Jun 26, 2013 at 12:55 PM
written by Adam Grossman

Can Microtising Lead To Macro Sponsor Revenue?

Some think that sports organizations and athletes could not possibly find any new ways to activate a corporate partnership. From arena signage to signature wines, it often seems as if sports organizations and professionals have already exhausted every possible type of sports sponsorship.

Yet sports organizations may have only scratched the surface when it comes to sponsorship opportunities. Tennis player Anne Keothavong will “sport adverts on her fingernails…to show off the detail of 4K Ultra High Definition TV at Wimbledon.” That’s right. Sony is going to imprint its company logo and new product name on a tennis player’s cuticles.

This type of sponsorship activation is called micro advertising, or “microtising.” Essentially, microtising involves finding small areas to showcase an advertisement – whether it’s a small part of a person’s body, small screen, or small product.

Why would Sony want to make this foray into microtising? High definition televisions have now largely become a commoditized product (i.e. quality among HD television is difficult to differentiate). Most consumers will make a decision on what television to buy primarily based on the cost in a commoditized market. When high definition televisions were first introduced however, early adapters were willing to pay high prices for the new technology. This type of customer often makes decisions on the quality of the product rather than the cost because quality can vary much more in newer technologies.

Sony is trying to position its new ultra high definition television as a completely new product -- not just another HD flat screen. This approach would justify the 4K’s £4,000 ($6,177) price tag. For example, Sony claims that its 4K television “offers four times more detail than the current high definition.” And what better way to demonstrate the superiority of this crisper picture than to show viewers something as small as a logo on a fingernail? By doing so, the tech giant is hoping to make a strong case that consumers should buy this new product at a higher price point.

The marketing ploy also provides a great example of a company showcasing a product’s unique features through a sports sponsorship. Would Sony’s success using microtising mean that other companies should try this tactic as well? Author James Andrew Miller seems to think so. The co-author of the behind-the-scenes ESPN bestseller Those Guys Have All the Fun recently tweeted, “Imagine if @espn gets into microtising”.

Miller’s tweet exposes one of the common misconceptions surrounding sports sponsorship in most likely suggesting that ESPN should start selling microtising as one of its advertising products. Simply because Sony leveraged an innovative technique to market its new HD product does not mean that ESPN should necessarily follow the same approach. ESPN already makes millions of dollars in advertising during their televised sporting events. Miller is likely contending the ESPN should capitalize on this new trend by providing microtising inventory to its advertising clients. If this type of advertising works for Sony, then why not for other companies?

It is not clear, however, why other companies should follow Sony’s example. The microtising approach was designed to complement Sony’s strategy to differentiate its product from its competition. Yet most people do not (and may not ever) own an ultra HD television set. Most companies are also not selling products where the ability to see really small images factors into the customer’s decision making process. Therefore, having real small sponsorships that are difficult to see on standard HD televisions does not make sense for most companies. After all, why would companies pay for advertising that most people would have difficulty seeing?

Sports organizations and their corporate partners must consider all these factors when examining new types of sponsorship opportunities. Companies need to consider how a sponsorship activation element or inventory item will help generate revenue and meet marketing goals when considering partnerships with an organization. Similarly, sports organizations must show how they can help their partners achieve these goals. This type of analysis shows that microtising may very well work for Sony, but may not have the same positive impact for other companies.