Tag Archives: activation

When Sponsorships and Athletes Collide, Who Wins?

While a shoddily worded campaign, an untimely marketing ploy, a legal infraction, or an unethical manipulation can jeopardize the effectiveness of sports sponsorship, a poor activation can both threaten the safety of the athletes and negatively influence the results on the field of play in the process.

It sounds like a rare occurrence, but that is exactly what has happened twice this past week in the 2016 Tour de France.

Tour De France

This begs the question: should properties establish stricter standards as to what is and is not allowed in terms of sponsor activations, not solely based on promotional balance and marketing needs, but weighed against their potential to negatively impact the event itself?

Lex Sportiva – the term coined in recent years to refer to the jurisprudence of sports and its legal implications – thankfully, accounts for injury to athletes. In the fairness of competition, sponsors are typically held liable when their promotions run awry. When an athlete is injured by a rogue mascot-driven vehicle, or a falling banner, not only does the activation appear to have been negligently created, but organizers of the events themselves damage their credibility in offering a safe venue for the competitors. A mistake in sponsorship activation that creates unnecessary hazards does not belong in sports and that mistake can generate negative implications for years beyond any single event.

This past week, the Australian bottled water brand Vital’s sponsored inflatable banner, (referred to as the flamme rouge) that bridges across the race course, collapsed on the lead competitor when a spectator “accidentally” disengaged the generator causing mayhem. Lead rider Adam Yates was tossed from his bicycle, sustaining a gash to his chin, which required stitches. The organizers awarded Yates the time lost because of the sponsor-driven calamity and the entire incident served as embarrassment to an event still haunted by multiple doping scandals surfacing in recent years.

As if that failed sponsor activation was not enough, this past week saw leader Chris Froome finishing a stage of the Tour de’ France on foot after colliding with a press cameraman’s motorbike that was forced to stop due to uncontrolled crowds.

Horrific and failed sponsorship activations range from the slippery finish-line decal at the 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon that led to the disastrous fall and hospitalization of the winning runner, (Robert Cheruiyot), to a promotion at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 1995 that forced them to forfeit to the visiting team when a crowd of over 50 thousand were given promotional baseballs which became dangerous flying objects both on the field and in the stands as fans vented their frustrations over two ejections in the ninth inning of the game.

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2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon

While the sponsoring brand’s logo and artwork go through a vigorous vetting process, had anybody considered testing the traction of the street decals athletes would be running across? Similarly, had anybody considered that baseballs are meant to be thrown? On both counts the answer would seem to be a resounding “No”.

Fans attending the Dodgers game may have enjoyed themselves, but the narrative and merit of an activation hinges on its preparation and execution. Our years of research have shown that fans love clever sponsorships, but are cynical toward companies that impede competition or create a threat to athletes through their promotions. Although there are times when the decision to activate a promotion can be tricky, the line between an activation that goes too far and one that is on-point is sometimes blurred. Consider, for example, the Texas Legends basketball team that suspended a local auto dealer’s Kia Soul over their home court. While the promotion drew attention and the event went smoothly, we question whether suspending a 2,000 lb vehicle over the field of play and the athletes’ heads is a risk worth taking.

NBA Car

As our studies have proven time and time again, the difference between a horrific and a successful sponsorship is typically the result of an activation that is relevant to the attendee / target audience far more than those dependent on creative “risks” or “stunts”.

In our view, both sponsors and properties owe it to themselves to implement stricter standards for anything that comes close to the field of play.  Sponsors and properties should spend more time considering the “what if” scenarios to ensure there is no possible interference with the athletes, and consequently, no negative implications reflected upon the sponsor.

By contributing columnist: Jackson Davis

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Filed under Caught Our Eye, Current Events, Independent Research Studies, Insights

Looking Back to Sundance


Being back in Newport after a trip out west to Sundance for the acclaimed film festival has given us some time to reflect on what was for us here at Performance Research, the most interesting movie of the festival – “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” by Morgan Spurlock.

While I am sure the majority of you know what the movie is about, for those who do not, here is the recap:

Director Morgan Spurlock completes a successful plight to create a film of which the main subject is corporate product placement in television and movies. Of course, there is a twist, and the twist is he successfully demonstrates how to garner product placement, by cleverly gaining corporate sponsors to fund the very movie (while filming the entire process) being made. Effectively, the movie becomes a ‘how to’ documentary for anyone looking to find corporate support, while also questioning the notion that Hollywood is ‘selling out’.

Now as those of us who are in tune with the world of marketing know, product placement has been around for a long time, and will continue to be part of the world in which we live for the foreseeable future. That being said, while Spurlock’s film does a good job of educating the masses about product placement and how marketers choose to advertise their product, here at Performance Research, the film nudged us to think more about the effectiveness of this tool. This meaning, does product placement work?

Of course, without conducting specific studies into the value of product placement little can be verified, but we do believe many of the same rules we apply to event sponsorship also apply to product placement. The brand must activate and engage the viewers, just like they would attendees at a sporting event or during a mobile marketing unit tour. In doing so, product placement has the potential to become a fruitful form of advertising, reaching the masses, while possibly creating a desire for the product you are pitching.

Spurlock’s movie certainly created a buzz regarding this subject and we imagine it will grow when the film is released nationwide in April. We look forward to watching it again in the spring and in the meantime we will keep our sponsor eye looking for great activation of product placement in film and television.

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Filed under General, Uncategorized

Holiday Spirit at the Airport?!

Just yesterday while waiting in yet another airport terminal, we noticed a great activation that actually enhances someones airport wait time experience!  In a co-branded effort from Microsoft and Southwest Airlines, the two companies have placed a photo booth in select airport terminals where travelers can pose in front of a snowy landscape and even take a seat with Santa.  After your photo is taken, you will receive a printed copy and also have the chance to use Windows Live to edit and share your photo over the internet!

Good job by both Microsoft and Southwest in making the wait at the airport more bearable and in step with the season via their “Holiday photos on the Fly” campaign!

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Filed under Caught Our Eye, General

FedEx makes a smart play with the ATP

Here at Performance Research we often applaud sponsorship deals where not only cash is exchanged in return for branding rights, but when we see these deals actually make a positive difference for each of the parties involved.  One recently announced sponsorship where we feel confident that both sides will benefit is the agreement between the Association of Tennis Professionals and FedEx.

The worldwide shipping giant has signed on for three years as a sponsor of 17 ATP World Tour tournaments, while also gaining global marketing rights.  Now while this agreement will offer FedEx a plethora of exposure on both television and on ATPWorldTour.com, there is one way in which they are activating their sponsorship that has us most impressed.

In a play off their ability to provide reliable delivery service to customers, FedEx has developed the “FedEx Reliability Zone”, an online destination where fans can go to view in depth analysis of their favorite players, including match records and athlete consistency in every situation from opponents, pressure level and type of court surface.  By developing this great resource for fans and placing the information prominently on ATPWorldTour.com, FedEx is truly using their position as a sponsor to make a connection with not only tennis buffs, but with fans who are in need of a one stop destination to gear up on tour knowledge.

Hopefully other corporate sponsors can take a cue from FedEx by providing a great feature for fans that is also relevant to the service which their company provides.

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Filed under Caught Our Eye, General

Activate No Matter the Weather

As I look out of the window here in Newport on another cold, rainy day in New England,  I start to think about how fortunate we are when we do get great weather.  Soon enough the air will begin to warm up, our days will be longer, and even the water temperature surrounding the island will slowly begin to rise.

Sitting here at my desk while thinking about the weather triggered the sponsorship side of my brain and how sponsors must deal with mother nature at events.  While in our own lives we have seasons to sit around and wait for the weather to get better, a sponsored event or activation can be as a short lived as a few hours.  What is a sponsor to do?

For my answer I looked to Performance Research Senior Project Manager Marc Porter who has traveled the globe with event research teams, braving nearly every weather condition imaginable.

Marc said “Although you must obviously stay positive, anticipating and planning for the worst (weather) is always important”.  He also mentioned how sponsors can react to the weather and respond with something that would make the spectators appreciate them, like free branded ponchos, etc.

Hopefully no one out there is going to have to take Marc’s advice, but remember it’s always in the sponsor’s best interest to plan for the worst and then hope for the best.

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Filed under General

More from Vancouver…

Has sponsorship gone to the dogs?

Sometimes the simplest activations are the most effective.  These dogs we saw last week in Vancouver were a huge draw for anyone passing by!

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Filed under Caught Our Eye, General

Helmet Cam Activates Winter X

If you are a loyal follower of this blog, you might notice that every time we go to an event for on site research we  notice an activation that provokes a positive reaction amongst myself, our group, and most importantly the event attendees.  Our most recent trip to Winter X Games 14 held in Aspen, CO was no different.

While on the mountain at Snowmass we came across an ESPN X Games activation that allowed skiers and snowboarders to strap on a helmet-cam and ride down the mountain while the camera was recording.  Each small video cam (one pointed at your face, and the other looking forward) starts rolling as you head down the hill into a little terrain park.  The park packed in some mini features including two small jumps along with a few rails and boxes for riding over.

After your run is over, the cam was handed over to the friendly staff at the bottom of the hill, who then edited the footage on site, uploaded it to YouTube, and sent the link to your email address practically before you could make it to après-ski.

Very cool engagement from ESPN.  If you want to check out the author of this post riding and many other talented athletes with the helmet cam, click on this link and go to the Sno Cam Experience:

http://www.youtube.com/user/XGames#p/c/7BAEB0CEA047632F

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Filed under Caught Our Eye, General