I love sponsorships.
When executed and activated effectively, they are one of the best marketing tools to connect with consumers. But not all brands get their money’s worth from their sponsorships, and some are just a bad fit from the get-go.
One of the first things I look for when evaluating a sponsorship is AUTHENTICITY.
I ask myself, ‘Should this brand BE a sponsor of this activity?’
The answer should be a resounding YES.
If you have to think too much to find the authentic connection, and the sponsorship probably will not yield great value for the brand, or the property.
One example I like of an authentic sponsorship is Chobani and the USA Olympic Team.
This is an authentic connection. Why? It’s obvious.
Zach Parise advertisement
Yogurt is an excellent dietary choice for athletes. Chobani can easily be part of the USA Olympic Team’s daily eating routine. The connection is authentic.
The brand made an excellent series of ads that feature Team USA athletes.
One Winter Games ad features hockey player Zach Parise packing up his bag for practice. He’s in his kitchen. The words on the screen appear - ‘It’s one thing to sponsor U.S. Olympians’. As he reaches in to the fridge for two Chobani yogurts, the ad says, ‘It’s another to be in his fridge.’
Link to Zach Parise ad.
Jordan Burroughs advertisement
Another ad featuring USA wrestler Jordan Burroughs shows him doing pull-ups from a rope in his backyard. The voiceover says, ‘They say you can only be brave if you’re full of goodness’.
Link to Jordan Burroughs ad.
Chobani Team USA advertisement
A third ad tells the unlikely rags to riches story of Chobani and how teamwork and belief built the company. The tagline: ‘Naturally Powering Team USA’.
Link to "Naturally Powering Team USA" ad.
These ads perfectly illustrate an authentic connection between Olympians and Chobani.
This marketing effort is an example of a sponsorship with “legs” -- endless activation and execution possibilities. Its natural fit can last for decades, allowing both the Olympics and Chobani to build equity in this relationship.
Another great example of an authentic sponsorship is IBM and the tennis Grand Slams with its SLAM Tracker.
Tennis creates thousands of data points in any given match. Within the data lies insight.
- Coaches can use the data to improve their players’ performance
- Fans can view data to gain a deeper appreciation for the matches
- Broadcasters can use data to make the match broadcasts more entertaining and informative
And what company makes the tools to compile and crunch the data?
This is an authentic connection.
If you’re a sponsor, find authentic stories like those above.
At the other end of the spectrum, one example of a bad sponsorship fit would be the long-time relationship between the Olympic Games and McDonalds (ended in 2017, at the behest of the IOC).
Are Big Macs really the food of athletic champions?
I don’t think so.
This was not an authentic fit. It would be hard to tell credible, compelling stories about athletes chowing down on McDonalds food to fuel up for a big competition.
Chobani, yes. McDonalds, no.
As we at SportsEdTV begin our journey into global sponsorships, we are treading carefully to make sure the brands we create long-term relationships can be authentically connected to sports learning and performance.
Some of the product fits that feel authentic for us:
- Gatorade - still consumed by athletes by gallon, and now offering lower sugar and other performance varieties
- Visa - teams and parents need to manage their expenses when running a team or paying for lessons
- Toyota - how else will athletes get to practice and competitions?
- Beats by Dre - athletes frequently are seen listening to music to get themselves pumped up for a big game ... and the headphones are great for listening to our world-class instruction videos!
It doesn’t get more authentic than that.
Robert Mazzucchelli is the chairman of SportsEdTV.com, a leading sports education media commpany.