In Sponsorizzazioni Sportive, Sport Sponsorship, Sports Marketing

Sports sponsorship
and Digital ADV are often compared by marketers, who in the need to choose between the former and the latter find themselves weighing the differences. While both can obviously be effective means of communication, it should be pointed out that they are profoundly different tools, starting with their very nature. While in fact sponsorship is strategic, digital advertising is tactical.

Sports sponsorship and Digital ADV, a sensible comparison.

A famous Italian expression says that it is good to compare“pears with pears and apples with apples.” It is a fun way to suggest to someone not to compare different objects (or concepts) with each other, and that in order to do a proper analysis of things it is best to first make sure they are in the same category. Pears and apples are a good example, in this case, as-although they often appear together-sports sponsorship and digital advertising have completely different roots, intentions, and features.

On several occasions, during some meetings or in negotiations, we heard that management was considering whether to choose sports sponsorship or, more bluntly, a digital advertising campaign. This consideration, far more frequent than one might expect, never fails to raise some perplexity: for those involved in sports marketing, it is difficult to think that the two are on the same plane and that one must choose between one or the other.

However, and this is always an important issue, fully understanding the scope and characteristics of sports sponsorship is one of the first steps to choosing it with awareness and putting it into practice successfully. It is the task of specialized sponsorship agencies and sports marketing groups to make clear to clients and prospects the peculiarities and features of all the instruments on the table. Separate, in short, the pears from the apples.


5 differences

There are 5 main differences between sports sponsorship and digital advertising. Within each of these divisions lie dozens of other corollaries and details that can be investigated later. For now, and to clear the air immediately, these are the six key points

  1. Sponsorship is strategic, digital advertising is tactical
  2. Sponsorship is long-term, digital advertising short-term
  3. Sponsorship grafts onto cognitive and emotional realms, digital ADV onto impulse responses
  4. Sponsorship is not an advertising stimulus, digital ADV is
  5. Sponsorship builds brand authority, digital ADV weakens brand authority

In the following paragraphs we will go over each of these 5 points. For all those who are looking for a quick answer we will provide in the opening paragraph a TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) version that tries to summarize the most important concepts in a few words.

Sponsorship is strategic, digital advertising is tactical

TL;DR – Sponsorship is a root from which a multiplicity of actions and activations can spring, since at its core lies a set of marketing benefits that can be developed according to different needs, creativity, situations and tones of voice. Digital ADV, on the other hand, is a “here and now” tool, unambiguous and one-dimensional, effective for precise situations.

This is undoubtedly the most important topic of the entire roundup, and it is only right that it be discussed first. The main difference between sports sponsorship and digital ADV is that the former is a strategy-i.e., the identification of the general and specific objectives of an activity and the most appropriate ways and means to achieve them-the latter is a tactic-i.e., a mode of employment. If sports sponsorship is wide-ranging, digital ADV is surgical and vertical. If sponsorship opens up perspectives and operation scenarios, digital advertising is born and ended at the moment of ad delivery.

Sports sponsorship is–pardon the figure of speech–the adoption of a corporate philosophy, the undertaking of a path that involves the whole structure for a long time and that aims not at a specific goal, but at the strengthening of a value system, at general growth.

Sponsorship is long-term, digital advertising short-term

TL;DR – Almost everyone remembers Ayrton Senna’s McLaren Marlboro, David Beckham’s Manchester United Sharp-branded jersey or Prada’s epic Luna Rossa races on America’s Cup nights. Hardly anyone remembers the Google Adwords link they clicked on yesterday morning in passing, thinking it was an organic result.

Precisely because of what was said in the previous paragraph, another imposing distinction between sponsorship and Digital ADV lies in time management and long-term effectiveness.

As is evident, digital advertising starts when you start paying and stops when you stop paying. This may seem trivial, but it makes the tool unsuitable for long-tail reasoning, that is, those that aim to create value in the long run and organically increase brand positioning.

Instead, sponsorship works in reverse. Any program, from the smallest to the largest, needs a learning curve to become effective but continues to create value well beyond the duration of the sponsorship itself. Cases such as those mentioned in the opening, namely Senna’s McLaren Marlboro, Valentino Rossi‘s Yamaha Fiat, and Maradona ‘s Napoli’s Mars-branded jersey are shining examples of how certain partnerships remain in the hearts of fans and become pieces of popular culture.


Sponsorship grafts onto cognitive and emotional realms, digital ADV onto impulse responses

TL;DR – Sponsorship is effective because it uses the emotions of sports to create value and positive connections between brands and consumers. The relationship that is created is of the heart and head, which is why it is considered non-invasive by the viewers.

As mentioned several times in the pages of this blog, sports sponsorship is substantiated by particular cognitive and emotional mechanisms that not only overcome the consumer’s defensive barriers (the same ones that defend him or her from the hundreds of advertisements he or she sees on a daily basis) but also allow a positive connection to be made between the sponsored brand and the sports property.

This ability to arouse emotions and feelings of involvement is an inherent and foundational characteristic of sports, making it an extraordinary communication tool. When we join as sponsors with this passion and positive feelings, it creates a very powerful empathy between brands and viewers that then translates into valuable behaviors on the part of the viewers.

Sponsorship is not an advertising stimulus, digital ADV is

TL;DR – Have you ever seen an ADblocker for sponsors on a Formula 1 car or a soccer team jersey? No, because there is no need. Have you ever seen an Adblocker for advertisements infesting the sites you visit? Yes, it is on your browser right now.

A key consequence of the above point is that sports sponsorship is not perceived as advertising by the public but crosses defensive barriers and is therefore extremely more effective. Digital ADV, by contrast, is part of the advertising clutter that increasingly surrounds the consumer, who is now forced into“ADV blindness” in order to be able to even simply navigate within a daily routine invaded by TV ads, billboards, banners, newsletters and more.

Sponsorship builds brand authority, digital ADV weakens brand authority

TL;DR – Have you ever seen Richard Mille on Google Adwords or on a sponsored reel on Instagram? No. Have you ever seen him sponsor sports? That’s right.

Sports sponsorship unites brands with the value system of sports and the sponsored sports property. In the case of motorsport, for example, speed, passion, pursuit of performance, technology and so on. In doing so, it transfers these values and characteristics to the sponsor, repositioning them in the eyes of the consumer and cementing their perception. That is why effective sponsorship is always between related subjects, such as Rolex and the Wimbledon tournament , Prada and the majestic elegance of sailing, Petronas and the high-tech power of
Formula 1
, or Red Bull and the adrenaline-pumping

Conversely, advertising puts a brand in competition and on the same level as all the other brands that are advertising at that moment, perhaps on the same platform, impoverishing or diminishing its positioning and authority.

Choose carefully

Finally, it is good to understand one point: the above does not mean that digital advertising is not an effective tool. On the contrary: when it responds to precise logic and is employed methodically and punctually, it is a valuable and effective weapon for marketers.

What is wrong, if anything, is to compare sponsorship and digital ADV as if they were equivalent or interchangeable. These two objects, one strategic, one tactical, stand at different levels and at different times in the business decision-making process.

Knowing how to choose them carefully and at the right time is the first step to reaping the best benefits from both.

If you have any doubts or curiosity about the world of sports sponsorship and how it can best be used for your marketing, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Can we help you sign your best sponsorship deal?

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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