Sponsorship is not just about making a noise

I read with interest the view of Ben Pincus (MW April 1) that “Vodafone is a utility brand that is no more interesting than a local gas supplier…” and that its sponsorship relationships with the likes of David Beckham, Manchester United and Ferrari have given it a personality.

I don’t know of any gas supplier that operates a range of exciting communications channels, has developed picture- messaging, gives customers the ability to take photos and play games through their phone and is at the heart of everyday one- to-one communications. These innovations have also helped Vodafone build its personality.

In the context of sports sponsorship, Vodafone as a brand has created a real connection and relevance to the events and personalities it sponsors. Off the top of my head, keeping in touch with event results, taking a picture of someone at the event and texting it to friends and family all seem pretty relevant brand associations to me.

In fact, I believe it is more difficult for brands such as McDonald’s to justify the relevance of sponsoring a sporting event. After all, what is the connection between a burger and chips and a super-fit athlete? But McDonald’s makes its sponsorships work by doing much more than just paying for the privilege.

Brands that get involved in high-profile sporting events don’t necessarily have an awareness problem. They are not just getting involved in sponsorship to boost their profile. What they want to know is how the partnership will increase turnover and add revenue as well as brand resonance.

Those brands that get it right not only have a gut feeling about why they should sponsor an event, they also have a demonstrable understanding of why they are doing it and the impact it will have on their bottom line.

Tim Gardner

Managing partner

Iris North


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