CMO Desk - Sports Sponsorships - What to consider

Having worked for the New York Jets, MasterCard, Univision and a number of advertising agencies, I get asked lots of questions about branding, strategy and the like. This week, a friend who’s helping her client evaluate a local team sponsorship package came to me for some insight regarding sports sponsorships. Here are a few things you should consider when determining if you want to take that next step:


Think of sports as an engaging way to get your brand out there to an already captive audience. There are sports for all ages, genders and levels of skill. Don’t limit your thinking to the big guys: NFL, MLB, FIFA World Cup. There are tons of other national, international and very grassroots opportunities to align your brand with. Some sports are for spectators, and others are for participants, but both can provide significant brand visibility and ROI.

When aligning your brand, it’s best to keep it surface level. Sponsors get noticed, and consumers are getting smarter about voting with their dollars. While we’ve seen a lot of brands win based on their alliances (think Pepsi and the Super Bowl Halftime Show), we’ve also seen some lose. Papa John’s weighed in on the NFL kneeling controversy, and their stock (and their reputation) took a pretty serious hit. Don’t let alignment become entanglement.

You can also align with shoulder content, vs. the actual game itself. For example a sports blogger who covers the teams your audience likes. Maybe late night sports reports on the local news or sports radio coverage. Regional sports networks or media outlets that cover the game or sport of interest. Another less obvious space is the annual Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Valuable Sports Teams.

Let's get focused and you will see sports opportunities are everywhere.   


What are your business and marketing objectives? This is key to know and have at the ready. Because there are SO many different ways to leverage sports, having clarity on what you need to accomplish will help to narrow things down—and yield the greatest bang for your buck. Launching a new product begs for at-game sampling, or advertising at or around marquis TV events (e.g., Super Bowl, U.S. Open). A popular marketing objective is to “grow awareness of our brand/product.” If this is your company, then reach is key. Sports is one of the few, live TV events viewers still tune in for, which means people are less likely to DVR/fast forward through the commercials.

Which brings me to my next point...


Ask yourself: who are you trying to reach? Are you U.S. based? A regional player? Are you looking to expand into a new market overseas? Sports properties offer a wide range of geographies, and outside of the U.S., there are many other sports platforms to choose from that are wildly popular (think rugby, or cricket). While soccer doesn’t get much love in the U.S., it’s the #1 sport in the rest of the world. And if your buyers are female, perhaps it’s worth considering sponsoring a local women’s team, or the Women’s World Cup.

Think about the mindset, then geography and your standard demographics. But don’t forget...


What time of year is most critical for your business? Sports is a year-round celebration. Every sports franchise or property is always looking to extend their official season to 24/7/365, and digital media has allowed for this to happen in a big way. If your product is seasonal, align it to a sport that takes place in that season—sunscreen pairs perfectly with beach volleyball or water skiing, for instance. Launching a new snack in October? Consider buying TV time during Football Sundays, or the MLB playoffs.


Finally, let’s talk budget. Sports sponsorships come with a wide range of price tags—and as I’ve mentioned, there are many avenues you can take to be a part of the action. Carve out an amount that makes sense given the other platforms you’re already using. Also, make sure you’re maximizing your involvement. Are you advertising your sponsorship across your social platforms? Announcing it to your staff and customers? If you’re fortunate enough to have a piece of the stadium real estate in the form of a suite or box, realize that food and beverage—known in the industry as "F&B"—are usually not included in the cost. And don’t forget the giveaways: gifts can serve as a great memory for your guests of their experience, and gives your brand a constant presence in their home.

Ready to play ball? Let’s talk about what makes sense for your company and how we can get your brand ready for primetime