making existing sponsorships work hard for them and without forking out massive fees to the International Olympic Committee. Very clever indeed.

Nike is one of the world’s leading advertisers in terms of the quality and quantity of their output, and they have a baseline share of heart that most brands would kill for. But there is a lesson for smaller advertisers too. If your brand has genuine heritage in a particular area (like Nike does in competitive sport), there may well be an easy way to connect more deeply there without breaking the budget on sponsorships.



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