Throughout the year there have once again been rumblings that the NBA (United States National Basketball Association) are set to announce the opportunity for sponsors to appear on team jerseys for the first time. The cost of this 2½ inch by 2½ inch spot – an estimated $100 million. Whilst this might appear to be an excellent opportunity for sponsors there is the potential for oversight. Brands often strive for the largest assets with a ‘bigger the better’ focus without fully equating how this will impact the brand or the potential response from the public, instead of looking to maximise their current rights.
Rarely do sponsors fully utilise the assets available to them. There are a wealth of activations available to engage with their audience yet for many these remain unused, mostly due to a lack of creativity.
The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team was at the centre of a similar occurrence in recent years. As the most successful national rugby team on the planet with perhaps the most iconic jersey, which has always been sponsor clean (barring the small placement of Stienlager during part of the 90’s); a fact that filled fans with immense pride.
However this all changed in 2012 when AIG confirmed its place as Major Global Sponsor of the All Blacks. Included within this multi-million pound deal was the prime of place upon the legendary All Blacks shirt for the first time ever. On the one hand a ground breaking coup for AIG, yet the public outcry was huge with many New Zealanders speaking of boycotting AIG’s services, creating substantial adverse PR for the brand globally. This was not seen as a sponsor utilising an asset but instead a brand defacing that famous jersey.
Despite the fact that AIG used a logo 2/3 smaller than the norm this was not enough to dissipate the fallout. If the badging was crucial to AIG’s sponsorship (almost all other All Black’s sponsors have managed without this) they may have done more to quell the public’s uproar. They had the opportunity to engage with fans and to ask them how best the logo might be displayed on the jersey – allowing the fans to feel as though they were consulted on the matter, sparing some of the fallout.
One of the most severe effects from this may well have been the effect on AIG’s revenue. Not considering the additional sponsor fee for the badging opportunity, the impact from the boycotting of services and negative PR will have taken an impact on the businesses bottom line – one of the very things the sponsorship aimed to increase.
Ironically, the All Blacks was also one of the best utilisation of assets provided – by cereal brand Weet-Bix. As a long standing sponsor of the New Zealand rugby team (12 years), Weet-Bix took the opportunity to be creative with the assets they held rights to instead of opening the cheque book to acquire more branding. Parents were encouraged to visit the Weet-Bix website and enter their child’s birth date. Birthday cards were sent to the children with personalised messages ‘signed’ by the New Zealand players.
Weet-bix provides a prime example for how a sponsor can maximise the rights available to them. Electing to take a creative approach instead of opting for a badging the brand engaged emotionally with over two million people in New Zealand building the brand message, providing emotive moments for children and parents alike.
Whilst the drivers behind each brands’ sponsorship of the All Blacks may have been different, Weet-Bix shows how creatively utilising sponsorship rights can maximum emotional benefit instead of seeking bigger brand visibility and badging.
For all brands that are considering that $100 million NBA outlay, more consideration needs to be made on maximising current rights available, better engagement with a fanatical audience, and how to truly align with the sport to drive emotional buy-in.