Tag Archives: Sponsorship Market Research

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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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

The End of the Stand-Off

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) finally reached a new revenue-sharing agreement that ends years of international  resentment harbored toward the USOC while it allows the USOC to lift its self-imposed freeze on bidding for future Games, a move it enacted after the 2016 Chicago bid fiasco.

For decades the USOC has received the biggest slice of the Olympic dollars paid by corporate sponsors and U.S. television networks, an arrangement the rest of the Olympic community has resented, and, in turn, one that has contributed to keeping the Olympics out of the U.S. in past years. The new deal, which will begin in 2020, mends this rocky relationship by reducing USOC shares of The Olympic Partner Program (TOP) sponsorship revenues and U.S. television rights. The USOC has also agreed to contribute to the IOC’s administrative costs.

Without a Games held in the U.S. since the 2002 Winter Games, the U.S. could be in the Olympic spotlight again in the near future. As the majority of TOP sponsors come from US corporations — Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Dow Chemical Company, and VISA, to name just a few — this should be considered good news for future olympic sponsorship campaigns.

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Olympic Food and Drink Sponsors: Some Not “Lovin’ It”

Should properties only accept sponsors whose brand images align exactly with their values? Last week, the London Assembly gave their answer: when it comes to the Olympics, absolutely.

At their most recent meeting, the governmental body called for a ban on Olympic “junk food” sponsors — McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken were called out specifically — citing concern that food and drink sponsors who produce high calorie or perceived unhealthy food and drink products undermine the values of the Olympic Games, and could contribute to the growing problem of obesity in the UK.

While the London Assembly might have their hearts in the right place, we think they need a super-sized serving of perspective.

First, let’s talk dollars and cents (or pounds and pence). According to a study conducted by official Olympic sponsor Visa, the UK will receive a huge economic stimulus from the Games worth an estimated £5.33 billion — a number that could have been significantly lower without the sponsorship dollars paid by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken, who all contribute to the Olympic Committee’s ability to make the Games a success. The boost the Games and its sponsors contribute to the UK economy far outweigh the possibility that their ties to the Games might persuade Brits to reach for some fries or a soda. We’re surprised that a governmental organization doesn’t get that.

And frankly, we don’t buy that companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, who have received the most flack from critics, don’t exhibit values that align with many Olympic ideals. The notion that McDonald’s is nothing but a coronary-inducing beef patty and french fry slinger is an antiquated one. The global restaurant chain has made serious strides in offering up healthy options on their menu. More nutritious items — grilled chicken, entree salads, fruit sides, and low-fat dairy snacks — have been a big part of McDonald’s ability to succeed in the modern marketplace, and to some extent, may even have been inspired by McDonald’s early days of serving athletes at the Olympic  village. Those options will all be available for sale at the Games.

And Coca-Cola expects that over 75% of the drinks it sells at the Olympic Games will be water (Schweppes Abbey Well Water is a Coca-Cola brand and is the official water of the Games), juice, or sugar-free beverages. Again, the idea that Coca-Cola only produces syrupy fizzy soft drinks is misinformed.

The food service giant and beverage behemoth are also showing that they value the Olympic ideals of athleticism, unity, and excellence with Games-themed initiatives aimed at boosting physical activity. McDonald’s plans on giving away 9 million activity toys with their happy meals during the Olympic Games; Coca-Cola sponsored a “free swim” program in the UK in conjunction with their sponsorship.

And therein lies the real takeaway: McDonald’s and Coca-Cola know that an Olympic sponsorship is the perfect opportunity to drive home the fact that their brands can be part of an athletic lifestyle, and that as corporations they value the spirit of the Olympic games. Sponsorship isn’t always about brands selling the masses more burgers, sneakers, or car insurance.

Bottom line?: we think the London Assembly should leave sponsorship to the experts.

Oh, and London Assembly! It looks like Mayor Johnson agrees with us: Click here to watch a video clip of Boris Johnson inviting Americans to come to London to drink “fizzy drinks.” 

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