Sports sponsorships are one of the most effective marketing synergies in the last few decades. While celebrity endorsements or influencer marketing aren’t a new thing, sports stars manage to give it a whole new dimension. The passion they bring while performing in their respective fields makes it easy for people to love them and eager to listen to their advice when it comes to buying new pair of sneakers.
Sports Sponsorship Is a Massive Industry
In 2013 alone, North American companies have spent $14 billion on sport sponsorship deals. Companies preferred title sponsorships, paying large sums of money for the rights to name an event or stadium, like Bank of America Chicago Marathon or Oracle Arena. It isn’t uncommon for athletes to earn more from their sponsors then they do from their clubs. By 2017, Lebron James earned $234 million in playing salary from Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat. During that time, Nike cashed him out to the tune of $300 million and he got a lifetime deal with them, predicted to earn him a billion dollars. Air Jordan brings around $200 million every year to Michael Jordan, decades after he retired from professional basketball.
The main reason why companies spend these outrageous amounts on sponsorship deals is brand recognition. It’s all about imprinting their logo into your brain, so when you enter a store, you will recognize it immediately. Choosing what to buy suddenly seems a lot easier since you associate the brand with your favorite team or athlete. That is why online giant Bet365 Casino signed a massive deal with La Liga and will have its logo displayed on uniforms of 10 clubs competing in the Spanish premiere football competition. It translates into millions of people watching their logo several times a week for hour and a half. When they go online to try their luck, what do you think which site will they go to?
Benefits of Sports Sponsorships
There are several distinct benefits companies enjoy after forming a successful partnership with an athlete or athletic organization. The first one is publicity, which directly translates to increased brand awareness. The more successful the athlete, the more publicity it will garner for their sponsors. Second is sales which usually skyrocket after the deal is announced. Suddenly, all Golden State Warriors’ fans want that new Steph Curry’s signature shoes. Differentiation from the competition is another huge benefit, especially for smaller companies. Before signing Steph Curry, Under Armour was unknown outside the United States. Now they have shops all over the world, having established their brand on the same level as Nike or Adidas. Finally, increased brand loyalty through sponsorship deals allows companies to charge premium prices for their products, without actually increasing their quality.
Sports Sponsorships Risks
There are downsides as well, of course. The biggest one for a brand is being associated with a losing team. Another one is alienating fans of rival teams. Barcelona fans wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a brand that sponsors Real Madrid and vice versa. Finally, sometimes athletes tend to behave like spoiled children, throwing temper tantrums which, if publicized, may hurt the brand as well. Doping and corruption scandals plague modern sports more than ever and companies cutting off athletes caught in them are a common occurrence. The recent events in NFL have also shown just how vulnerable sport sponsorship deals may be, with Papa John’s blaming declining pizza sales on athletes kneeling during the national anthem.
All said and done, there isn’t a fundamental difference between sports sponsorship and any other form of marketing. The driving force behind the effectiveness of sports sponsorships is a personality and success of a sports person or organization and that is something that is unique because athletes are very easy for us to identify with. Next time you go to Foot Locker to pick up a new pair of shoes, stop and think. Are you choosing that particular model because you really like them or because they have Jumpman’s logo on them?