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What makes fans accurately recall sponsors?

Bryan Kraham's picture

Editor: As the Olympics are upon us, we once again hear that the majority of people can’t accurately recall the official sponsors. A recent study published in Advertising Age showed that 37% thought Nike was an Olympic sponsor, but only 24% correctly identified adidas.

We know why this happens. It has to do with the way our brains work. Research on sponsorships shows what kinds of brands fare best when it comes to fan recall:
1. Passionate fans recall sponsors better than less passionate fans.
2. Related brands fare better than unrelated brands.
3. Prominent brands fare better than unknown brands.
4. Congruent brand images fare better than incongruent brand images.
5. Plausible brands fare better than implausible brands.

Let’s take a look at sponsors who are likely to do well for a given property. If you are selling sponsorships, you are ahead of the game if you recognize which brands have an inherent advantage in getting noticed by your fans.

For the purposes of application of these five principles of sponsorship effectiveness, we are asking Bryan Kraham, Sr. Director of Corporate Partnerships, with the Houston Dynamo about his observations in working with corporate partners.

Q. Since passionate Dynamo fans are more likely to be engaged with your sponsoring brands, what kinds of things have you seen fans do to display their passion for the team? How can brands get involved with the Dynamo to take advantage of that passion?

A. Great question. We are very lucky in soccer that the avid fan is the most brand loyal fan in sport, outside of the X-game generation (Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star etc.) of fans. Surprisingly, they’re even more brand loyal than NASACAR fans says Scarborough.

One great example is our fans bringing their recyclables to our soccer fest area. This is significant because Houston falls behind the curve as it pertains to “being green.” My neighborhood just introduced curb side recycling six months ago. This shows their support of Greenstar Recycling, our jersey sponsor.

Another example is our corner kick promotion. When the Dynamo score on a corner kick each fan gets a free seasoned beef taco from Taco Bell. Our fans literally are on their feet chanting “TACO…TACO….TACO” during each corner kick.

Bottom line, our fans back our brands.

Q. Related brands are those that have something to do with the category, your customers, or the event. Who are some partners of the Dynamo that are related in some way that fans are likely to easily associate with the team?

A. We have several.
• Direct Energy ties in with the energy of the team with their brand—and we are both orange.
• Dr Pepper is a founding partner of the team and also is poured exclusively in BBVA Compass Stadium.
• Statoil, the national oil company of Norway, focuses their sponsorship on the relationship between their passion and energy to support the heroes of tomorrow. They feature youth and their passions (whether it is soccer, becoming an engineer or a musician) with our Dynamo youth system. It has worked very well for them.
adidas is the easy example because they are a global sponsor of MLS and every team in MLS wears Adidas apparel. Some players may wear different boots, but each team is not permitted to contract with another manufacturer.

So, some of these are naturally related to the team. In other cases we can manufacture or create the relatedness to help the brand stick in the minds of fans.

Related brands are easier for us to remember because of the similarity or overlap between the sponsor and the property. Category: The brand offers products in the same category as the property. Example: Nike sponsors the New York Yankees who use (Nike) sporting goods. Customers: The brand’s target market overlaps the target market of the property. Example: Lexus sponsors MLB teams whose upscale buyers of premium seats and season tickets also buy Lexus cars. Consumption: The brand’s products are frequently consumed by fans at events of the property. Example: Coke sponsors the San Francisco Giants because beverage consumption is a major part of sporting events.

Q. Just like Nike overshadows adidas because it’s a better known brand, who are some of the prominent brands you’ve worked with that are likely to already have clear images in the minds of fans? How do these kinds of sponsors like to activate the brand with fans?

A. Another good question and I just argued this case with a colleague in my office (about Nike being bigger than adidas).

Many times in the sales process we run into companies that claim they do not need to sponsor because of who they are and that everyone knows their brands. Seems a bit presumptuous to me and makes me think they are going to be quick to lose some market share. Sorry, I digress.

We have some blue chip brands that sponsor the Dynamo. Our partners are aware of the passion that our fan base brings. Even though they might have a clear brand presence in that fans mind, they drill it home with some great creative.

BBVA Compass, a global brand, used some great television spots completely focused on one Dynamo fan’s passion as he went into a music store to purchase a bass drum. The girl behind the counter sees his passion, lifts up her pant leg to expose orange socks, and the two of them hit it off at a match (after he buys the drum with his Dynamo Branded BBVA check card).
BBVA Compass Stadium
McDonald’s…we all know McDonald’s. They have tapped into the family aspect of our matches and offer a McDonald’s family four pack of tickets with coupons for free value meals at their stores. They have locked up the QSR burger category, and are driving people to their stores.

Q. Congruent brands have images that fit the property. For example, apparently Canon thinks Ashton Kutcher fits the image they want to portray in their ads. A brand might sponsor the Dynamo because they want to be perceived as dynamic, winners, or some other dimension associated with the organization. Do you see any of your partners whose images are similar in some way to the Dynamo?

A. No question that we have brands taking advantage of our image or association as a winner both on and off the pitch: Statoil, BBVA Compass, AT&T, Budweiser, United Airlines, Novo Nordisk.

They represent a wide variety of categories, but all have said in one way or another, they believe in the Dynamo brand, our image on and off the field, and that we are a winner.

Q. Finally, plausible brands typically have these other things going for them (related, prominent, and congruent), but also make sense for some other reason. For example, the media company broadcasting the team’s games makes sense. So do well-known regional brands involved in supporting the community. Who are some examples of organizations that might fit this description for the Dynamo?

A. We do have our fair share of these as well. Sometimes this hurts us in the sales process because some regional or local companies might feel saturated in the market, while others feel they need to support everyone.

Some of the regional brands are The Methodist Hospital System, Conn’s, United (Continental) Airlines, Centerpoint Energy, and BMC Software.

Some companies do not even have anything to offer the consumer, such as CenterPoint Energy and BMC Software, but they are local, and they support the local teams through awareness or charitable messages.

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