In Sport Sponsorship, Sports Marketing

Inclusion vs Intrusion, Value Growth and Storytelling

Why should a company go for sponsorship in place of advertising? Why investing money in sports partnerships and opting for sponsorships when visibility is easy to buy on TV networks, the press and the Internet? Why are the brands changing their way of communicating?

Well, because consumers have changed their purchasing habits: this is the answer. Consumers are mainly sourcing information on the Internet and they no longer want to be bothered, unless they have already made their decision to buy something.

Each of the questions above would take a full chapter in a book to answer – where not a full volume -, as both tools have a long and multifaceted history. If the birth of advertising is traditionally referred as dating back to the invention of the press, the concept of sports sponsorship goes as far back as to the age of Peisistratos, a well-feared tyrant in Ancient Greece.

Leaving far-reaching historical discussions aside, let’s immediately go back to the present days with a practical example.  Take an ordinary evening in the week and a couple, Simon and Lucy by way of example, watching their favourite TV show at home while they are sitting on their sofa.  All of a sudden the show stops to give way, as usual, to advertising spots for the next 4 to 5 minutes. Simon stands up from the sofa and quickly washes the dishes and glasses they have used for dinner, while Lucy scrolls unread notifications on her mobile phone. As soon as the TV show starts again, the couple goes back to the sofa and draw their attention to it again. What is the result? The couple has not assimilated any of the information and messages broadcast on screen during the 5-minute advertising break. Of course, they were there, in the same room as their TV set, but they are very unlikely to even remember one of the brands advertised during the break.

This is a deliberately trivial example, although it is not that far from a daily routine we are all well aware of. The first reason why companies are moving away from advertising is that consumers have over time developed very strong defense mechanisms against an ever more invasive advertising hype that tends to permeate all communications channels. They would rather be in the TV show in place of occupying the breaks and, above all, be there when something interesting happens. If we are not looking for a new car or a new mobile, we are very unlikely to get caught by an advertising spot which is broadcast without being requested and, possibly, at high volume.

The difference between advertising and sponsorship

If you wish to know more about sports marketing, click here and you will be redirected to a whole section of our blog on sports marketing. If you wish to know more about sponsorship, click How sports sponsorship works.

What changes does sports sponsorship bring about? Many! Firstly, the brands and trademarks are in the TV program – in the middle of the action – and they are not perceived as intrusive elements. Going back to our example, if Simon and Lucy were watching a soccer match, they would see the names of the sponsors on the jerseys of the players, for instance, or the logos of the partners of the league at the edge of the pitch.

How have the purchasing habits of goods and services changed?

Let’s draw another example, taking the risk of oversimplification one more time. Take Simon again and imagine he is thinking about changing his car: he is constantly bombarded by hundreds of ads relating to any possible type of vehicle. The ads, however, are not very useful as they are guided by others. To make his choice, Simon will use Google where he can compare reviews, read the road tests published in sector-specific magazines, view offers and compare proposals for second-hand cars on the major worldwide portals. In other words, he will eventually make his choice based on a number of information and criteria which he will have established, without nothing being imposed on him. When perceived as above, advertising does not add any value to items belonging to the same product category.

Sports Sponsorship: what is new on the horizon?

The horizon itself! If we use the example of cars, Simon will be able to associate some automotive brands with Formula 1 racing teams and, at the same time, with great sports clubs, such as Manchester United, which give the brand additional value. This strategy was strongly pursued by Mercedes in the past few years through huge investments in its own sports programs and in sports sponsorships as they have proved to be a very powerful marketing and communication tool.
The positive values of the discipline to which the brand is tied tend to settle on the brand as time goes by. Over time, the brand we associate to something we love becomes familiar first and favorite then, and this often results in the propensity to purchase, which eventually wins the company a sale.

Storytelling and sport

There is another key point to sports sponsorship that needs to be emphasized. By acquiring marketing and communication rights, the sponsorship gives companies a story to tell and, in turn, the story is offered faces and images enjoying great popularity and charm. There is, in fact, a difference in creating storytelling for social medias using topics and faces that raise a mild interest and in doing so with the help of sports celebrities and exploits that are out there for all to see. Videos, images and the possibility to tell the most prestigious sports events from your doorstep and playing a key role in them are very powerful tools to reach out to the large audience and they are becoming increasingly coveted by marketing firms wishing to break through the heart of consumers.

The intent of this post was to illustrate three of the main reasons that mark the difference between advertising and sponsorship, which more and more frequently lead companies to opt for the latter in place of the former. In summary, the three reasons are:

  • inclusion vs intrusion;
  • change/improvement of the brand values;
  • storytelling opportunity.

Needless to say, this is not a comprehensive list. Other aspects to be investigated include the cost-effectiveness of the sponsorship tool, emotional involvement and activation opportunities. These aspects will be the subjects of other posts that will be published in the next few days.

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Emanuele Venturoli
Emanuele Venturoli
A graduate in Public, Social and Political Communication from the University of Bologna, he has always been passionate about marketing, design and sport.
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