The brand sponsorship model is broken

The days of plastering a logo on everything and expecting a return for your sponsorship investment are long gone.

How often have we seen that one-dimensional approach for sponsorships; a logo on a team shirt, a media backdrop or on the side of a car? And frequently in the company of other brands. Brand sponsorship in this form is lazy and doesn't make your competitor’s job harder. Coca-Cola GB marketing director Bobby Brittain made this comment when looking at Coke’s sponsorship of the Olympics.

it must be the easiest job in the world to be Pepsi's marketing director. 

If Coca-Cola is acknowledging that the traditional approach to brand sponsorship is predictable and unengaging, who are we to disagree?

In recent discussion with two of NZ’s largest telcos and financial brands, it became clear to me that ‘sponsorship’ is out and ‘brand partnership’ is in.

The distinction goes way beyond semantics. Sponsoring a big event isn’t a silly idea, but relying on it to be the mainstay to promote your brand is.

Think about it this way. The event puts your brand on a soap box and gives it the opportunity to catch the eye of your customers and, if you’re lucky, to flirt a little with the competitions’ customers.

For example, in order to drive brand advocacy while stealing some of the spotlight from media rivals Sky and BT Sport, Virgin Media used part of their shirt sponsorship of Southampton Football Club to subsidise game day tickets for away travelling fans.

Ellie Tory Norman, head of advertising and sponsorship, Virgin Media reported, 

We wanted to raise our credibility in football and take the side of the fan. 


Digital Content is King

Online advertising deals with this problem every day, but there is a suggestion that banner blindness (where visitors to a website consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information) has infiltrated traditional sponsorship. Because consumers have become so adept at filtering out what they perceive to be useless information, digital content strategy has taken a seat at the head of the sponsorship table.

Sky Gaming head of media and acquisition, Dean Leyland.

During the search for sponsorship we saw various proposals with an emphasis on out-takes or digital shorts, which used to be an add-on. There is growing interest in incremental digital activity in the way sponsorships are sold. 

Digital content doesn't need to be expensive or over thought. British furniture retailer DFS was an official Olympic sponsor of Team GB and created a highly snackable and shareable online campaign called FlipIt. 

Maybe I was little dramatic claiming that the brand sponsorship model is dead. After all the strategy is only as smart as the people who conceive it. Being on top of the platform and shouting isn't good enough. To get the best bang for your sponsorship buck, you do need to think about how to maximise engagement. If you don't you'll be stuck shouting the same name over and over again, while everyone tunes out.