8 Great Sponsorship Ideas

Brand objectives in an integrated marketing campaignA brand achieves over 50% partnership recall1Aided recall versus two primary competing brands when both the property and the brand effectively leverage assets to link and activate the brand in the minds of fans. One-third (41) of the 123 brands in 45 categories among eight NFL teams we studied achieved this feat in 2018.

Who will it be in 2019? The brands & properties with clear objectives (see right) that execute great sponsorship strategies like the ones we share from our partners (below) will achieve their goals. While there are many stellar sponsorship stories, here are eight we think are great.

Naturally, if you’re going to set goals it’s a good idea to measure progress. No one trains to run a race then never looks at the time. These partners set the goals and worked together to craft integrated campaigns that fans couldn’t miss.


Detroit Lions

Submitted by: Alex Ballew; Scott Olman

Partner: Henry Ford Health System

Brand Objectives: Differentiation, Preference/Consideration

The Lions teamed up with Henry Ford Health System to unveil a fully branded concourse prior to the 2018 season, which was the first of its kind at Ford Field. Branding is unmistakable throughout, including on the large walls, in the hallways leading to the seating bowl, on the window awnings, wayfinding signage and also integrated within the virtual photo fan experience. The wall graphics pair Lions players and Henry Ford Health System patients, showing key stats, facts, and interests for each. This theme helps humanize the players and makes them relatable to our fans.

Detroit Lions HFHS Concourse Wall

Partner: Kroger

Brand Objectives: Preference & Drive Traffic

Kroger was the perfect partner to integrate into a new Grab & Go concept at Ford Field. After the immediate success of the first location, Kroger doubled-down on the concept and installed a second Kroger Cooler in the building. Prior to the new concept and rebranding, both of these concession locations were among the worst performing in the facility. After renovations and branding with the new model, both locations are now Top 5 performers. In the minds of consumers, purchasing items from the Kroger Coolers is easy and quick, just like visiting an actual Kroger location.

Kroger Cooler at Ford Field


Houston Texans

Submitted by: Andrew Jacobs

Partner: Texas Children’s Hospital

Objectives: Increase/improve reputation (regard); Make the brand more relevant to people’s lives

One of Texas Children’s Hospital’s key objectives was to increase reputation and regard in the community through sponsorship of PLAY 60. During the season we created an entire “Play 60” week with events in the community to promote awareness and tie it to the team. Alex Comerota played a vital role in making the campaign a success.

 

Partner: RTIC

Objectives: To increase differentiation, trust, and preference.

RTIC makes excellent products that we are able to help differentiate from their chief competitor YETI. RTIC used the power of our brand, association with players, and special promotions throughout the year to increase their brand preference. They saw fantastic results, as those that recognized their partnership were far more likely to prefer RTIC to YETI. Litsa Darby did a great job with this campaign integrating the Texans with RTIC Outdoors.


Cleveland Browns

Submitted by: Vanessa Bryan

Partner: Bud Light

Objectives: Increase brand relevance & differentiation to increase consumption

Bud Light and the Browns created the Victory Fridges to help fans celebrate the first win of the 2018 season and the end of a long series of losses. Bud Light built a program based on several insights about Cleveland Browns fans in order to help them achieve their brand goal of associating celebrations with Bud Light. The brand also creatively executed several other brand elements, like the Bud Knight and the Dilly Dilly cam, to even further tie together the brand, team, celebratory moments, and the fridges.

Submitted by: Joe Hamlin

Partner: Sherwin-Williams

Objectives: To enhance reputation and drive consideration/preference for future purchase behavior.

For years the Browns were unable to wear our Color Rush jerseys we knew fans loved. When we were finally able to announce we were wearing Color Rush for three games, Sherwin-Williams jumped on the opportunity to present the announcement and the first ever Color Rush game with the Browns. Sherwin-Williams was the presenting partner of the first Color Rush game and a Color-Rush-Themed giveaway offered to fans.

For Sherwin-Williams, the synergies around a modern, new look with our colors was important. Equally important is being high in consideration for any customer coast-to-coast to get more shoppers to their neighborhood Sherwin-Williams store. The quality of the giveaway was important. Decades ago, Sherwin-Williams gave away painters hats. This time Sherwin-Williams opted for a more modern truckers-hat which has had amazing shelf-life since the promotion. We see them at almost every Browns event. The fact that this game was nationally televised, was Baker’s first game, and also our first win in 635 days also made the promotion lightning in a bottle.


New Orleans Saints

Submitted by: Kelly (Carroll) Batista

Partner: Cox

Objectives: Increase reputation and foster trust in the brand

Cox had a heavy game day presence both outside and inside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Prior to the game, their on-site activation was a virtual reality experience with high engagement and created a fun interactive opportunity prior to kickoff. Their in-game activation offered to give away free Contour TV service for a year to reward fans.Their ongoing distinctive creative strategy integrated the team marks well to show off the partnership and connect with fans. This creative lived on all billboards, web ads, program ads, and other media. Emile Moussa was instrumental in carrying out this campaign


Partner: Dudley DeBosier

Objectives: To enhance reputation to differentiate and build trust with the firm.

Dudley DeBosier (DDB) featured two outstanding campaigns in 2018. Their phone number is 504-444-4444 and to play into the theme of “4’s,” fans had the opportunity to enter to win a trip to the fourth away game of the season. Over 19,000 entries were received for the chance to win a trip to Minnesota. The social media posts gained 731k impressions and 16k engagements. The second cool campaign was in partnership with Uber. DDB offered safe rides for fans to and from Saints home games. As injury lawyers, it was great for them to message the need for safe rides to avoid the need for a lawyer later! This campaign resulted in 3.1m impressions on social media and almost 5000 fans taking advantage of the free rides. Kaitlin Donahoe Cox helped carry out these campaign executions originally sold by Juan Aguilera.

 

Need more information? Contact Kirk Wakefield (Kirk@WakefieldResearchPartners.com)

The Digital Media Value of Title Sponsorships & Promotions

Google trends for sponsors

Naming rights get plenty of media mentions, but what about directly tracking consumer engagement? What’s the relative payoff?

Including the effects of digital and social media in conjunction with the use of the team’s marks, we measure specific effects brands want fans to take as a result of sponsorship. These include what fans think, feel, or do because of the sponsorship, such as awareness of the Verizon Up campaign, preferring Heinz over Hunt’s, downloading the AT&T app, or owning a Toyota, Mercedes-Benz or Ford.

Tracking Media Engagement

But, one easy, free way to capture or track media engagement is through Google Trends.Entering key terms, we can find how frequently people search for information regarding the team and its sponsor. This speaks to the importance of the title sponsor promoting offers, deals or events connected directly to the team, so that fans search for “Lions” and “Ford” together. Of course, brands and teams get some co-branded search naturally. The question is, what can the brand do to promote more co-branded search?

People search for what they are interested in.

Comparing Naming Rights by Region

We can compare how AT&T’s sponsorship of the Cowboys fares against other naming rights in Texas–and compare it across time.  America’s most valuable team does produce more engagement than others in the state, but the Astros fare about as well and at times when the Cowboys are not in-season (and vice-versa). This chart illustrates the need for sponsors to establish complementary portfolios to reach consumers via passion points year round. (Hover over a point on the graph to see relative scores.)


Compare Naming Rights by League

We can compare with other NFL naming rights. Compared to the Patriots and Gillette, AT&T’s sponsorship of the Cowboys still reigns throughout the season, but the Patriots run lasts longer–right to the Super Bowl. Somewhat surprisingly, Ford’s sponsorship of the Lions fares about as well as the Gillette/Patriots and AT&T/Cowboys until peaking on Thanksgiving.


Compare Promotion Effectiveness

Google trends can also help track the success of promotions compared to other major promotions that might drive search behavior. This comparison shows that the Saints promotion with Verizon and the Texans promotion with the Texas Lottery drives consumers to get online to search for more information on behalf of the brand. Although on a smaller scale, the Lions promotion with Uber to help avoid traffic congestion also drives search behavior.


We continue to look for new ways to capture digital media value. Experienced marketers know the value is not in the exposure level. Everyone has heard of Ford, Verizon, Mercedes-Benz and Uber. The real value is in what people do because of the sponsorship. Measuring search behavior is one step in the right direction.

Can’t miss recall for sponsorship activation

The most important goal of sponsorship activation is to clearly link the brand with the property in the mind of fans. Without clear recall of the partnership, nothing else matters.

Brands with high recall produce activation elements fans can’t miss. They bring the brand alive in the minds of fans in a way that clearly connects with the team in an unmistakable way.

Since we travel to plenty of games in many places, we will post examples we see of activation elements we could not miss. Check back from time to time for new Can’t Miss Recall sponsorship activation examples.

Toyota @Rockies

Toyota partnerships typically fully integrate the use of marks and make the product the hero of their activation models. In addition to fixed signage assets, the product placement makes it impossible to miss when attending and difficult to miss during broadcasts. Partners know the brand is activated in the minds of fans when fans voluntarily stop to photograph and geek out over the display.

JetBlue @BarclaysCenter

jetBlue engages fans where they are, doing what they do, with can’t miss branding and clever, memorable messaging.

Honda @BrooklynNets

Honda attracts interest but not engagement. This branded space does little to invite people in. The activation elements on the wall help–and fans may recall Honda–but what could be done to more actively engage fans in the space? Compare the people in this branded space with the next one @Yankees.

AT&T @Yankees

Coca-Cola @Redwings

The interactive augmented reality by Coke captures fans as they walk down the corridor at Little Caeser’s Arena. Check it out.

Chevrolet @Redwings

The good and the bad: The good is that if you’re in the arena at intermission you can’t miss this Chevrolet competition and branding with the vehicles on the ice. The bad? Look at how many are in their seats during intermission.


And, this is cool @TheChampions. All it needs is a sponsor.

Brand amplification: The true power of the team’s logo & use of marks

Brand amplification is an industry buzzword for good reason. Organizations partner with properties to leverage the power and the passion fans bestow on the team. Met Life borrows brand equity from properties (Giants and Jets) to bring life and relevance to a brand in a category that fans might overlook. Dunkin’ Donuts leverages passion for the Colts to engage fans to process and act upon their brand messages.

Caring about the brand amplification or the power of the team’s logos & marks is all fine and good. But, it offers an incomplete picture. It oversimplifies the power of the entire package the brand gets in the bargain. Brands should use the marks of the team to clearly link the brand with the team in the minds of fans. But the question isn’t, “How much does the power of the team’s brand amp up the partner’s brand?” This misses the point on two levels:

  1. Assets don’t act in isolation. No one pays for the use of marks without the rest of the tool kit to build an integrated campaign.
  2. Brand amplification does not happen without partnership recall. Unless their fans link Lucas Oil (or Dunkin’ Donuts) with the Colts, Ford with the Lions, Mercedes-Benz with the Saints, or Reliant/NRG with the Texans, there is no amplification.

So, the right question is, “What tool is most effective to link the team’s brand with ours in the minds of fans to improve recall?” Like unto it, “Is the use of marks the most powerful?”

Anchor partners with rights to use the logo and marks of the team typically have the rights to communicate brand messages via the scoreboard & digital signage, fixed signage, gameday promotions & activation, broadcasts (TV/radio), social media, and the team website. The effectiveness of these assets are what separates the Jets from the Giants, Knicks from the Nets, Bears from the Cubs, or any other team from another in the market. What does the data tell us is the most effective?

Getting the Whole Picture

We can analyze the relative effect of the use of marks compared to the other assets–because we measure the effectiveness of all of these assets, across many brands across many teams over time among real people.1 Members in our research community can access average recall by category and assets across all partners. Now let’s answer our questions.

Is the use of marks the most powerful tool to improve partner recall?

The chart below shows the results of a regression equation using data from seven NFL teams, across 117 brand partners, with 103,704 fan responses. Baseline partner recall rate is 24%. In other words, what are the odds fans will guess a brand is the partner knowing nothing else? About one in four.2

Now, what is the biggest influence on increasing recall? Use of the team’s marks bumps recall 17%, followed very closely by gameday promotion & activation (16.7%). On average, if fans recognize the use of marks and gameday activities carried out by the brand, recall should be about 58% (24%+17%+17%). If fans recognized the rest of the assets–along with a highly passionate fan base 3–then recall approaches 100%. Of course, not every fan recalls every asset4 and not every fan is highly passionate. As shown elsewhere, average recall across all teams and brands is 40%. Read more here on how to improve it.

How does partner recall amplify the power of the team’s brand?

An important KPI of any partnership is brand differentiation, making the brand stand out from competitors. We ran another equation to show the effects of partner recall and assets on the partner’s differentiation (score range: 0-100). The baseline score is about 35. If fans recall the partnership between the brand & the team, differentiation jumps almost 20 points, which is five times the effect of any individual asset alone. You can add 2-4 points for each of the other eight asset categories recognized by fans. Click chart (right) to view. We get similar results, with different effects (weights) of each asset, on other KPIs such as brand relevance, trust, preference, usage and purchase.

The point is that without partner recall, little else matters. The best tool in the toolbox is the use of marks to increase recall. Each of the other tools play an important role to enhance recall of the right partner in a sea of competitors. Brands and teams need to know how effectively each and every asset performs to reach shared goals throughout the run of the contract, not at a single point in time for a brand not their own. That’s why members of this community transparently share scientifically and statistically sound results to make better business decisions.

What should brands do?

To flip the script, if brands want to increase recall and amplification, the #1 requirement is co-branding with use of the team’s marks. The biggest failures we see are brands paying for rights and dropping the ball by not using the marks. Most often these are national brands not integrating local or regional deals into their national campaigns. These national brands, and local brands with rights, need to capitalize on opportunities to display the team logo on websites, point-of-purchase, packaging or other avenues to fully activate the partnership and cement the brand-team linkage in the minds of fans.

 

 

Brand preference: Why regard, relevance, differentiation and trust matter

The overarching goal of partnerships is to use the assets of the property to increase brand preference and use among fans of the team.

The route to brand preference and purchase is well-established in theory and practice. It’s all about relationships. Brands are like people. And, people are brands, for that matter.

Who do you prefer?

The steps to who–people and brands–you prefer to spend time, money and effort with are the same:

  1. I know who you are.
  2. Based on your behavior & associations, I hold you in relatively low or high regard.
  3. Because of shared relationships, you become more or less relevant.
  4. If you clearly align with my deepest passions, I see you as differentiated from others. You stand out.
  5. Now I can trust you.
  6. I prefer the brand with the highest regard, relevance, differentiation and trust.
  7. I buy the brand I prefer.

And Survey Says….

We can reliably predict brand preference for NFL partners if we know how fans feel about the brand’s regard, relevance, differentiation and trust. Our data from over 100,000 consumer opinions of over 120 brand partners among seven NFL teams (charts below) verify the importance of taking each step to build fan-brand relationships.

Why brand equity–regard, relevance, differentiation and trust–matters

For a brand that fans say is “the one I would prefer,” consider these indexed scores compared to brands they “would never use.”

Brand Equity Index Prefer/Never
Regard  +118% 5.83/2.66
Relevance +242% 5.01/1.47
Differentiation  +376% 80.34/16.87
Trust  +323% 81.96/19.37

Brand Preference = Brand Usage

Across all 120+ brand partners, if fans say the brand is “the one I prefer,” then 78.8% use that brand.

Preference Leads to Use

Why isn’t it 100%? Some categories are slow burns, like insurance, telecom, and banking. Fans of the Chicago Bears have high regard, relevance, differentiation and trust for PNC Bank–and the next time they have a banking decision–they will consider or use PNC Bank services. Fans of the Houston Texans have the same positive feelings about Verizon and the next time they have to decide which service to use, Verizon is in prime position. In any case, the property has done its job of building brand preference.

The brand partner brings it home when it makes unmistakable connections with fans and offers clear opportunities to do business with the brand in conjunction with the partnership.

HEB Brings It Home

What does it take to reach high partnership recall?

Average partner recall is 40% across a dozen NFL teams including over 100 brands across all major categories. Once brands reach 40% recall (among rival brands), fans more clearly recognize the channels used to reach them.

Effective use of the team’s marks in integrated marketing campaigns internal and external to the stadium and games drives recall. Gameday activation with prominent fixed and digital stadium signage is effective, but also critical are broadcast (TV/radio) and digital (website/social) assets that reach far outside the team’s DMA.

This heatmap for the Chicago Bears (click to go to interactive page) shows fans nearby notice many of the gameday, broadcast and digital assets partners use to communicate with them. The larger orange/red circles in the Chicago area indicate the large fan base that experiences a greater number of the assets. Partners also reach many other fans across the country, mostly via broadcast or digital. A surprisingly large number of game attenders travel from all of over the country to see the Bears.

 

 

What does it take to reach 50%, 60%, 70% or even 90% recall?

To get above 90% recall requires stadium naming rights, such as Mercedes-Benz, which tops 92% recall among New Orleans Saints fans. Naming rights for training facilities can do very well (60-80%), such as the Ochsner Sports Performance Center at the Saints or the Houston Methodist Training Center at the Texans. Entitlements for major stadium gates do well, such as the Bellin Health or Shopko gates at Lambeau Field, where NFL teams can typically count on similar recall rates between 50-60%. With effective use of marks in integrated campaigns and prominently named gates, established partners Tim Horton’s and M&T Bank achieve into the 70% range for the Buffalo Bills.

Just like any retail facilities, location is everything. You can’t miss the Mercedes-Benz Stadium if you visit New Orleans. Training facilities located some distance from the city can still do well, such as the Bears PNC Center, but partners must effectively co-brand in ways that remind fans of the association. Beyond the obvious, named gates can outperform if the stadium (and that gate) are on frequently traveled thoroughfares–because any fan who lives in or visits the city will at least drive by, if not tour, the stadium.

How long will it take?

Like any relationship, strong property-brand associations take time. Plan on 3-5 years to build to the higher levels, even with stadium naming rights. Add 2-3 years if the previous entitlement was strong and long. That’s what partners want–for the association to stick in people’s minds for more than just a season.

Is 40% still pretty good?

In a word, yes. Without some form of entitlement (stadium, facilities, or gates), few partners can achieve more than 50% recall. That’s not an opinion, just fact based on almost 20 years of measuring it. (For the curious, see here, here and here.) Further, while properties located in the largest DMAs (New York, Chicago, Bay Area) offer the greatest reach, the relative number of pro franchises and major college sports in these markets means the brand must increase the activation-to-rights spending ratio (currently 2.2X on average) to stand out.

Let’s remember–fans don’t come to the game or follow the team to find out about any company’s brand. The good news is passion for the team gives the lean-in factor that makes them pay attention to everything connected to the team. The stronger the connection, the better for the brand–and the higher the recall. Want high recall? Make unmistakable connections.