"We're looking for platforms we can own," said Michael Lynch, senior vice president of event and sponsorship marketing for Visa USA. "We are constantly challenging our properties to continue to be better marketing partners, not just salespeople. We are looking for properties with product exclusivity. We are looking for the properties to aggressively provide ambush protection. ... The list could go on and on."
Mr. Lynch was one of dozens of speakers and panelists at the second annual Street & Smith's Sports Group's Sports Sponsorship Symposium, held this year as part of an Advertising Week event put on by the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
The featured sessions and case studies focused on a variety of topics, including how to leverage partnerships. But first, the partnership has to be worthwhile. Geoff Cottrill, director of entertainment marketing for Coca-Cola Co., said the soft-drink giant receives more than 100 proposals a day.
"But too many times people come to us and say they have the greatest idea without knowing what it's going to do for them or what it's going to do for us," he said.
Most of the marketers pointed to their success in dealing with the National Football League as an example of a good partnership. "There is no doubt in my mind that major sports properties can be a market maker," said Tola Murphy-Baran, senior vice president of marketing for Sirius Satellite Radio, which signed a deal several months ago with the NFL to carry games on its service. "I spent some years at the NFL and I saw what a new affiliation did for the fledgling Fox network at the time. I saw what it did over the years for ESPN. I saw firsthand what it did for DirecTV. That affiliation with a very well-known and respected brand like the NFL can be a trampoline enabling us to get to a much higher level of awareness."
80% impulse purchasing
"In our category, 80% of the purchasing decision is total impulse. It is made literally as they are walking down the aisle," said Scott Hudler, Masterfoods USA senior manager of sponsorship marketing. "We look at properties like the NFL and Nascar as a way for us to get that incremental display in an aisle." Masterfoods' Snickers brand is an NFL sponsor.
The marketers also spoke of product placement and brand positioning. Mr. Lynch, though leery of the competition between sports sponsorships and entertainment, lauded reality TV programs as doing a great job in that realm.
But Coca-Cola's Mr. Cottrill said sports sponsorships and entertainment properties don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
Sports as entertainment
"We don't think about sports and entertainment as two different things," he said. "For instance, we spend a tremendous amount with [Fox's] American Idol. Our brand is now branded into the show. It's about finding ways to integrate your brand. We think of sports as being a form of entertainment and whether or not the dollars we spend are in soccer or on American Idol, we ask where are the consumers, what are their passions and how do we connect with the various properties."