Sponsors Take a Stand

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react.

The hot topic this week centers on Indiana, but not just the NCAA Final Four that kicks off tomorrow. The controversial Indiana “Religious Freedom” law will allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers and the NCAA, among other sports properties including NASCAR, are taking a stand against Indiana’s religious ruling.

In our 2014 IEG presentation we discussed corporate responsibility to social issues and how important it is to take a stand. People may not like what a brand sponsors, how a brand sponsors, or who sponsors and this negative reaction for decisions made can affect brand equity, rankings, and participation. Brands that say something, right away, fare better than brands that ignore the situation. We found that 44% of those surveyed felt sponsors should say something and be engaged in social issues.

We talked about these issues last year regarding both the Sochi Games and the LA Clippers – negative sentiment can be generated in an instant and tarnish a brand faster than it can be promoted. Controversies and reactions to those controversies continue to play a role in a sponsor’s brand health and sustainability.

By opposing Indiana’s ruling and speaking out publicly of their support for LGBT inclusion, NCAA has set the bar for sponsors to react. With the Final Four in full swing, and such strong opposition for this law, sponsors of the NCAA would fare best to issue a statement and quickly. If they can engage in this social issue to increase public sentiment and decrease the risk for negative associations, they may get more out of the Final Four than they imagined.

As the Final Four unfolds, we will be watching sponsors to see if they follow the NCAA’s lead or wait for the storm to pass.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/31355653@N07/8257073694″>Mason Plumlee | Duke Blue Devils vs. Temple Owls – Dec. 8th, 12</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Additional Links:

http://www.cbssports.com/collegefootball/writer/jon-solomon/25123924/ncaa-expresses-concern-over-indiana-religious-freedom-law

http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/nascar_becomes_latest_to_denounce_indiana_anti_gay_religious_freedom_law

http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/story/2015-03-29/indiana-religious-freedom-act-pacers-nba-statement-response-criticism-wnba-fever-mike-pence

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The Future is Now – And I Met Him!

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

While attending IEG2015, the sponsorship industry’s annual trek to mecca, amidst the plethora of inspiring presentations from such thought leaders and trend-setters such Target, adidas, and Heineken, I came across one young college athlete that personified the seismic shift in the way we need to be thinking about the sports and live events of the future.

His name is Blake Soberania (blakesoberania@gmail.com / twitter: @lots_of_bs) and he is part of Robert Morris University’s e-sports Eagles, and one of the five recipients of the world’s first academic scholarships for e-sports. Take a moment to think about that.

That’s right. E-sports, what we Boomers and Gen-Y & X’ers used to call, (typically in a condescending tone) video games. Universities across the country have e-sports teams that compete in regional and national leagues, host championships, follow official rule-books, and have announcers, sponsors, coaches, fans, and team jerseys… just like their school basketball and soccer teams. Now, add to that list, scholarships and recruiting.

The RMU Eagles are undefeated in the North American Collegiate Championships (24-0). The game of choice is “League of Legends” and the team is under the authority of the university’s athletic director. They have been featured in NY-Times, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR. But what sets them apart from the school’s other student athletes is the popularity of their sport. E-sports / Gaming is a world-wide phenomenon that most of us simply overlook. Not anymore. While speaking with Blake, he learned he and his teammates were about to be interviewed for a feature in Time Magazine. When was the last time you recall a typical college student athlete receiving call from Time Magazine?

http://www.rmueagles.com/sport.php?seasonID=0&sportID=147

Bill Doyle with Blake Soberania at #IEG2015

According to Newzoo, there are an estimated 2.2 billion traditional sports fans (combined) worldwide while the gaming community reels in 1.7 billion fans annually with an estimated increase to 2.1 billion by 2017. That means gaming has nearly as many fans worldwide as all traditional sports, combined.

Traditional sports typically generate 57 percent of revenue from sponsorships and media selling rights and e-sports is anticipated to match that in just a few short years thanks to the growing interest in sponsorship.

Big name brands like Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan, and Red Bull are the pioneer sponsors of this global gaming epidemic. By providing multimillion dollar sponsorships to the world’s top players, Coca-Cola is attracting a large, passionate online following. Coke Zero also recently partnered with Riot Games to create a series for amateur League of Legend gamers. “We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Riot Games to create a league that delivers true value to the fans and players of the sport, and that begins to build an infrastructure for e-sports that mirrors that of the more traditional sports,” said Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s global head of gaming.

And for some perspective, the 2013 League of Legends Challenge World Championships had over 32 million broadcast viewers, and sold out the 18,000 seat Staples Center in minutes. For 2014, held last fall in South Korea, met or exceeded those figures with even deeper engagement among fans.

http://www.ongamers.com/articles/league-of-legends-2014-world-championship-viewer-n/1100-2365/

Not to be missed, the top 10 You-Tube channels are all centered on gaming. to wit, the number one You-Tube celebrity isn’t Beyonce’, Beckham , or Swift it is an unassuming young man named Pewdiepie (https://www.youtube.com/user/PewDiePie) who talks, laughs and comments while playing the latest game releases – with over 35 million subscribers and over 8 billion (yes billion) video views! http://socialblade.com/youtube/user/pewdiepie

With monumental audiences, professional leagues, increased organizational support, multimillion dollar sponsorships, and now university scholarships and recruiting, one question remains – how long before the NCAA needs to step in?

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IEG Conference: The Future is Now

IEGPresentation1

Bill & Jed joined other partnership decision-makers and thought-leaders at the 2015 IEG Conference in Chicago. On Tuesday their ‘The Future is Now’ presentation highlighted the latest developments in events and measurement, including a demonstration of our newest technology, EVsdrop.

See the full presentation here: bit.ly/1H1JXso.

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Cuba: Opportunity in the Midst of Challenges

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes as well as other aspects of the sports industry, could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

Just three months ago, President Obama’s announcement that the US and Cuba plan to restore diplomatic relations has created a unique opportunity for US businesses, in particular event and sports sponsorship.  Major brands like AMEX, Nike, and Coca-Cola are waiting anxiously on the side lines to take advantage of opportunities as soon as the US trade embargo is lifted. This will not happen immediately or promise to be an easy transition, but offers prospects to change Cuba’s sporting industry.

All professional sports in Cuba were banned in 1962 and with the US trade embargo in place, US Companies have been forbidden from capitalizing on sponsoring all sporting events, Cuban athletes and facilities. Instead of advertising billboards surrounding the ballparks, portraits and slogans of Castro dominate the fields. No sodas or alcohol have been available at sporting events, and local food options have been scarce. Equipment is outdated and falling apart. Athletes keep a meager 20% of their salaries with the government pocketing 80%. Admission to games is free or for a nominal fee – Cubans come to simply enjoy the game.

“Sport is the victim of limitations of the embargo,” said Tomás Herrera Martínez, the director of international relations for Cuba’s sports ministry and a bronze medalist in basketball at the 1972 Munich Olympics. “Sport is one of the main rights of the people, but sometimes there have not been enough resources.”

For a country where sponsorship has been non-existent for the past 50 years, huge benefits exist for all those looking to get involved in Cuba’s sports and events market.  Infrastructure improvements and resource availability for hosting events will become possible. For example, if a financial service like AMEX sponsored the Cuban national baseball team, they could have the opportunity to bring banking basics to a large portion of the country through an in-person experiential form of marketing. IT companies could provide sponsorship and provide access to internet services, a foreign concept to most Cubans as less than 5% of the population has internet access.  Sporting events will help stimulate the economy and provide more jobs for Cubans. This could start as early as 2016 with a few Major League Baseball teams interested in an exhibition game during spring training.

Companies in the food and beverage industry will look to provide sponsorship and make their brands available at all sporting events too. Huge opportunities exist for sports merchandise as well as concessions at the stadiums. Coca-Cola, for example, is anxious to enter one of its last untouched markets. Like Cuba, Coke was banned in Myanmar for many years, and recently obtained its license to operate by creating value for the overall Myanmar economy.  It’s likely that Cuba’s new investors will look to Coca-Cola for guidance on entering a new market with due diligence and responsible business conduct.

Sponsorships could also provide important resources for the athletes, such as updated equipment, proper nutrition, and fair compensation. Just recently it was announced that Cuba’s Athletics Federation is now allowing athletes’ autonomy over sponsorships. The federation’s choice of brand for all athletes, regardless of their preference, has been German owned adidas until 2 years ago when track athletes started wearing Nike. This change has opened a door for US companies to sponsor Cuban athletes and increase their brand awareness in this emerging market. Nike is on the forefront of this change but Under Armor is looking for the next window of opportunity as these sponsorships spread to Cuba’s other most popular sports, baseball and boxing.

Despite doubts and obvious challenges with the Cuban government, economy, and infrastructure, this will be the new journey in sports and event sponsorship for US businesses.  Prospects will just have to be patient.

photo credit: Cuba Havana via photopin (license)
photo credit: Paralympics 2012 – 35 via photopin (license)

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Press Release: Daytona 500 Social Media Coverage

Morning News: We’ve completed our initial EVsdrop run of the Daytona 500. You can see full results here: http://bit.ly/1FOSazL and read our press release below.

Performance Research utilized its groundbreaking social media listening and analysis platform EVsdrop, which uses geolocation technology to analyze the social buzz generated by event attendees, to analyze the social media conversation at the Daytona 500.

Results show that of the total posts captured, 9% were related to sponsors — a figure that is more than double what we have found at other sporting events that we have analyzed.

Other than event title sponsors of the week (Budweiser, Xfinity and Sprint) Ford had the greatest share of voice, generating 12% of all sponsor-related mentions.

The release details our findings and includes additional information related to methodology, post frequency, platform use, and top used by event attendees.

We’re looking forward to sharing deeper insights in the coming days about sponsor sentiment, activation mentions and opportunities for future sponsors (along with race-related insights like driver mentions and sentiment). From our initial data run, though, we noticed a lot of posts about the unrelenting sun at the racetrack. We think Daytona might #NeedASunscreenSponsor!

For additional information about this EVsdrop study or access to our unique stream of data, please reach out to Julia Burke by email (evsdrop@performanceresearch.com) or phone (401-848-0111).

NOTE: EVsdrop is unique from other social media monitoring platforms in that it captures posts based on geolocation rather than keywords or hashtags — the data used to analyze the event originated from attendees within the confines of the Daytona International Speedway.

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A Press Release

Readers, we’re posting a recent Performance Research press release below. We’re all excited to analyze this weekend’s Daytona 500!

Listening To the Fans: Performance Research Announces Groundbreaking Dive into the Conversations Posted From the Grounds of Daytona International Speedway

Performance Research, the world’s leader in sponsorship evaluation, will be introducing EVsdrop, its groundbreaking geo-location based social media analysis platform to collect and monitor all public posts originating from the Daytona 500.

While other social media analytics tools capture the national conversation solely based on keywords and hashtags, the social media insights Performance Research provides will be derived from posts specifically originating from those within the confines of Daytona International Speedway for this weekend’s Great American Race. Never before has this level of analysis been available.

The EVsdrop analysis will collect posts, geographically located within the grounds, in real-time, and will include all social media activity across multiple platforms – regardless of hashtags or language used. Within hours, we will understand which sponsors are dominating the conversations and which are being ignored. We’ll also be providing unprecedented insights into fans’, teams’, and analysts’ immediate reactions to all of the on-site activations and operational issues in addition to all of the race action surrounding the events of the weekend.

For more information on this service, or access to this unique stream of data, (including any requests to receive social media data tailored for your specific needs), please contact Julia at Performance Research before Sunday: EVsdrop@performanceresearch.com.

Insights and analysis from this unique project will be posted throughout the weekend, including a wrap-up following the conclusion of the race.

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When Sponsorship and Racism Collide

Image

Corporate sponsors are distancing themselves from the Los Angeles Clippers after owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments. But with Sterling on the way out, how should they react?

The proverbial has hit the fan in Hollywood, and sponsors scrambled to evacuate over the Sterling controversy.

Sponsors of the Los Angeles Clippers were quick to strike after an audio recording of team owner Donald Sterling leaked last week containing racially insensitive commentary. More than a dozen corporate sponsors ended or suspended their relationships with the team in the days after this story broke.

Controversies like this one are nightmares for marketers and brand reps. Mercedes-Benz, CarMax, Virgin America, Kia and State Farm quickly put their public relations teams to work, citing the comments as offensive and (most importantly) inconsistent with the views and values of their respective brands. While this step is important due diligence in terms of damage control, cutting ties altogether sends an even stronger message – a sentiment certainly on the mind of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver when he announced that Sterling would be banned from the league for life and likely stripped of his ownership of the team.

The Clippers are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA in one of the largest markets in the country. Corporate partnership with the team has certainly been fruitful and could be again in the future, but swift action on their behalf may prove to be the best move for these aforementioned sponsors. Actions most always speak louder than words, and this situation was no exception.

Some of these companies may still be on the hook for sponsorship dollars, but promptly and publicly cutting ties with the scandal will save them even more in the long run. The longer you hold onto a sponsorship in a situation such as this, the greater the risk for decreasing public sentiment toward your brand. In an instant, years of work to promote brand recognition and loyalty can be negated. These negative associations can be extremely difficult to reverse.

So as a sponsor, are you ready for a scenario like this? Do you have a plan in place to save your brand from its divisive demise?

Performance Research has conducted extensive research on this very topic and presented details of their findings at IEG’s 31st Annual Sponsorship Conference in March.

Once such controversy detailed in the presentation was the Lance Armstrong/LIVESTRONG dynamic after Lance admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs after years of denial. Corporate sponsors including Oakley and Nike severed ties with Armstrong directly, but continue to support the LIVESTRONG foundation’s efforts. PR found that public opinion of Armstrong decreased after he admitted to doping, but the majority of respondents actually had an improved opinion of the LIVESTRONG foundation. In this case, sponsors were able to cut their losses by simultaneously ending their relationships with Lance Armstrong and increasing affiliation with a brand on the rise in LIVESTRONG.

MORE from IEG Presentation: Taking a Stand– How Consumers React When Sponsorship Turns Into Criticism And Controversy

NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s swift and decisive actions regarding Sterling certainly turned the tables and may very well present the Clippers organization in a stronger position than ever. Sponsors now need to rethink their plans to abandon their partnerships with the Clippers.

Both Kia and State Farm will continue to run national advertising campaigns centered on Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The “Griffin Force” and “Cliff Paul” spots allow these brands to continue to cash in on the success of the team without the risk of a direct corporate partnership with the Clippers organization.

Maybe other sponsors will follow their lead, or simply wait out the storm before rekindling their relationship with the team. We will certainly be watching to see how these brands handle their partnerships with the Clippers in the near future.

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