May 17, 2011 at 02:14 PM
written by Brent Barootes

The Cluttered Sponsorship – Stop!

OK, so there are limits. Many of you who have heard me speak or know me, also know my passion for the industry. I live and breathe sponsorship. When I go to an event or a building, I see missed opportunities. I notice places and opportunities that can be sold and where revenue can be increased. That is what I do for a living. But even I have to admit that there are limitations.

When we work for a sponsorship property, delve deeply and do our job correctly, we come up with hundreds and sometimes thousands of assets. Our job is to identify and determine everything that can be sold.

It is the job of the property to determine what it will sell or how much of anything it will sell. In our reports to clients, we indicate the level of income they should generate annually-often just about a third of all the available assets. This is because the "clutter factor" is an issue! We (and hopefully they) know that most properties do not want to look like NASCAR. That is way too cluttered. It works successfully for NASCAR, auto racing and European sports properties, but for the most part, not in North America other than in auto racing. No one really likes "logo soup" or signage everywhere they look. Not only do stakeholders (fans, subscribers, supporters, etc.) dislike it, it usually has a negative effect on sponsors. So we need to be cautious in what we do with our inventories of assets. The list should be there and the assets available for sale, but we need to watch how, and how many, we sell.

In a posted article by Don Schultz back in March, it was interesting to see how sponsorship (in his mind and mine) can be overdone. He called the article "Is Argentina in Sponsorship Heaven?" I call it clutter, mismanagement of assets and a property that will ultimately not benefit the property or the brands associated.

In Argentina, it seems everything is for sale. As Don noted, it is "not just the HSBC airline jetway at the airport." In Buenos Aires, the street signs are named by the telecommunications company "Claro." It would be like having TELUS on each street sign. We would have TELUS Yonge Street in Toronto, TELUS Albert Street in Regina, TELUS Jasper Avenue in Edmonton, TELUS Macleod Trail in Calgary, TELUS Robson Street in Vancouver, and TELUS Argyle Street in Halifax. Furthermore, in Buenos Aires, even restaurants are sponsored like WESTJET Earl's Restaurant or Blackberry Tim Horton's. In fact, Don notes that Blackberry is huge in sponsorship in Buenos Aires with names on chairs, patio umbrellas, etc. that traditionally were the stronghold of beer and bottled water!

But this is not just the way in Buenos Aires. In Chicago, they were considering naming subway stops as they were in New York. You might have AT&T Central Station stop or Heineken State Street stop. In Winnipeg, Mayor Katz even announced that potholes could be named!

I believe, and agree with Don Shultz in his post, that the madness must stop soon. Such "namings" are not really helping the brands. They become clutter and wallpaper (just like Coke learned at NASCAR). Sponsorship must be strategic with measurable ROI. What we are seeing done by properties that don't know any better, and brands that are sailing in the same ship, affects us all at some point. The question is when?

Don ends his posting with the query, "When will this sponsorship foolishness end? When marketers either a) run out of money or b) learn there is more to marketing than name recognition." His bet is on the money shortage. My hope is that the brands and the properties learn the latter sooner. Some are, but more need to.

These are just one person's thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well, so please email me at [email protected] or add your comments below.

Photobucket Brent Barootes is President of Calgary-based, Partnership Group. The Partnership Group is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta Canada and provides innovative sponsorship programs for corporations and sponsor properties in the areas of not-for-profits, sports organizations, and government agencies and government operations, charities, events, member associations, tournaments and conferences.