Retail sports sponsorships are in vogue

Morrisons is the second retailer in as many weeks to announce a high-profile sporting sponsorship.

Rosie Baker
Rosie Baker

The supermarket chain revealed yesterday that it is a headline sponsor of England’s 2018 World Cup bid.

It follows a similarly high-profile announcement from John Lewis that it is to be the “Official Department Store Provider for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Both the 2012 Olympic games and the 2018 World Cup bid are huge sporting events for the nation, in terms of sporting talent and in terms of commercial potential.

It’s easy to see why brands would want to be involved in the biggest sporting event to grace our shores in decades.

However, while I am used to seeing financial, alcohol and sports brands announce high profile sponsorship deals, I am less used to associating these kinds of deals with retailers and am struggling to find an example aside from these two recent partnerships.

The organic connection between Adidas and its sponsorship of the Commonwealth Games England is obvious; sometimes it’s a little more difficult to see the synergies between brands and the events they sponsor.

On first look, I was a little baffled by these two sponsorship deals from retailers.

Why, is John Lewis a good fit for the London 2012 Olympic games and why is the World Cup bid a good sponsorship vehicle for Morrisons?

When I met with Chris Townsend the Olympic commercial director at the John Lewis press conference, he told me that what the Olympics gets out of a sponsor like John Lewis is an association with one of the most premium brands in retailing which also has a long-term dedication to sport.

What John Lewis gets is the association with the Olympics and an opportunity to leverage the power that brand holds.

Morrisons’ partnership with the 2018 World Cup bid is a little different.

Sponsorship will always pose the problem of negative association if a sporting team’s performance takes a nosedive. Morrisons is taking a gamble, as there is still a risk that the bid will be unsuccessful.

An interesting observation in the Guardian this week informed me that Morrisons has dabbled in sports sponsorship before with the Scottish National Football team. The sponsorship ended in 2006 and Morrisons allegedly took the line that professional sport sponsorship was not a part of its marketing strategy, rather than that the Scottish teams failure to qualify was negative for the supermarket.

However the success of the bid is not the be all and end all of the deal as Morrisons is hanging its sponsorship on a customer campaign that aims to collect more than two million signatures in support of the bid, so it’s the support that makes the sponsorship rather than the success of the bid.

If the bid is successful, getting on board at the early stages gives Morrisons eight years to ride the World Cup wave.

By aligning itself with England in a World Cup year, Morrisons’ bid sponsorship helps the supermarket with its ongoing mission to become a nationwide supermarket chain, as the nation unites behind its team.

The winner of the 2018 bid will be revealed in December and let’s hope that since Morrisons is supporting the nation, in turn the will nation support it.

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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