A recent Seton Hall Sports poll found that 85 percent of people say they aren’t affected by sponsorship deals. If that is the case, then why do brands spend as much as they do on naming rights, signage and exclusive deals with leagues and teams?
There are myriad reasons why the partnerships still exist, but one of the main reasons is that fans don’t realize they are being actively marketed to during games. The best form of advertisements are the kind where fans don’t think they are being affected. There is a reason for uproar over DraftKings and FanDuel, and that is because fans felt as if they were being constantly bombarded with ads at every turn. That type of advertising may not work — even though those companies saw an uptick after their ad spend –, but subtle advertising creates brand recognition even without the fan consciously recognizing it. It’s the beauty of effective advertising.
Sponsorship and partnership deals can also force fans to at least try a product in-stadium. Fans are essentially a captive audience in-venue. If they want a soda or beer, they generally can only get a specific type of soda or beer. Food brands and quick service restaurants have exclusive access to everyone in the stadium without the risk of competitors. Maybe someone has never tried Wahoo’s before, but their first time trying the brand is inside the Honda Center. Once fans try the product, they may be repeat customers. These types of benefits introduce fans to the partner’s product.
The Seton Hall numbers are tough to believe. NASCAR fans often show brand loyalty for their favorite driver’s partner, with fans often buying products because of team branding on the packaging. This could be a case where fans want to believe they aren’t affected and have some sort of cognitive dissonance toward sponsorship deals. Many people don’t want to believe they are affected by these deals so they just say they aren’t.
The people who control the purse strings on the sponsorship side may use the Seton Hall poll in future negotiations. It is always difficult to pinpoint ROI on a sponsorship deal. It is an area teams and leagues are trying to develop strong analytics to truly show the mutual benefit for both the sponsor company and sports partner. The Seton Hall number doesn’t bode well for future deals, but it doesn’t tell the entire story.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.