Sep 01, 2009 at 05:57 PM
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Does Sports Get the Credit For SpongeTech's Q1?

Before sports marketers rush to take credit for SpongeTech's impressive $70 million in booked orders for first quarter 2010, the swine flu probably deserves most of the credit. SpongeTech is taking the sports marketing world by storm with a fast growing $20 million budget (compared to $8MM in '08). However, demand was "likely in response to the high level of awareness surrounding the upcoming flu season in the northern hemisphere," the company said in a press statement.

"We believe that we will continue to see strong growth within the Company going into the holiday season. Our brand marketing strategy has been successful thus far and we believe we are positioning SpongeTech to become the next household brand name," SpongeTech’s COO, Steven Moskowitz said.

If this is the next billion dollar company, sports marketers may be smart to get in on the action early, perhaps even at a discounted proposal. $20 Million is still relative light for advertising standards, but certainly nothing to sneeze at for sports marketing.

However, with such a recent and aggressive use of sponsorship, one has to ask the question - how much of their recent success can you really accredit to sports sponsorship? SpongeTech's press release gives sports sponsorship credit for driving retail distribution:

SpongeTech's products are being ordered and reordered by various major national retail outlets including drugstores, supermarkets, membership warehouse clubs, and big box stores and online at The Company’s Direct Response marketing program has also been showing increase return from its commercials that are aired nationally on cable and satellite channels for its Car Care and Pet Care products as well as its newest Children's Bath Sponge. The Company's marketing campaign continues to support the retail distribution with its sports sponsorship portfolio which includes leveraging several NFL teams, MLB teams, the World Football Challenge, Sarah Fisher Racing and the US Open.

With retail distribution growing in importance, SpongeTech may be wise to spend so much on brand awareness, however, as they seek to grow distribution with retail chains like Wal-Mart one could probably assume that they will have to create broader (and more activated) sponsorships to appease co-marketing partners, as well as demonstrate product attributes in crowded environments.

Since simple name awareness has seemingly been the objective (i.e. giving us a reason to pick the smarter sponge in a crowded aisle full of competing consumer products) then perhaps branding works. Take this case for example:

While naming rights have in the past been considered the most effective path to name awareness in sports, SpongeTech is taking a different path and it will be interesting to see the results. Is it a mile wide, inch deep strategy or an efficient way to buy media? Probably depends on your profession and perspective.

Many people know the name, but how many know what SpongeTech does?

According to Terry Lefton's recent Sports Business Journal article there are some "calling because of SpongeTech’s “America’s Cleaning Company” tag line, as they want to know when the firm can come clean up some industrial spill. That’s changing now, as the tag has been altered, and many stadium signs will soon now have the new slogan, “The Smarter Sponge.”

Second to that, is sports the ideal audience for SpongeTech's core consumer? “Our target market is women 25-54, so sports may seem like a strange way to reach them, but it is working, because there are lots of women watching sports, too,” Director of Marketing, Jack Schwartzberg, told SBJ.

At some point, however, when name awareness is ubiquitous, a tagline may not grow a brand. What role will sponsorships play then or do they simple exist as an efficient media buy during an economic downturn? While sports marketers rejoice with their 2010 buys, smart properties will be asking themselves this question for 2011:

Can sports marketing make "SpongeTech" a verb or will sports sponsorship be the name awareness vehicle left by the side of a road heading towards a deeper level of brand awareness?