One of the least sustaining sponsorship models is the “logo slap.” This is so common in sports today that we barely notice it anymore. The concept is simple – Sponsor X provides dollars and Property Y provides assets for logo placement, aka the slap. It is all impression or “eyeball” based. Every sponsorship has a certain amount of logo recognition (and should) however the best partnerships are the ones that complement that simple logo recognition with integration that truly impacts the sport in a positive way.
We’ve all heard the liquor store that sponsors the “bottom of the fifth” in a baseball broadcast or the golf course that sponsors football’s extra point and calls it the “chip shot of the game.” These are clever, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about truly enhancing the sport in a significant way beyond simple recognition.
The clever tie-in will help on the initial “pitch” to a sponsor, but authentically integrating them will help keep them. At USA Swimming, we have been fortunate to have a 100% renewal rate of our major partners since the Olympic Games in Beijing. One of the keys is that each and every one of our partners has an authentic connection to the sport. We deliver traditional assets (aka logo slap) just like every other property, but the key is taking it another step with natural integration.
First, a few definitions:
• Endemic partner – this refers to partners such as Arena, Speedo & TYR within swimming, or ASICS and Brooks within track & field or AAI within gymnastics, etc. The primary focus of the company is focused on the sport it serves. These sponsorships are an immediate natural fit because they are already inherently connected to the sport.
• Non-Endemic partner – this type of partner isn’t naturally connected to the sport, such as a bank, hotel, car, restaurant, etc. They are looking for value in what the sports property can bring to their business even on though on the surface it may not appear to be a natural fit.
It’s the non-endemic partners that have to show the most creativity, as their connection to a sport isn’t as obvious. They are the most susceptible to the logo slap model. As I look at the sports world, below are some great examples of companies that go beyond the logo slap:
BMW – We are used to seeing car companies sponsor sports, but BMW took it a step further and committed their engineers to help build a better bobsled heading into the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi for the USA Bobsled and Skeleton federation. For swimming, they also helped provide engineering support to improve the hydrodynamics of the dolphin kick off the wall. They took both instances and turned it into PR opportunities and helped these sports go faster! Literally.
(Formerly) ING New York Marathon – it’s a shame ING isn’t the title sponsor of the New York Marathon any longer as I always felt it was a great property for them. They took it a step farther and created Orange Laces “Run for Something Better” which focused on healthy living for elementary and middle school kids.
IBM – the technology company is a major partner of tennis’ U.S. Open and The Masters in golf. However they are also integral to the back-end technology that runs the event. It shows customers that if they can run the technology for some of the biggest events in the world, then look what it can do for your business. It is the same concept for Atos with the Olympic Games.
24 Hour Fitness – we don’t think of Olympians’ training in the same health club that we belong to, but the reality is that Olympians are scattered across the country and need these services. 24 Hour Fitness also built a custom gym at the U.S. Olympic Training Centers in Colorado Springs, Colo., Chula Vista, Calif., and Lake Placid, N.Y.
Adecco – this company helps people reach their career goals so was a natural fit to help Olympic athletes plan for their post-competitive careers.
Phillips 66 – traditional wisdom is that oil and water don’t mix, but for Phillips 66 their involvement focuses on a core principle of their company – safety. By focusing on safety, it has opened opportunities to authentically tie into the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash initiative that shares the similar safety goal in teaching kids to swim.
Let me know if you feel other companies belong on the list.