Analysis: Motorola/NFL And Dr Pepper/Chicago Bears Sponsorships

By Jim Andrews Apr 18, 2012

News this week regarding the end of one partnership and the beginning of another raises some interesting questions.

Motorola stepped away from its league-wide NFL sponsorship after 13 years. Whether the brand left of its own accord or made a renewal offer that the NFL rejected is unclear.

On the one hand, I would have liked to see what Motorola Mobility’s new owner, Google, would have done with the NFL sponsorship, just as everyone is interested overall in what the folks in Mountain View are planning for the brand. Google doesn’t have experience with sponsorship, but they have smart people who may have been able to develop some creative, non-traditional ways of activating the deal.

And that is what is needed for any sponsor who may take over the sponsorship. Apart from the headset branding—which could benefit an upstart or struggling (hello Nokia!) brand—the category is a tough one in which to earn ROI. The culprit is not necessarily the mid-eight-figure price tag, but rather the presence of an official service provider, currently Verizon Wireless.

While the official handset sponsor can offer you a team-branded phone (and only diehards really want that), the exponentially more compelling offer is access to exclusive content and that’s Verizon’s territory thanks to its $720 million deal. That makes it pretty tough to compete; a hardware brand would be better off striking a deal with Verizon for pass-through rights and riding the carrier’s coattails.

As for the new deal struck this week between the Chicago Bears and Dr Pepper Snapple Group, the big question is whether the team made the right move in bringing in the Dr Pepper, 7-Up and RC Cola brands to replace longtime partner Coca-Cola’s products at Soldier Field.

Although you can argue that there are likely more Bears fans loyal to Coke brands than to DPS’s soft drinks, that issue did not need to be the deciding factor for the team. If you are going to offer exclusive sales rights, you are bound to upset someone.

The Bears and their savvy vice president of sales & marketing Chris Hibbs factored in which beverage partner would activate the sponsorship in the most meaningful way for the team and its fans, a much more important consideration than not being linked with the number-one or number-two cola brand. This is not a case where anyone needs to worry about the Bears brand being diminished because it is not partnering with the category leader. We are talking Dr Pepper, 7-Up and other major brands—not Sam’s Cola.

Thanks to the folks at Crain’s Chicago Business, if you’d like to see me discuss these two deals, you can do so here.


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Jim Andrews

About the Author

A 30-year sponsorship industry veteran, Jim is responsible for developing and sharing thought-leadership content based on ESP Properties’ groundbreaking work in the areas of sponsorship strategy, valuation, measurement, digital content, data-driven marketing and fan engagement.

In addition to identifying key trends and delivering his unique insights into the critical issues facing rightsholders and their commercial partners, Jim is the chairman of the Annual Sponsorship Conference, responsible for the program and speakers, as well as hosting and delivering the event’s opening address. He also is responsible for the company’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending, as well as its compilation of biggest spending companies and annual industry surveys.

A frequent media commentator and guest, Jim has been a featured speaker at hundreds of sports, entertainment and marketing conferences around the world.



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