7 Ways to Make Sponsorships Fit

About Kevin Gwinner

Kevin Gwinner is Professor of Marketing, Jon Wefald Chair of Business Leadership, and Department Head of Marketing at Kansas State University. Dr. Gwinner’s research expertise is in the area of understanding and improving aspects of the employee-customer encounter, relational benefits in service businesses, and corporate event sponsorship.

You probably rely on a variety of benefits when pitching a sponsorship opportunity to a prospect, including things like signage options, hospitality opportunities, media exposure, and activation potential. However, have you considered the value of how well your brand “fits” with the prospective partner?

What does research tell us?

Research we’ve done shows that a good match between the sponsoring brand and property leads to a number of positive outcomes. More specifically, a strong sponsor-property fit results in:

  1. Positive attitudes and emotions toward the sponsor and the sponsorship
  2. Higher recall of the sponsoring brand
  3. Higher levels of attention to the sponsor
  4. A greater willingness to consider the sponsor’s products.

These successes lead to higher sponsorship renewal rates, and it’s a great selling point for a brand to choose your property over others.

When is the fit obvious?

The term “elephant test” is sometimes used to describe situations in which an idea or object is hard to describe, but instantly recognizable when viewed. Fit between sponsor and property can often be considered an idea where the elephant test is in play. Audiences will often have a feel for whether a sponsor and property fit together, even if they have difficulty defining why.

The “why,” however, is typically based on at least one seven common types of fit:

  1. Use — when sports participants or audience members are likely to use the sponsoring brand
  2. Size similarity– when the brand and property are equally prominent
  3. Audience similarity– when the brand and the event share the same target audience
  4. Geographic similarity — when the brand and property have the same scope of influence
  5. Attitude similarity– when there is equal liking of the brand and property
  6. Image similarity — when both brand and property have equivalent meaning or image in consumers’ minds
  7. Time duration — when the brand and property go together because of historic ties

Which type is best?

Should brands and properties seek partnerships with particular type of fit? Are multiple fits better than a single fit?

This seemingly simple question has a complex answer, because the best fit depends on many factors. The interplay between the fit type and the product category may influence which type is the best. Product categories differ in purchase frequency (soft drinks vs. automobiles), purchase involvement (candy vs. vacations) and consumer interest (casinos vs. insurance). So, for example with casinos, geography and size (prominence) might be more important than anything else.

How “the best” is defined will influence the answer of which fit is best. In some instances “best” might be measured by the pairing that results in the highest level of recall. But, of course, there are many other measures of “best” depending upon the goals of the sponsoring brand. These could include changes in brand attitude, purchase intentions, word-of-mouth propensity, and image change. Thus, what is deemed to be the best is dependent upon what goals the firm is seeking to achieve through sponsorship.

What if the fit isn’t obvious?

Is all lost if no obvious fit exists? Sponsorship research indicates “articulation” holds value if the partners communicate why the firm sponsors a particular event, especially if a fit argument can be made (e.g., Brand X is proud to sponsor team Y because of….). This explanation tends to have a more favorable effect when the communication about the sponsorship originates from the property rather than from the sponsoring firm.

Other creative approaches can manufacture fit. Southwest Airlines sponsors the NBA halftime break, which somewhat fits with its “Wanna Get Away” campaign. Better fits were the Nestle’s sponsorship of the NBA Crunch Time Stat of the Game and the Dutch Boy Paint’s “In the Paint” TV segments. The San Diego Padres made a TaylorMade club fit as a right field foul pole. The Chicago White Sox start games at 7:11 because, you guessed it, an anchor sponsor is 7-11.*

In the end, it’s up to you to assess sponsors for the appropriate fit or to get creative to make the sponsor fit. Because if it doesn’t “fit” in the buyers’ minds, you won’t be looking at a good fit at the end of the contract.


*The foul pole and the 7:11 ideas are originals from Dan Migala. Contact Dan at the Property Consulting Group.

 

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