5 Points of Entry for Any Sponsorship
In my past life as NASCAR race team executive, I wrote about the five points of entry for a NASCAR sponsor. Now, as we work in ALL sports, these points of entry are universal to ALL sport sponsorships. With that said, I thought we would revisit an old post with a fresh look.
When most people think of a sponsorship, they immediately think of branding being placed on an outfield wall, a uniform, a race car, etc. While they are not wrong – these are the most obvious sponsorships tactic, after all - it is not the ONLY way in which potential sponsors can enter sports.
As a potential sponsor, it is important to understand the types of sponsorship opportunities available to you and how they can help your business. Ultimately, when contemplating a sponsorship, there are five primary points of entry (think ways to sponsor): the league (NFL, MLB, UFC, NASCAR), teams, athletes/players/drivers, venues, and media.
A sponsorship at the league level is essentially a sponsorship of a particular sanctioning body. An example of this, would be the Bud Light sponsorship with the NFL. Bud Light is “Official Beer of the NFL” and is the only beer that can use the NFL logo on their packaging.
A historic example of a league sponsorship is the former Monster deal with NASCAR. Monster used to be the presenting sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series as it was called the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. As the series entitlement sponsor, Monster benefited from having their name directly attached to the most popular form of motorsports in North America.
Sponsorship at the league level does not provide direct access to teams or athletes. Instead, it allows companies the opportunity to associate their brand with corresponding league they sponsor. Each of these sponsorships come with an “Official Partner” status that can be used in their branding/messaging. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available with the league and are scalable, including the league digital assets. This also can come with category exclusivity if negotiated into the deal.
Sponsoring a sports team provides access and rights to use the logos of the team and are an “Official Partner” of the team.
Each of these deals can be different based on the level of spend and the assets provided in the deal. For example, in Major League Soccer (MLS), sponsors are front and center on the jerseys with the team branding being smaller and the color/design representing the team. Most leagues do not allow any sponsor logos on the jerseys/uniforms, such as the NFL and MLB. The NBA currently allows for a small logo patch on the jersey and the NHL has begun to allow sponsor logos on the helmets of the players. Motorsports still provides the most “on team” branding with car paint schemes and driver/crew uniforms being fully branded.
One thing to consider when looking at a team sponsorship in the “stick and ball” sports is that you are limited to a geographical radius for all activation and logo usage. Motorsports, however, allows for a fully national platform.
Sponsoring an athlete outside of a team, is most often connected to a larger sponsorship. This makes sense as the athlete is obviously very closely connected to the team. However, an athlete sponsorship can be done independently as a point of entry, and when done directly, it is referred to as a Personal Service Agreement (PSA).
PSAs tend to revolve around things like clothing, watches, or items of that nature. These deals only entitle the sponsor rights to the athlete. A PSA does not provide sponsor rights to an athlete’s uniform/number/etc. Those assets are controlled by the team.
These deals are essentially paying an athlete a fee to be a spokesperson for your brand and works best when the athlete has an authentic connection to the brand.
The next point of entry is the venue in which the events take place within a certain sport. The most visible form of venue sponsorship is a naming rights deal with the venue being named for the Sponsor. You have all been to venues that are named after a sponsor. The San Diego Padres play their home games in Petco Park, named after Petco. Petco is based in San Diego, CA and they invested in the naming rights deal before the stadium opened in 2004. They wanted to cement their commitment to the local community. One of the fun promotions they do throughout the season to activate their sponsorship is “Bring Your Dog to the Park”, where fans can brings their dogs to a game.
Venue sponsorships come with additional assets such as tickets, suites, or hospitality opportunities. Another example of a venue asset that can be sponsored is in-venue signage. In-venue signage can take on many forms, such as large billboards inside the venue and near the field of play or the scoreboard. The goal is for the fans to see the signage inside the venue and for the occasional visibility, during the TV broadcast.
One other valuable way to reach fans at a venue is outside where the fans walk around before the event. The best example of this can be found in motorsports where there designated fans zones or what is referred to as the “midway” area. The midway is a large experiential display area (think fun, carnival atmosphere) where fans can interact and engage with brands who are showcasing their products. It is a destination for most fans on race day to walk around, buy their merchandise and get goodies/giveaways along the way.
The fifth and final point of entry is media. Media, as a point of entry, can be considered as a standalone investment, but in most cases, it serves as a support tool for the other points of entry.
Spending money in media helps amplify a sponsor’s message and enhance their larger sponsorship spends in the sport. Opportunities within media include television, radio, streaming services, etc.
Further, investing in Public Relations, as a support tool, is always recommended but social media (including content) has become a hot channel recently as many brands are looking for unique ways to talk to their target audiences and cut through the clutter. Social media and fun, branded content is now a common ask. So much so, teams are putting a greater emphasis on it by hiring producers/content developers to meet the requests of their sponsors.
So, Which Entry Point is Right For You?
When considering the entry point options available for sponsors, it is important to have a firm grasp of what your goals and objectives are prior to making any decisions on spending sponsor dollars. Not every entry point is right for your brand, and it can be cost prohibitive to do them all.
It is common practice to explore more than one entry point to create the strongest sponsorship program possible. Having your goals and objectives set, and agreed upon, will help generate a stronger return on investment than by blindly spending and hoping for the best.
The Surge Connection is here to help guide you through the points of entry and ultimately help determine what sponsorship mix is right for your brand/company.