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Don’t distract fans, engage them

Is your sponsorship improving the fan experience of the event or distracting them from the very thing they love?

Daschunds are cute, and the moving graphic of Vitality's Stanley, the daschund prancing up and down the side of a football pitch during AFC Bournemouth matches, was hard to ignore. At first glance, this would seem like an effective form of advertising, and as far as advertising goes, it is. However, for sponsors whose strategic goals go beyond pure brand awareness at all costs, the impact of such attention-grabbing promotion could be harmful.

"Advertisers know this, it's why brands like YouTube charge more for ad-free content so why do we as sponsors engage so freely in the practice"?

Like lions fighting over a mate in David Attenborough’s documentary, so to do brands battle it out on the touchline of our screens vying for position. But the more desperate their cries for attention become, the more they serve only to irritate the loyal and passionate fan who, above all else, wishes to consume the content they love, ideally ad-free and without distraction. Advertisers know this, it's why brands like YouTube charge more for ad-free content so why do we as sponsors engage so freely in the practice?

For many, brand awareness amongst the target audience remains the first, second and third objective of any sponsorship. However, for those brands willing to work a little harder, an opportunity exists to generate awareness and the ability to alter and enhance customer perception to build a deep-rooted and long-lasting positive brand association.

For example, the Goodwood Revival, a celebration of classic motor racing in period theme, attracts 150,000 visitors over an often-wet weekend in mid-September. Alongside the cars racing around the track or the fashion parades and air shows is a dedicated car park where many of the festival’s attendees arrive in their pre-1960s vehicles. A highlight for some festival-goers is visiting the area, hoping to see a rare and beautiful vehicle. However, the cars parked here were done so in the order they arrived, with many of the most desirable being hidden away simply because their owner was a late riser.

When the wealth manager, Smith and Williamson, decided to partner with the festival, it would have been easy to position some logos around the track and wine and dine high net worth individuals in corporate hospitality like many others. However, the company decided to provide a positive contribution to the event by transforming the car park into a show bringing the rarest and most beautiful vehicles front and centre to be enjoyed by all visitors. Not only that but the owners of these vehicles were also invited trackside to enjoy the action as VIP guests where they can be converted to potential new clients.

This campaign is an excellent example of a highly aligned partnership, generating brand awareness amongst the target audience whilst contributing positively to the overall fan enjoyment of the event.

Of course, creating that meaningful activation with some properties is more straightforward than others, but that should not stop marketers from trying. In the case of television sponsorship, it can be something as simple as an amusing indent.

The critical question marketing leaders need to ask themselves before embarking on any new partnership is whether my sponsorship of this team or event improves the audience experience? The answer to that question is either yes or I don't care, and if it's the latter, you are in a one-way relationship, and in my experience, they rarely end well.


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