I routinely see this question in my inbox and around social media. A property has sold naming rights sponsorship, but media keeps dropping it from coverage, resulting in a sponsor that doesn’t think they’ve got what they paid for.
Yes, there are some tricks to getting the name covered, like making it part of the name – The Ford Open, instead of The Ford Houston Open. Unfortunately, that misses the point – improving media pickup, but providing little strategic impact.
Sponsors take up naming rights for two main reasons:
- It gives them the most extensive marketing platform of any sponsor – the most and best benefits, the most exclusivity – that will allow them to create an amazing leverage plan to achieve brand objectives.
- They have a colossal corporate ego, love to see their name in large type, and have no idea that visibility itself doesn’t equate to achieving brand objectives, as evidenced in many academic studies spread over the past twenty years.
For sponsors in the second camp, I know it’s going to come as a shock, but media coverage is editorial. That means the sponsee has no control over what media does and doesn’t cover. If the media is also a sponsor, there will be more control, but even then, some media keep a Chinese wall between marketing and editorial. The upshot is that all a sponsee can do is provide their “best endeavours” to get media to use the sponsor’s name, and they should know that going in.
The good news is that a sponsor getting name/logo coverage in media is one of the least strategic, least valuable benefits of any sponsorship. If it happens, that’s great. If not, and the sponsor has done a fantastic leverage program, it won’t matter a bit to the actual results of sponsorship.
If you are a sponsorship seeker, and your sponsor is in the ego-driven camp, you’re probably best served to do some gentle education. Work with them to develop a great leverage plan. Work with them to integrate the sponsorship across all or most of their other marketing activities. Work with them to do leverage activities that are so creative, they are themselves newsworthy. If they aren’t open to any of this, and continue to focus on visibility, go ahead and keep taking their money and do your best to get them what they want. But be prepared, because the penny will drop eventually, and you could be categorised as the organisation that took their money and delivered nothing but visibility. Unfair, I know, but it happens all the time.
If you’re a sponsor, and you’re still hooked on this visibility thing, please do us all a favour and raise your game. Use the marketing scope afforded you, as the pre-eminent sponsor, to do amazing things for your target markets, for the fans, for your staff. Don’t sit back and hope naming rights works for you, work naming rights so it achieves your specific objectives – changing people’s perceptions and behaviours – with your specific target markets.
Need more assistance?
For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.
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