Comment: Sponsorship - An Olympic Question

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Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US, takes a stab at answering the question on the lips of many a corporate marketing department globally: 'Do the results justify the effort and expense of a major events sponsorship?'

They are like rich Lemmings, all too anxious to head for the cliffs clutching their cheque books and ready cash. They are people and companies who persist in telling those whom they are paying that much will depend upon their ROI (Return On Investment) to determine what they will do next time around. But the irony is that they will never know so they come back again and again like so many krill and the whales wait, patiently, knowing that the money meal will be there€ªactually fighting for position. Is it really worth it? Only if they did what Steve Jobs did long ago and placed an ad that encourages viewers to line up on Monday for the introduction of his latest offering in the high priced world of technology, one that is old while it is still new. And show up they did €ª to buy and buy and buy. Proof positive that the ad worked and the return was immense. That said, all other advertising turns into more of a contest to see who is funniest, most clever, appealing and, with luck, contains a large degree of memorability of what the audience watched and achieved the hoped for impact it had on future purchases. The cute kid, sexy model, funny effects of product and celebrities says little or nothing about the quality of the effort. It, whatever it was, is, garnered your attention for a vast array of reasons that had nothing to do with whether you would enjoy the drink, love the clothes, attract the other sex with the aroma of the fragrance, have the body to wear that push–up bra or tight jeans, the money to take that cruise or flight, stop buying Panasonic and switch to Sony, Cadillac rather than Jaguar, Kia to replace VW, Budweiser or Millers or Coors, Pepsi or Coca–Cola. Spewing forth the successes of a credit card company is rather deceiving, almost fraudulent. Not only did they advertise mightily but part of the deal was the that they were the exclusive credit card for all purchases at, for example, the World Cup, from tickets to merchandise to food and drink. Ditto Pepsi or Coke, Budweiser, Molson, Coors, Millers and others. Executives who are the decision–makers attend an event, see the crowds, know of the TV audiences, total coverage in print, broadcast, internet, mobile apps, and everything short of sky–writing determine that they want this audience to see and hear and the odds are that it will increase sales if they are part and parcel of the merchandising effort. It is a calculated risk and well handicapped wager. Add exposure on YouTube, twitter, the world and you are on the way. On the other hand, a survey and some research showed that FIFA World Cup 2010 sponsors failed to make much of an impression on the British populace. Hmmmm. So, how about the upcoming Olympics? Brand awareness. That is what it is all about and there are millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars, euros and pounds set aside to invest in major sporting events. It is considered de rigueur to jump into the pool and gauche not to. How are those for deciding factors? !? !Those are the reasons? ? ? In many cases, yes. Justification is predicated more upon the vast audience than prior results of any sort and/or what anyone else, competition or not, experienced at a similar event. Also, there is nothing like an international sporting event. It is the glamour girl of the athletic world. From my perspective, in general, it is more about brand reinforcement and awareness than it is about new product – Apple aside some time ago – and the results are spread out and evaluated over the years following the event despite what might have been a rising tide in sales at the time, the period of the event plus shortly thereafter. Can a relatively unknown company bring incredible awareness to the forefront via advertising to such a broad audience, the sort an international event brings in tow? Of course. Does a McDonalds enhance its name, its existence? Naturally. Who, among you, does not know of the golden arch? Will the announcement and display of new uniforms for employees of the burger and fries king make the food taste better, contain fewer calories, be healthy for you or, more importantly, the toddlers who could live there? Does that require any response at all? Unless the new uniforms come with skirts only, they will be yesterdays news tomorrow. But what a place to show off the new threads!!!The 3m meals McDonalds will be serving at the Olympics speaks volumes and blares at us to determine whether this is the best ingestion for world class athletes that need every tenth of a second to succeed. Five billion people are predicted viewers of the Olympics so that makes advertising and being a sponsor for the Games at a cost of billions for all name brands combined very much worth it €ª so it says in their respective marketing plan(s). Perception is not one of my favourite words since it confuses reality with figments of the imagination. But it was that which had respondents to a survey to prove a point identifying Nike as a World Cup sponsor, which it was not. Everyone just assumed that if it was sports Nike must have been there. Not!So Nike got more attention and memorability (falsely) than Adidas, who was the sponsor. Nike went social, got the word out that it was tied to the participants in the World Cup€ªso it must have been there, correct. ? Not!a second time. Can Nike accomplish this again? Sure. That which will not be denied is that there is a longer line waiting to spend marketing money, to be the exclusive sponsor in its field for the event, to outbid the rest than was seen for the recent opening of The Hunger Games wherever you are located. Every sponsor will justify its expenditures and proclaim that there was value €ª from increased sales that followed during and immediately thereafter to expanding its global recognisability and resultant sales. Is it worth it, all that money that, eventually, is the precursor for increasing product value to folks like us, just in case there is nothing more than a creative advertising effort to garner applause for the creator(s) of the commercial(s)? It is a conundrum without a definitive response from one such as myself, one who does not have specific knowledge of who spends how much other than that it is more than any of us (and family and friends cumulatively) make in a year, a lifetime, an eternity. I will order Diet Coke even if Pepsi runs the funniest and most clever commercial ever for soft drinks. I do not drink beer €ª therefore, so much for that. My techs on staff attend to technological needs and determine what is best for us. Whether Nike, Adidas, Under Armour or Majestic, if it is something I want, I buy it. That ad during the Olympics does not influence my choice(s). Displaying a product that catches my eye because it is innovative, different, something I can use, a step forward technologically, great new article of clothing, something special for me, the wife, kids, grandchildren €ª I will make a note and check it out. How do they know where I saw it? Beats the hell out of me unless I rush out to the store, internet to place an order the very next day and there are 2m others doing the same thing. But the question posed at the outset has not really been answered, has it? Does the result (if that can be measured? ) really justify the expense and effort? Damned if I know. I guess some corporate reports will indicate that it does and those folks will go back to the well, bring up the bucket and fill it with money. Others will put fluff around the response lest they be uncovered for being less than thrifty with the monies that have been deemed their respective responsibilities. Whats the answer? Is the money worth the result? I do not have a clue at this juncture. It is being spent by people who can afford to do so. It is being spent to have a presence on the largest stages of the sporting world to its biggest audiences. It is a nightlight that the moths of marketing cannot resist. The sponsors are like groupies that follow the events around the world, that want corporate names on the shirt of soccer teams, billboards on the walls of the baseball outfield, exclusive relationships that negate the billboards if you cannot purchase anything other than a Coke. And, all are afraid to give way to their competition, anxious to do much of the same thing. What a great time to be the event!About Mickey CharlesMickey Charles is president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US. For further information about The Sports Network, visit: www. sportsnetwork. com. The Sports Network2200 Byberry RdHatboro, PA 19040 Tel: +1 (215) 441–8444 Fax: +1 (215) 441–5767The views expressed in this article and throughout the MEI site are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Major Events International.

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