Sports sponsorships have gotten completely out of hand

80841378 Or…the other title I played with….You sponsored WHAT?

I was running some errands on Saturday, so I had the radio on.  Several college football games were about to start.   Then, it began.

The most absurd sports sponsorships I have ever heard.  One right on top of the other.  No category exclusivity.  One local/regional bank after the other.  Practically stacked up like cord wood the announcers were spitting them out so fast.

"The Turf Report brought to you by XYZ Bank.  Boy, the grounds crew did a great job even though we had rain last night.  The grass is green and ready to go.  Thanks to Bank XYZ for bringing us this important information."

"The Wind Report is brought to you by ABC Bank.  The wind is coming in from the north east at about 10 miles an hour, Biff.  That’s going to have absolutely no effect on the kicking game.  This Wind Report brought to you by ABC Bank."

"The Ingrown Toe Nail Count is sponsored by GHI Bank today.  The Hawkeyes are sporting 23 ingrown toenails all total, Hank.  The Black Bears are really in toe trouble.  They’re carrying 46 ingrown nails into the game.  Thanks to GHI Bank for the latest."

Seriously people….stop it. 

I don’t care how crazy your town or state is for a sports team. (Even those fanatics in Nebraska!)  And I don’t care how cheap the sponsorship is.  It is a complete and utter waste of money.  Being one of 20+ sponsors in a pre-game show is ridiculous.  (Yes…I made up the toenail one, but the other two are legit — heard them myself!)

Unless you can be a big fish, a sponsorship is not marketing, it’s a charitable donation.   The only one who wins is your radio rep who made the commission.  I assure you — the listeners cannot remember you or any of the other 19 sponsors.

Stop sponsoring grass.  Stop sponsoring the wind.  And if anyone offers it to you, say no to ingrown toenails.

12 comments on “Sports sponsorships have gotten completely out of hand

  1. Matt Haverkamp says:

    Just because you can is not a good reason.

  2. Rush Nigut says:

    Drew,

    What do you think of naming rights for stadiums, arenas, etc. Sometimes it seems as though it backfires because traditional sports fans don’t like it.

    BTW: Saw picture today from church in Wisconsin that said, “God will never leave you for the Jets.” What a great slogan!

  3. Matt,

    That should be tattooed on every business owner and marketing decision maker out there!

    Drew

  4. Rush,

    I think it is really a case by case thing. Sometimes, especially if it is a brand new facility, like Des Moines Wells Fargo Arena — it works.

    We call it by its sponsored name because we have no other reference.

    But…I don’t think, for most Central Iowans, that Sec Taylor will ever be Principal Park — do you?

    I think sponsorships have gotten out of hand because they are so badly handled. Do you know who sponsors the Sugar Bowl? Well, the day of the game, you sure do because the announcers are forced to say it 3,500 times! But we quickly forget because there is no real link or tie between the sponsor and the game.

    If you are going to sponsor something (stadium, game, event, etc) you have to do more than throw money at it and slap your logo on it.

    It needs to become part of your brand and you need to become part of their brand. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money in most cases.

    Drew

  5. Rush Nigut says:

    You’re right about Sec Taylor. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard the Hampton Inn “Winning Moment of the Game” today. Made me want to run out and stay in a hotel tonight.

  6. Rush,

    Well the winning moment beats the wind report. But in the end, they’re both a waste of money.

    And yet amazingly — lots of businesses bite on the opportunity all across the country.

    Drew

  7. Brian Evans says:

    Drew,

    As someone that tracks sponsorship programs for a living, I could not agree AND disagree with you more.

    First, what you describe above is not sponsorship. Yes, the network calls it sponsorship, but it is not. Typically, media outlets will sell “sponsorships” of the broadcast or give them to advertisers that spend thousands of dollars with the station. This is not sponsorship and not seen by fans as sponsorship. Those entities are not official sponsors of the team.

    If you check the hawkeyes website, I doubt that you will find more than one official bank.

    For years the media outlets have used this tactic to generate additional revenue. The NASCAR race today was “presented by GoDaddy”, but they are not a sponsor of the track, race or NASCAR. They do sponsor a team, but that’s a different issue.

    Your second and more salient point is that the sponsor should make the property part of the brand. I could not agree more and our research consistently shows sponsors that effectively link properties with their brand see a higher return.

    Return from a sponsorship perspective is most effectively achieved when the sponsor is seen as a contributing factor to the team/properties success or the fan’s enjoyment of that property.

  8. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Yes…I know what I described are technically not sponsorships and are driven by the media, not the teams themselves.

    But many of my readers don’t. They see the media numbers and feel like they are buying advertising AND supporting their team. So, I’m talking about the problem in the same language they’ll be exposed to (or have been exposed to) when the media come a’ calling.

    I’m curious — with your expertise — can you give us an example of a very good sponsorship that is aligned with brand etc.? Especially one that a small business can relate to, as opposed to a Coke sized sponsorship?

    Thanks!

    Drew

  9. Brian Evans says:

    The best we have seen to date is Fedex’s sponsorship of the FedEx cup. It fits every definition of a home run. Fans viewed the brand as the originator of the FedEx cup and believed that the PGA’s version of the playoffs might not exist if it weren’t for FedEx. Hence, the amount of loyalty and goodwill created towards the brand among PGA fans was enormous.

    We haven’t looked at too many small sponsorships. Due to the cost of our tracking model, most of our clients are spending well over a million dollars per property. That being said, I would say that any sponsorship that is focused on your target market and strengthens the brand’s position is worthy of consideration. However, I would not use sponsorship as a means to create exposure and brand awareness. Sponsorships (at a small scale) can have a difficult time creating unique impressions.

    A few that might make sense….

    Dave’s BBQ sponsors a tailgate zone (at the stadium) or the pregame radio show.

    Local hospital sponsors the injury report.

    I am not sure what banks have to do with wind or grass (per you original comment), but I think that is what makes them so difficult to understand.

  10. David Reich says:

    Although it might cost a bit more, category exclusivity is worth it. Otherwise, you get lost in the pileup.

    Someone asked above about naming rights for stadiums. It’s become routine now, but I can remember when the naming of venues and events began, and most media refused to include sponsor names. It began changing in the late 1970s, as it became more commonplace and the name sponsors were the same companies who are heavy advertisers in the papers and on TV. It’s the old saying — money talks.

  11. Brian,

    Your comment makes a good point. For the big boys, spending millions, the path to smart sponsorship seems a bit more clear. Although many of them still don’t take it.

    It’s for the medium and small business that I worry. It’s so easy to get swept up in the emotion of supporting a team or cause. But, it’s very difficult to generate actual marketing value from the deal.

    Your Famous Dave’s example is a good one. As you said — because they stayed on brand message, they were able to make it work.

    Drew

  12. David,

    I always wonder about that. On ESPN and the live announcers calling games — they all seem to be tripping over themselves to say Pac Bell Park (or whatever stadium or major sponsor they’re talking about) as often as possible.

    I’m sure you’re right — it’s a money thing. I wonder how that translates to consumers. When a park has one name…and suddenly gets sponsored, do the average Joe and Jane still call it by the old name?

    Drew

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