How brand sponsorship can help your business?

Published: 29th June 2010
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With millions of corporate companies across the world currently falling over themselves to be associated with the South African World Cup, sponsorship is a subject becoming increasingly difficult to ignore for many business owners. Here Jonathan Halford, the chairman of one of the UK's oldest drink brands 1870, talks about why sponsorship is so important when it comes to building a brand image.

Why do you think sponsorship is so important for brands?

Brands spend literally billions of pounds on sponsorship deals every year and it works on a number of levels, for us we and in particular 1870 we will use our sponsorship to achieve recognition and enhance the brand's reputation. In a different context, brands from Barclays and Ford to McDonalds and 02, all see sponsorship as a crucial way to communicate their key messages to a large audience - and ultimately drive the bottom line of their business.

Of course sponsorship isn't just an activity reserved for the biggest brands, across the country all sorts of corporations and small businesses see brand association as a vital part of their business. Whether you are talking about your local pub sponsoring the local football team or Emirates sponsoring Arsenal the ultimate objective for businesses is to build loyalty with their target audience.

Do you think Brand Sponsorship can make a real difference when it comes to sales of products?

I think if you plan your sponsorship strategy to deliver what is right for your brand, it can positively impact on sales. But it's not just about getting the right sponsorship deal, it must go beyond the set deliverables, and working closely with your partners and other co-sponsors can add value.

My real area of expertise is obviously the beverage industry and it's fascinating to look at how various brands have really capitalised on sponsorship. These days if you are serious about building your brands image you simply can't ignore it. It has become such an important way to generate publicity, and is a really effective way of communicating with the right audience. There is no doubt that well planned and successful brand sponsorship can boost sales dramatically, so it's no surprise that more and more companies are jumping on the sponsorship bandwagon.

Can you think of good examples of brand sponsorship?

Heineken's sponsorship of rugby's European Cup and Carling, who sponsor the English football league cup, are just two good examples in the beverages industry. They are both involved in high profile events which are seen by lots of people. But what is more important is that they are seen by the right people; the target market and the people who are most likely to purchase the product. Carling and Heineken achieve this perfectly by targeting consumers who are likely to drink their beer: football and rugby fans. Long term sponsorship can work well, after a while people get used to seeing two brands together and I think this is an important factor in securing loyalty among consumers. When an association between brands has been maintained over an extended period of time they can almost become one entity: you don't mention one without the other, look at O2's sponsorship of music venues. I think this is a key factor in successful brand sponsorship.

Can you think of some bad examples?

There are a number of ways that brand sponsorships can be unsuccessful. Most obviously, if there is no direct increase in sales or a notable financial gain, then clearly it has been a waste of time, and more importantly money. Also, sponsors must ensure that they invest into brands with a good reputation and ethical beliefs in line with the values of their own organisation. It's no coincidence that when a company or even an individual, like golfer Tiger Woods, act inappropriately, companies often rush to withdraw their sponsorship. Ultimately they do not want to be seen as supporting negative actions as it could tarnish their own reputation. But any sponsorship must be to a brand that is relevant to the product or service the company is trying to promote. If Vauxhall sponsored the Teletubbies it would be completely pointless, as the children watching are not going to buy their cars. Brand sponsorship is essentially a method of focused consumer targeting, and it's vital that the brand chosen will gain the attention of the right consumers. If done properly, brand sponsorship can strengthen the position of all parties involved.

1870 recently signed a corporate sponsorship deal with the Guards Polo Club, how will that help the brand?

We are positioning 1870 as a quality mixer range, traditional with a cool edge, our logo tag line is "always mix with the best" - in short the association with polo simply fits our brand.

Aiming at the prestige market, our association with the Guards Polo Club provides a cost effective way of getting the names of Silver Spring and 1870 in front of the right audience. Polo is a not a mainstream sport, we want our 1870 mixers to stand out in the market and we believe polo helps to differentiate us and our brand.

Importantly, the PR we will achieve through this sponsorship will be viewed by a wider audience than the polo community, Polo's sophisticated image helps in both elevating the brand while, at the same time, reflecting all our core brand values.

What are your top tips for defining good brand sponsorship?

Good brand sponsorship gets into the psyche of consumers. It makes them think about a brand, even if they don't know it. If successful, it can improve the reputation of a brand, as well as establish a deeper relationship with consumers. The principles of brand sponsorship apply equally to all businesses, whether they are small local independents or international giants. Companies are going mad over the World Cup in South Africa this summer, but that is no surprise, as the 2006 Final between Italy and France had a television audience of more than 260 million people. But it's not just about attracting lots of attention; sponsorship must draw the attention of the right consumer, the ones that are actively going to make a purchase as a result. Brand sponsorship can certainly achieve this, with increased consumer awareness, greater sales revenue and increased popularity all realistic goals. This is a fact that more and more companies are coming to understand.

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