Sponsorship - More than Just Branding, Maybe?

There have been many articles written along the lines of ‘Sponsorship – More Than Just Branding’. Whilst it’s plain that sponsorship has evolved into far more than straightforward logo placement, it’s important not to forget that branding – be it via naming rights, advertising hoardings or shirt sponsorships – is still relevant within the sports and sponsorship field and most importantly, still deemed hugely valuable in the eyes of sponsors.

Recently, General Motors signed a massive £175 million deal with Manchester United that will see the Chevrolet logo replace Aon on the front of the club’s shirt for the next seven years. Chevrolet will be provided with numerous additional benefits from their shirt sponsorship (via advertising, hospitality etc.) but primarily their logo position on United’s shirts will promote brand perception of ‘success, speed and superiority’. Moreover it will automatically gain favour with United’s 659 million followers worldwide, as General Motor’s VP for N. America states: ‘this is about connecting the brand with Manchester United and its passionate supporters around the world.’

And it’s not just the Premier League’s most famous teams that are seeing such significant returns on shirt sponsorships, with the likes of Sunderland attracting substantial investment from their lucrative partnership with Invest in Africa. Recent figures reveal a 25% increase in English Premier League shirt sponsorship to £147 million, dampening fears that the EPL as a brand would suffer as the British economy entered its second dip in four years.

Now, while these shirt sponsorships represent the more expensive side of branding within sponsorship, a couple of incidents a month or so ago, illustrate that (clever/accidental) logo placement can still generate positive brand perception and awareness on a budget.

Firstly, David Nalbandian took out a knee-height Nike hoarding, along with an umpires shin, after failing to return a base-line shot from Marin Cilic. This was followed shortly by the boxer-gate affair surrounding Nicklas Bendtner’s Paddy Power lined briefs, which he revealed after scoring his second goal in Denmark’s 3-2 defeat to Portugal.

Both men were rightly disciplined accordingly – Nalbandian receiving disqualification from Queens and Bendtner receiving a hefty fine – and received their fair share of press attention. Granted the Nike hoarding board was not the focal point of such attention over Nalbandian’s kick-out, but it was in Bendtner’s case, and Paddy Power got a huge amount of publicity and engagement out of it.

The Paddy Power Facebook page was awash with comments from users acclaiming their ‘genius’ marketing strategy and the story was covered by every major broadsheet. While I don’t believe that a mostly average footballer wearing a green pair of briefs constitutes exceptional intellectual aptitude, it was rather clever.

For just £80,000 (the price of Bendtner’s fine, which Paddy Power agreed to pay) the Irish bookmakers got nationwide exposure and saw thousands of additional online users flock to see what other mischief Paddy Power have been up to.

Quite obviously Bendtner’s boxers can’t be compared with Chevrolet’s United sponsorship in terms of worldwide reach, but you’d be hard pushed to say that it’s not better value.