Sponsorship’s Attention Surplus Disorder

By Jim Andrews Jul 2, 2013

Sponsorship’s Attention Surplus Disorder

By and large, sponsors seek and love the attention that partnering with well-known sports, entertainment and other properties bring them. It’s a main reason for playing the sponsorship game. But there is a largely unspoken fear that lurks in the back of sponsors’ minds: What happens when that heightened attention becomes focused on the negative.

Purchase the wrong media for an ad campaign? Probably not going to be much public backlash. A promotional campaign doesn’t meet objectives? There may be internal fallout, but it’s not going to hit the press.

But the media, shareholders and the public love to discuss sponsorship, especially when they perceive something is wrong. This keeps sponsors and potential sponsors up at night, and the industry should take a long hard look at whether this fear is stopping marketers from becoming more involved in partnerships and instead turning to “safer” options.

A prime example of the dark side of the sponsorship spotlight (if spotlights can actually have dark sides) came last year when members of the U.S. Congress pitched a fit over military spending on sponsorship, earning extraordinary media coverage and public debate despite the fact that those expenditures accounted for roughly .0001% of the $608 billion defense budget.

In the private sector, backlash over a sponsorship deal has resulted in the resignation of PepsiCo India president Manu Anand. The company last year signed a five-year, $67 million deal to title sponsor cricket’s Indian Premier League. The league, no stranger to scandal in its first six years of operation, is now the focus of serious match-fixing allegations that threaten its existence.

There is plenty to argue that this was a bad deal for PepsiCo—especially at a fee reportedly double what the previous title sponsor was paying. Yet I would argue that executives at Anand’s level the world over have made more costly mistakes and kept their jobs. The combined heat and light from being associated with a scandal in a hugely popular sport was the nail in his professional coffin, far outshining the amount of money involved.

Everyone involved in sponsorship must acknowledge the outsized attention that partnerships receive and be prepared to have honest discussions about risks vs. rewards. There is still far more to be gained by becoming a sponsor than by staying on the sidelines and trying to avoid controversy. Our industry needs to become better at conveying that message.


sponsorship strategy sports international


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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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