Tag Archives: Market Research

LA Tech Firm Belkin Hopes to Rejuvenate Pro Cycling with Sponsorship

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Professional cycling is getting a much-needed boost heading into the 100th rendition of its major annual event, the Tour de France.  Los Angeles based tech company Belkin has announced a deal to sponsor the artists formerly known as the Rabobank Pro Cycling team through 2015.  The Dutch lending firm is just one of the many team sponsors to remove themselves from the sport in the wake of all-time cycling great Lance Armstong’s fall from grace.

Rabobank asserted, “the trust in the cycling world has gone,” upon its withdrawal of its $20 million annual sponsorship.  Nissan has also dissociated from another cycling team featuring at least one member with ties to Armstrong’s serial use of performance enhancing drugs.  In addition, The HTC-Highroad team was forced out of commission because of potential sponsors’ hesitation to associate with a sport whose history is rooted in corruption.

Belkin has an incredible opportunity to expand its brand globally this weekend.  The Tour de France is one of the only truly global sporting events.  The three week long ride provides ample advertising opportunity, especially if the Belkin Pro Cycling team competes near the front of the pack. Riding as Team Blanco, Belkin’s new squad has already amassed 19 victories this year. The team is comprised of 29 different cyclists of five different nationalities.  Belkin currently sells products to more than 100 countries, and will look to amplify its presence in the global market with this move.

Belkin has pledged to uphold a no-nonsense policy on doping, a plan that their newest sponsees should have no problem respecting.  The team made the decision to ride as Team Blanco after being dropped by Rabobank to signify a fresh start for its members and the sport in general.  They will remain a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) as they ride under the Belkin umbrella.  The MPCC is an assembly of teams devoted to cleaning up the sport, holding themselves to even stricter anti-doping measures than those established by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

This sponsorship represents a huge investment for the California consumer technology firm.  In fact, CEO Chet Pipkin says it is the largest Belkin has ever made in the marketing arena.  Pipkin will not be the only person eager for this marriage to work.  From prospective sponsors to the most casual of fans, the world will be monitoring the success of this relationship closely.  The tech savvy and faithful cycling fan base already in place fits well with the Belkin brand.  Pipkin hopes this association with a well-established pro team will introduce Belkin to a new pool of consumers and stimulate the reemergence of cycling on the world scale.

Lance Armstrong was once one of the most revered athletes in the world, but the truth behind his success has pushed many potential followers in the other direction.  Fans of a sport in need of a savior should be optimistic about the combination of an enthusiastic sponsor and a team devoted to competing with honesty and integrity.  Belkin’s pledge bodes well for professional cycling, but the question remains: How will the sport recover from the fall of its prodigal son?

A good showing by the Belkin Pro Cycling squad in France will go a long way in accomplishing just that.

Catch coverage of the 100th annual Tour de France throughout July on NBC Sports Network.

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Ireland Considering Ban on Sports-Related Alcohol Sponsorship

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Irish officials are currently mulling a proposal by the Department of Health that would terminate the presence of alcohol companies in sports sponsorship.  Newly elected Minister of State for Primary Care, Alex White, drafted a memorandum last month that called for a gradual phasing out of the drinks industry that is so heavily involved in the state’s premier sporting events.  His plan would entirely detach alcohol sponsorship and sports by the year 2020, and ban the establishment of any new sponsorship deals beyond 2016.

Opposition against the proposed ban is gaining momentum among domestic sporting organizations.  The Irish Sports Council believes Ireland’s ability to compete on the international sporting stage will be destroyed if the Government proceeds with plans to ban alcohol companies from sponsoring major sporting events.  The most successful Irish sports organization stands to lose the most in this situation.  Alcohol-related sponsorship is pivotal the success of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), with an estimated value of € 9 million.  The Union will be unable to compete to keep the top players currently playing for the Irish clubs that have proven to be worldwide competitors at the Heineken Cup.   

It is important to note the link between alcohol sponsorship and sport extends beyond the country’s premier sports leagues.  Local pubs across Ireland regularly sponsor local sports clubs by providing gear marked with their logo.  By and large, these deals are not built in the financial interest of the pub, but as a testament of commitment to the local community.  The proposed ban would eliminate this type of goodwill funding that provides so much value for the youth in the country.  Athletic competition across the spectrum would suffer a fatal blow were this type of sponsorship to be prohibited.

Supporters of the ban believe as alcohol moves out of sport, other companies will move in to fill the sponsorship void.  Current evidence, however, suggests otherwise.  Take for example the annual Irish Open, which for the third straight year is left without a title sponsor despite its worldwide appeal and star-studded cast, including world top-ten performers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland.  And what about the 2013 World Cup champion women’s rugby squad? They too are in the midst of a desperate search for funding. 

Adequate patronage presents itself far too infrequently for Ireland to render alcohol companies castaways in the sea of sponsorship.  They instead need to facilitate a RESPONSIBLE relationship between drink and sport.  NASCAR provides an ideal example of healthy participation by alcohol companies in sport.   Teams sponsored by liquor companies are required to run responsible drinking campaigns both on the track and in the media.  Jack Daniels, for example, displays “Pace Yourself. Drink Responsibly.” on their sprint car and flies a waving yellow flag warning drinkers on their section of the NASCAR website. 

In a country where the mantra “Drink Responsibly.” is too often superseded by “Drink Relentlessly.” conscientious alcohol sponsorship provides the perfect opportunity to educate people of Ireland about alcohol use and abuse.  

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PR On-Site at X Games LA 2012!

The Performance Research team was busy conducting research at the X Games in LA this summer. The event continues to grow, and sponsorship activations on-site are growing right along with it.

Check out some of our pictures, below, and let us know: did you watch X Games this summer? If you did… did you see the Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare? It’s been getting lots of attention on social media. It was our favorite sponsorship activation by far. The stunt drew huge crowds and follow-up traffic at their X Fest booth. It was a unique and daring way to engage with X Games fans who have a penchant for the unique and daring.

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Nike, Famous Ambusher, Is Redefining the Art of Ambush Marketing

As the world is ramping up for London 2012, savvy marketers everywhere are attempting to find ways to align their brand with the Olympic Games — even though they’re not official sponsors. Ambush marketing is nearly synonymous with the Games, and if any brand is famous for its Olympic ambush schemes, it’s Nike: they’ve perfected the art, from wrapping the 1996 Athens stadium in their “swoosh” to handing out branded merchandise to fans entering Olympic arenas.

But the sportswear brand is doing something completely different for the 2012 Games: instead of attempting to “trick” consumers into thinking Nike is an official sponsor, they’re taking ownership of their non-sponsor status. It’s a first in Olympic ambush marketing… and it’s compelling.

The ad campaign they revealed yesterday pushes a message no ambusher has ever attempted to sell: official doesn’t mean great. You don’t need official equipment to play a great game, you don’t need to be an official Olympic Gold medalist to be a great athlete, and you don’t need to be an official sponsor of the Olympics to be a great brand.

The 60 second ad spot opens with shots of un-famous athletes competing and training in lesser known “Londons” around the world, from Ohio to Nigeria. They’re wincing through sit-ups, throwing perfect pitches, and wrestling their hearts out. During the montage, a (British!) man voices over this message:

“Somehow we’ve come to believe that greatness is only for the chosen few, for the superstars. The truth is, greatness is for us all… Greatness is not in one special place, and it’s not in one special person. Greatness is wherever somebody is trying to find it.”

In the end, they promote #FindGreatness, encouraging athletes everywhere to join in on their conversation.

            

Only time will tell if it manages to drown out adiadas’ campaign (they paid a cool $60 million for their official sponsor status of London 2012). In any case, it’s a powerful ad, a powerful message — and a very interesting 180 for Olympic ambush marketing.

Check out the ad for yourself here.

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Francis Tiafoe, 14 Year Old Tennis Phenom… And Potential Marketer’s Dream

Francis Tiafoe is a 14 year old tennis phenom who, if he isn’t already, should be on corporate sponsors’ radars.

The obvious reason: he’s got skills. As the nation’s top-ranked boys player in his age group, Tiafoe has the potential to become the next star in men’s tennis at a time when the game is going through a greatness drought (it’s been almost a decade since a U.S. male won a major).

But Tiafoe didn’t become a rising star in a conventional way. It’s his underdog story that will really attract sponsors and fans.

Tennis is an expensive sport. Those who play at a professional level usually come from privileged backgrounds, allowing them access to top-notch coaches, exclusive tennis clubs, and the best equipment. But Tiafoe wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. There is no Jr., III attached to his name. If it weren’t for the fact that Tiafoe’s father was employed by the Tennis Center at College Park, a private tennis club in Maryland, Francis may never have had the means or the resources to hone his talent.

Francis’ father was the Tennis Center’s janitor for more than a decade. During that time, he lived on the grounds with Francis and his twin brother, Franklin; the family slept on massage tables in a 120 sq. foot space that became their makeshift home. Mr. Tiafoe earned less than the club’s $27,000 annual membership fee, but because Francis lived on the grounds it was as if he was a member. He had access to the courts, the coaches, and the equipment.

Francis spent much of his early life watching his more privileged peers learn the game. Eventually, he would begin to practice with his brother, early in the morning, before lessons started. He quickly fell in love with tennis. After years of practice, the Tennis Center coaches noticed his talent and took him under their wings. And now he’s winning prestigious international tournaments — Les Petits As 2012, for one.

While Tiafoe’s tennis chops are impressive, it’s his inspiring rags to riches tale that has the potential to grab all Americans, who have always had a soft spot for talented athletes with Cinderella stories.

Wilson and adidas already have endorsement deals in the works. And we’re betting it doesn’t stop there.

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Army Pulls Out of NASCAR Sponsorship

The US Army, a presence in the NASCAR experience for nearly a decade, recently announced that it will no longer sponsor a NASCAR team as part of its branding and recruitment efforts. At one point the Army was a primary sponsor of NASCAR. They moved to Stewart-Haas Racing to sponsor Ryan Newmann in 2009. In exiting their sponsorship of SHR, the Army is effectively cutting its sponsor relationship with the motorsport indefinitely.

It’s big news made bigger by the fact that the move comes just days before the House takes up an annual spending bill that includes language intended to prohibit military sponsorship of sports.

The language in that bill is a result of an ongoing effort on the part of Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga) to ban the spending of defense dollars on sponsorships (they’ve targeted NASCAR sponsorship in particular). We’ve been following this political initiative with our Sponsor Eye since Rep. McCollum took up the issue in 2010, and subsequently lost a House vote to keep the military out of sport sponsorships in 2011. You can see some of our tweets about it here and here, with links to Wall Street Journal and USA Today pieces.

While we can’t be certain that the bill is the whole reason the Army made its decision to pull out of NASCAR, we have a hunch it played a not-so-insignificant role. In any case, it’s an issue worth our two cents.

Let’s look at the Reps.’ argument: they assert that the approximately $136 million sliver of the defense budget spent on sport sponsorship is wasteful, as it doesn’t garner enough return in recruitment numbers.

Before moving forward, can we take a step back and look at some math?

The 2012 Department of Defense spending budget is around $707 billion (that’s billion with a B). At $136 million allocated for sport sponsorship spending, Reps. McCollum and Kingston are making a big fuss about a %.02 savings. And at only $8.4 million going towards NASCAR sponsorship specifically, it’s an even smaller margin. With government spending at an all-time high, going to battle over such teeny savings seems pretty petty.

Decimal points aside, who are two politicians with absolutely zero background in sponsorship effectiveness to say that military sponsorship of sport — in particular, NASCAR — is ineffective on the grounds that the recruitment numbers aren’t there? The Army has exceeded its recruitment goals every year since it started its relationship with Stewart-Haas Racing. But that’s almost beside the point.

Having been on the inside of researching military sponsorships, we have seen enormous opportunities and in some cases, very strong return on objectives —but maybe the Reps aren’t focusing on the objectives that really matter.

The goal of a sponsorship is never about sales, or recruits, or numbers alone. Putting a  logo on the side of a race car isn’t going to suddenly bring a spike in sales or enlistees. Humans are more complex than that. Sponsorship is more complex than that. The Army’s relationship with NASCAR is — or at least, should be — about building national awareness and an emotional connection with fans, and not necessarily only those fans who are in their target recruit demographic of 17-24 year old males. There are older and younger siblings, parents, teachers, and coaches who love NASCAR, and who influence the life and career decisions of those they’re close to. When the Army builds an emotional connection with NASCAR fans, they’re not only reaching the people who show up at the event. We’d be interested to see if the sponsorship effectiveness report that influenced the Army’s decision took the more emotional side of the partnership into account, and looked at the Return on Relationship that NASCAR sponsorship is best at.

When government officials recently questioned the value of so-called “junk food” sponsors involved with the Olympics we were left thinking the same thing: politicians should stick to legislation, and stay out of making calls on sponsorship.

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Is Touting Past Relationships at Opportune Times Ambush Marketing?

The Performance Research team always has sponsorship on the brain — even when we’re shopping for cereal! We recently snapped photos of two cereal brands shelved side by side at our local grocer. The sight immediately caught our “sponsor eye.”

Quick, which of the cereal brands below officially sponsors the Olympic Games?

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If you said Wheaties, you’re forgiven — but mistaken.

With a quick glance, it seems as if both of the cereal giants could be sponsors of the Olympic Games. But look closer. The Kellogg’s box has the iconic Olympic rings logo emblazoned on it, along with language (“official sponsor”) that ties them directly to the Games. The Wheaties box? Not so much.

That’s because Kellogg’s is the official cereal brand of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and their Corn Flakes box is part of a marketing campaign driving home that official sponsorship to consumers. Wheaties, on the other hand, has no current official relationship with the USOC or the Olympic Games.

The re-release of past Wheaties boxes featuring Olympic champions at such an opportune time — leading right up to the 2012 Summer Games — could be considered ambush marketing, a tactic that can be cause for concern for those official sponsors (like Kellogg’s) who spend millions of dollars on officially associating their brand with the Olympics.

It’s a recurring issue. Olympic season after Olympic season, unofficial “supporters” of the Olympics elbow their way into the top of consumers’ minds as bon-a-fide Olympic sponsors by using ambush marketing tactics.

We conducted research during the 1994 and 1996 Games that lent insight into consumers’ perceptions of official Olympic sponsor brands. Often, ambush sponsors outpaced official sponsors (e.g., ambusher Nike vs. official sponsor Reebok) in terms of sponsor recall and belief that these non-Olympic companies were doing more than many official sponsors to support the Olympics.

More recently, we collected data after the 2010 Vancouver Games and found that ambush sponsorship marketing was still alive and well. In particular, Subway, who used Michael Phelps in a campaign leading up to the 2010 Games, was strongly associated with the Olympics that year even though they weren’t officially sponsoring the Games. So was Verizon, who used the U.S. Speed Skating team in ads surrounding Vancouver but had no official partnership in 2010. Full details of that report can be found here.

The topic raises a lot of questions: is spending big bucks on official Olympic sponsorship worth it? Is it ethical to lead consumers to believe your brand is associated with the Games when there is no official sponsor relationship there? We welcome your comments on this one.

Also, a challenge: keep your eyes out for all of the official and not-so-official Olympic campaigns going on this month.  Send us your pics, we’d love to see what you uncover.

Just as we’ve done since the 1992 games, we’re planning to conduct similar research for the 2014 Olympic Games.  As always, don’t hesitate to send us a message or ask us questions if you want to learn more about what we’re up to.

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July 5, 2012 · 10:54 am