With the London 2012 Olympics around the corner and the 2012 Formula One season about to get underway in Australia it is time to look at the sports market and consider its appeal to big name brands.
Like the latest 0% balance transfer deals, sports and sporting events have always had the ability to draw a crowd. As the sporting world has evolved not only does a sport attract a crowd to its immediate venue but it is now broadcast on television and on the internet and so sport in general attracts a global audience.
Sponsorship and branding in sport has always been extremely lucrative and at the same time extremely sought after. The question is why this is so and how can sports branding be so important?
When turning professional or even just before this it is always talked of how a sports person has huge earnings potential from ‘sponsorship’. What this means in real terms is that an individual will receive money in order to promote a company’s wares – for example Nike sponsors golfer Tiger Woods and footballers Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney. This means that that individual will wear their sports clothing and footwear and other associated products. It also in many cases means that Nike will sponsor the team, for example Manchester United wear a Nike branded football kit. For many sports men and women wearing branded clothing is a necessity in order for them to pursue their sport in the early days, in other words a means for them to compete at a platform they will get spotted for the big time. Once retired from the sport it is a sponsorship package that can often ensure a player’s earnings for some time.
In the world of sport a brand is often seen as a logo. To the consumer however it is so much more than that and is more widely and adequately defined as being an association to an admired team or individual. As with all brands the ones that succeed the most evoke strong emotional responses from their customers, thus creating a special relationship with them. In sport never more so is this important to the end user as fans often have what is close to a religious admiration for their teams and heroes. Brands associated with sport know this and capitalize on this resolute following.
When the sportsman strays….
When applied to sports, the key is to create a picture in your customers’ minds and its perception will define the value of your brand. This means that the brand triggers a feeling in the sports fan (consumer), that it stands for certain values, for an image and reputation and for a position in the fans minds. It also means that when sportsmen and women are caught out for certain indiscretions, as all three of the aforementioned Nike sportsmen have been recently, companies must do a certain amount of damage limitation and rumours are always abound that a sports person is threatened with losing a certain revenue from sponsorship. The brand is still the brand without the famous name and as such is an important asset – when indiscretions occur a brand will always place distance between it and its misbehaving subject.
For the company, sport sponsorship gives heightened exposure and leads to measurable, enhanced brand awareness and other benefits like increased sales. This gives companies tangible benefits to sponsorship particularly as research and analysis methods grow in sophistication.
The Vodafone Group has seen its visibility grow by 78% since sponsoring the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Sponsorships have been shown to work and whilst investment is high, so is the return. The Barclays Premier League is another such example where return is high and also measurable through credit card take up and increased trust in the Barclays brand.
Never in isolation
Like anything in the marketing mix, sponsorship shouldn’t be an isolated activity. It isn’t possible just to stick your logo on a shirt or run an advert before a sporting event airs. It is imperative to leverage what you can out of the whole package available. Nothing is a given so a well researched brand fit to match company to sport should be considered vital too – there is no point Pukka Pies sponsoring Usain Bolt, yet his recent pairing with Virgin Media has a great fit for that brand.