Sponsorship - Reflections and thoughts

Sports, culture and, above all, social issues are changing fast. Both sponsors and sponsoring recipients are required to find new answers and develop new solutions. I am happy to accompany you on this journey. In this newsletter, I highlight some current topics of interest.

Limits of individual athletes’ sponsoring with regard to sustainability

When athletes promote sustainable behavior, they act as sustainability ambassadors. Thereby they ask us to rethink sustainability and to change our behavior in this regard. However, it should be borne in mind that due to their many flights, internationally active athletes personally cause a very high CO2 footprint. Therefore, their personal behahvior can not be judged as exemplary sustainable. Thus, they cannot serve as credible sustainability ambassadors. On the other hand sustainability is a hot topic, the athletes are well known and there is the temptation to use them for these messages. But I think, if at all, athletes can only serve as sustainability ambassadors after their careers.

Misconduct by companies: when sponsoring no longer is appropriate Again and again different companies are involved in delicate social discussions in the media. Contents range from environmental and climate issues to crises (e.g. financial crisis) and incorrect behavior (e.g. banks paying fines) to scandals (e.g. diesel emissions scandal in the automotive industry). A current example is the discussion regarding Roger Federer and his sponsorship cooperation with Credit Suisse. Climate activists criticize the bank for its misconduct, ask him to take position and even question his affiliation with the bank. Becoming fully aware of the high reputational risks that sponsors are taking working across many economic sectors, almost no successful sponsorship could be realized in the long term. Not even concerning event sponsoring. There is always the risk of misconduct that could be uncovered and discussed in the media. Due to the target groups’ sensitivities, I recommend to adjust the due diligence both of the sponsors and the sponsored in connection with the evaluation of sponsorship.

FIS Ski World Cup: ARD and ZDF ban drinking bottles during interviews Today, successful skiers are sponsored by beverage partners. The beverage partner supports the athletes financially and with benefits in kind and in return receives brand presence during interviews and the athletes’ media appearances. The FIS rules allow this with restrictions (industry, size of the bottle, etc.). Athletes are used to show the bottle into the camera or drink demonstratively during the interviews. ARD and ZDF have now decided to ban this additional advertising. Certain athletes have reacted to this ban by foregoing their winning interviews with ARD and ZDF. It is reasonable to assume that the beverage bottles’ provocative media presence was simply the one advertising massage that was just too much. Too much advertising, too many logos, too little quality. I wonder if going it alone made sense for ARD and ZDF. To find a good regulation, there must be a round table with broad casters, the FIS and the associations. ARD and ZDF going it alone harm the viewer (athlete boycott) and the main partners of these athletes.

Quantity vs. quality in sponsorship I keep asking myself whether there are too many marketing partners involved in sports events: event sponsors, media sponsors and the athletes’ sponsors. Many brands, messages and activations. Which of the many massages can be really taken by the viewers? Wouldn’t it be better to communicate less? In my opinion, the concept of exclusivity should be interpreted in terms of as few brands as possible are involved. In contracts with individual athletes the number of additional partners allowed could also be regulated. A bonus-malus system could be introduced in the contracts. I will be interesting to observe whether more quality and thus a certain self-limitation will prevail in the future and whether this can be a strategy that is more successful for both sides in the long term.

Cultural and social sponsoring - what's missing? Cultural and social sponsoring are trendy. They are attractive and contemporary fields of activity for credible corporate engagements. The topics offer many advantages such as few scandals, high stability and predictability and good potential for content marketing. The many advantages are offset by a major disadvantage: the lack of organization and the lack of offers’ bundling. This makes it very difficult for potential sponsors to put together a promising portfolio of engagements. In football, for example, you become partner of a league, an association or a series and with a contract you buy an entire portfolio. The latest merger of music organizers with the involvement of an international partner could develop into such a portfolio (one-stop shop). With great interest I observe these changes in the music industry. It will be shown whether these changes will generally prevail in cultural and social sponsoring.

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