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TO BE OR NOT TO BE – CLUTTER OR DIFFERENTIATION

Dawn Turner's picture

When I was growing up, I remember being upset when my parents refused to let me do something that my friends were doing. I am sure we have all been there at some point in time, and I am also quite sure we have all heard a similar quote from our elders. I think it goes something like this, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”

Nowadays I see how this relates to the world of sponsorship when I get a call or email from someone trying to hard sell me on something that our competitors are doing. They think that just because our competitors are doing it that must mean we will also be interested.

When this happens, two things come to mind. First, I realize they have not put any thought into what companies/categories they pitch. They see one company doing something in one market and assume a similar company will be interested in another. Second, it is apparent they have not considered that not all brands are interested in being like everyone else.

I think we would all agree (and the stats show) that revenue from sports sponsorships has grown tremendously over the years. As a result we see more and more brands involved in a variety of properties, some which include advertising media and others that do not. On top of this we’ve seen the top leagues and teams sell off their media rights (cha-ching!). I imagine there will be a lot more of this to come, but my question for the sports marketplace is just how sustainable is this model?

As long as properties are interested in continuing to build revenue with sponsors, I wonder where the breaking point lies. If there are category partners on board for the property but their competitors can be all over advertising and other forms of media, where is the differentiation and desirability? Yes, you can still use the team and league marks to create affinity with customers, but I would argue that having competitors in your space makes for continued fan/customer confusion that comes out in research.

This is where I think property owners could do a better job. In my opinion, in order to keep the sports sponsorship boom going in the future it will be important for properties and leagues to create new models that offer brands full ownership and differentiation. Otherwise, I think we may see a lot of top brands (spenders) say, “What is the point?”

I realize I may be living in a dream world, however until someone is bold enough to make changes we need to come up with solutions that work in the current environment.

In the short-term, properties could do themselves a favor and illustrate how brands they are pitching can differentiate themselves from the competition by working with a specific property. This would speak to a brand a lot louder than “everyone else is doing it.”

And if you are one of the properties that is in a situation where there is a competitive block I recommend you acknowledge it during the sales process while proactively offering solutions to battling this situation.

In this day and age everyone is out for themselves. Properties want revenue and brands want differentiation/ownability that creates affinity and results in an increase in revenue. It remains to be seen how the sponsorship model may or may not change/evolve. I do encourage you to look within your organizations and ask the right questions, because even though sports is a hot topic for a lot of brands it does not mean they are always guaranteed to spend their money the way they do now.

I also encourage you to comment and provide feedback on whether or not you think the current model is sustainable. Or if your organization is doing something to create a new model, I would love to hear about that too.

And of course if you have ideas for future columns you can send them to me via Twitter @dawtrnr

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