Your Sponsorship Will Miss the Majority of Its Audience if You Neglect this One Essential Asset
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a farmer (work with me here, I swear this will make sense.)
You’ve been working all Spring and Summer to prepare for harvest. You’ve evaluated crop values to determine what’d be best to plant, purchased the necessary materials and equipment, mapped your fields for use, watered, fertilized and sweated every detail you can think of (and worried about those you might be forgetting.)
All your labor comes to (literal) fruition in the Fall: your crop is ripe on the vine and just needs to be picked. But instead of using your established methodical process to bring it in, you only collect what you can see from the front porch of your home. “I can see ripe fruit from right here,” you might reason. “No sense wasting time with anything I can’t see.” As a result, at least 70% of your crop withers and dies.
Now, I’m the first to admit that what I know about farming extends to watching my kids play Farm Town on their phones. But you don’t have to be an agriculture expert to know that what I’m describing is no way to run a farm. So if that’s the case, why do so many sponsorships seem like they were designed by this shortsighted farmer?
Quick review: successful sponsorship is predicated on the idea that it gives brands an opportunity to connect with targeted audiences via their passions. Brands seeking to reach families might partner with minor league baseball or theme parks, those seeking millennials might consider Major League Soccer or music festivals. Accurately defining a target audience and their affiliated passions, then, is central to sponsorship success.
To give sponsors an opportunity to engage with their fans, most sponsorship properties are expert at carving out spaces within their facilities. Contracts are often littered with them: fixed sign panels, digital signage, promotional spaces, on field/court promotions, announcements, named features… the list goes on. Attendees can’t help but take in at least some sponsor messages while at a game.
But what about those fans not in attendance? Aren’t they worth engaging? Last year we worked with a health care client to show the importance of reaching fans of local NBA and NHL teams beyond the confines of a venue. By combining Scarborough Research fan avidity and Watch-Attend-Listen data with season ticket holder information, we demonstrated how 70% of self-described avid fans never attend a game. These non-attendees are no less passionate about their teams, but for a variety of reasons are never in attendance.
(Ironically, the more passion a team generates, the higher the population of non-attending fans: with fewer games and greater popularity, NFL teams have much greater numbers of fans who never buy a ticket.) Media (traditional, digital, social) are a common means of trying to reach non-attending fans, but the complex, fragmented and cluttered environment make it expensive and difficult to do so. And those sponsors aggressively using media often see their messages fail to resonate and then quickly fade into irrelevance.
The result? Most sponsors assets only reach attending fans, and fail to take into account non-attending fans. In doing so, that sponsorship fails to capture the imagination of at least 70% of people predisposed to being receptive to a sponsor message. In short, the sponsorship fails as spectacularly as the crop yield of our terrible farmer.
This is where intellectual property (IP) saves the day.
IP, in short, is all about identity. It represents the images, marks, logos, and other team owned content that connects a team or property to its fan base. It helps bind the team to its fans and fans to each other. It’s how members of a fan tribe identify one another (consider the knowing nod between two fans wearing their team’s gear in enemy territory.)
The inherent power of IP makes it an absolutely critical asset for sponsors seeking to reach fans that exist outside the confines of the arena. Thoroughly integrating property IP into messages, products, facilities, and more ensures that a sponsor will be recognized as a member of a tribe. With IP, messages and associations that might have been overlooked find new resonance with a target audience.
IP can take a wide array of forms:
Logos: The most commonly associated type of IP. Can include a variety of different marks, including primary (usually the image most commonly associated with a team), and secondary or tertiary marks.
Wordmarks: Like logos, but comprised of typefaces and designs unique to a team.
Colors: The distinctive color palette used by a team in logos, uniforms, etc. may also be considered IP.
Mascots: For brands seeking to reach families, team mascots can be among the most useful form of IP.
Audio: Some teams feature distinctive audio sounds or songs that serve as a rallying point for their fans (think Michigan’s fight song or, more simply, the Packers “Go, Pack, Go!” chant.)
These are just a few examples of IP that properties can provide to their corporate partners. It’s a list that regularly expands as teams seek to drive new revenue through protected marks and assets (tastes and smells are considered potential areas for expansion.)
Aggressive use of IP is strongly recommended. Longtime corporate sponsors such as Coke, Budweiser, and others clearly understand the value of IP, and make broad and effective use of it.
For those considering extensive use of IP, the most important first step is to carefully consider how your customers and prospects engage with your brand. Where do they come in to contact with your brand? How do they purchase it? How do they engage with your employees? Where do they spend time at your facilities?
With answers to these and other questions, sponsors can begin to consider the most efficient means of deploying team IP. The opportunities to do so are limited only by creativity and budget, and can include:
Media: Integrating images and messages into social, digital, and traditional media is the most common way to use IP.
Products: A team logo placed on packaging can catch a fan’s eye as they move through the aisles of a store.
Facilities: From standees placed in a waiting room to large exterior wallscapes, sponsor facilities provide nearly limitless application for IP.
Operational Assets: Delivery trucks, aircraft, websites, uniforms, billing statements… the broader the application, the greater the likelihood of a connection being made between your brand and a property.
Making sponsorship an effective and efficient investment depends on reaching fans wherever they may be, not just those in attendance. Intellectual property provides sponsors with a powerful means for reaching the 70% of fans that never darken the doors of an arena or stadium.
Your farm’s success depends on it.