Branding, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Sponsorship

How to choose the right sponsorship and own it.

The Super Eagles have qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia (Whoop, Whoop!) Already, the Nigeria Football Federation has four major partners: Aiteo, TGI Group, PayPorte.com and Zenith Bank.

TGI Group (owners of Chi Limited/Hollandia) will be the ‘Official Food Partner’ of the NFF, PayPorte is ‘Official Online Store Partner’ (exclusive e-commerce retailer of Super Eagles jerseys) and Zenith Bank is ‘Building and Youth Development Partner.’ Aiteo pays the salaries of the national team coaches and is main sponsor of the Aiteo Cup and CAF Awards.

But how does sponsorship help a brand’s agenda? How does a brand team select who to partner with and derive value from the sponsorship?

Sponsorship, like advertising, is important for building brand associations and influencing positioning.

When we see Coca Cola, we may think of music, football or Rice and Dodo. That is because we probably remember Coke’s sing-along advertising or Coke Studio. We remember Coke’s sponsorship of football events. Or posters of meals that ‘go well with a Coke.’

These memory cues help us associate Coke with ‘fun,’ ‘enjoyment’ and ‘refreshment.’

Similarly, when we think of Rolex, we might think equestrian tournaments, golfing, sailing, motor sports or tennis. These events help Rolex build and reinforce positioning around around ‘excellence,’ ‘prestige’ and ‘high performance.’

Understanding that sponsorship works largely by helping to build or reinforce brand associations is important in setting expectations and goals for sponsorship.

Inherent in sponsorship, and where it goes where advertising can’t, is the opportunity for sponsorship to directly engage with the consumer through activation.

In Mercedes-Benz partnership with Warner Bros. Pictures on Justice League, Bruce Wayne’s Mercedes-Benz AMG Vision Gran Turismo graced the première and red carpet. Online, an extensive “making-of” featurette provided fans with exclusive behind-the-scenes look of the film shoot. Fans could see the Mercedes-Benz cars used in the movie and the effort that went into customising the interior of the AMG Vision Gran Turismo for the movie.

Mercedes also went big on digital and social. In co-operation with D.C. Comic, it created series of digital comic stories that focused on the private lives of the super heroes. It showed how a cool vehicle can sometimes save the day – even for super heroes. The comics were released exclusively on Mercedes-Benz’ Instagram page.

That is what sponsorship has over advertising; the opportunity for activation and consumer interaction. Opportunity to go social.

It is also one area where a lot of brand sponsorship fail; not building activation into the property.

But how does a brand team pick the right sponsorship property?

I believe three key indices are crucial; relevance, opportunity to own and partner equity fit. 

Relevance speaks to being culturally relevant to the target audience and also being relevant to the category. Heineken’s association with the UEFA Champions League is relevant to the category and the target audience. Beer is a social lubricant just as football is.

Heineken’s UCL deduction might well be:

Men enjoy football. The UEFA Champions League is the most prestigious club competition and watched across the world. Heineken is also a premium beer enjoyed across the world. Therefore Heineken and UEFA Champions League is a good strategic fit to show that Heineken is a top quality and available across the world. 

Opportunity To Own: ‘Owning’ a sponsorship asset is preferable to just being one of many fish in the pond. This is because when you ‘own’ an asset, it helps reinforce your associations and positioning. By ‘owning’ golf and sailing and other élite sports, Rolex is building an unassailable positioning around ‘prestige,’ ‘excellence’ and ‘performance.’

‘Owning’ a space is even more of a strategic imperative if the property in question is a popular one, say football or music. Think about it, who ‘owns’ football in Nigeria? Guinness, Glo, Heineken or Star? Or which brand ‘owns’ music? MTN? Coke? Glo?

Because those assets are big, the smart thing a brand can do is strive to own a subset of of the property. It was smart of Star Lager to foray into football sponsorship by carving out an important subset to own – club football. The insight might as well be:

“True, Nigerian males like football. But when you drill down, what they really like are specific football clubs. When they watch the EPL, they don’t sit down to watch Wes Brom vs Huddersfield. They watch Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Man United matches. They watch Real Madrid, Juve, Barcelona and PSG matches. So, Star will be the brand that brings them the clubs they love to watch.”  

Partner Equity Fit: It’s crucial to partner with a property or company that aligns with your brand or where you want to take it. A property or brand that enables you reach a key target and reinforce or define what you stand for.

While at Arik Air, we tried to partner with top Nigerian brands in an attempt to mitigate the negative perception of the airline. For many brands, it was a lop-sided proposition. Arik Air’s reputation and equity would be enhanced, while theirs may suffer from associating with the oft-maligned airline. I understood the reluctance. After all, perception is reality for the consumer.

So, how do brands calculate sponsorship ROI? Nielsen recommends a meshing of different methodologies that encompass tangible and intangible performance as illustrated below:

Right. Dying to see which brand will do something novel and engaging with the Super Eagles in Russia. Have a few ideas?

 

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