Fast Company Breaks Out the Sponsorship Way-Back Machine

My love affair with Fast Company magazine seems to be running out of steam. For a magazine that purports to be on the cutting edge of business, their coverage of sponsorship seems to be stuck in a time warp. Seriously, the only two articles I’ve seen about sponsorship in the past year have been about exposure and media equivalencies.

A good example is their recent article, “Nascar: Race Against Time” – http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/145/next-media-race-against-time.html.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but are you bloody kidding me?? Using logo exposure as a measure of sponsorship performance is a practice that is 20 years out of date!

Our job as marketers is to change people’s perceptions and change their behaviours. Many major academic studies dating back to 1991** have shown over and over that logo exposure does not contribute to changing perceptions or behaviours at all. It’s window dressing on what we should hope is a substantial, strategic sponsorship that nurtures the sponsor’s relationship with their target markets.

And equating the fleeting glimpse of someone’s logo – in amongst dozens of other logos – with some kind of media figure is sheer lunacy. Advertising tells a succinct brand story, a logo on a fast car does not. As for “recognition grading” and other automated logo tracking software, such as that referred to in the article, automating an old-school approach does not mitigate the fact that it has been proven to be irrelevant to actual results.

I encourage sponsorship professionals to both comment on the Fast Company article and drop the editor a line – Robert Safian, editor@fastcompany.com – to request that their coverage of corporate sponsorship be as cutting edge as their coverage of other business activities. Propagating an out-of-date approach to sponsorship measurement is not in any of our best interests.

And Fast Company, if you’re going to purport to be at the vanguard of new business thinking, don’t provide a platform for this kind of ill-informed, outdated practice.

**Colin McDonald, 1991, “Sponsorship and the Image of the Sponsor”, European Journal of Marketing 25

UPDATE 3 Jun 10

The update is that there is no update. Despite commenting on the article, emailing the editor, writing this blog, and this blog being tweeted and linked to by many in the sponsorship industry, there’s been nothing but dead airspace. It used to be that Fast Company cared about showcasing the newest thinking in business. It looks like they’ve become more interested in a good story with big numbers than whether it has any strategic worth. Pity.

© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. For republishing information see Blog and White Paper Reprints.

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