Marc Dumortier appeared in this spot last week to argue that
consistency and commitment were the key to effective sports sponsorship.
If this kind of long-term, dogged branding can associate MasterCard with
football, then you have to believe anything is possible.
I’m here to remind you, though, about an old adage involving good money,
bad money and throwing. There have been plenty of examples, even since
Euro 2000, of sports sponsorship that has been a waste of cash.
On The Big Breakfast two weeks ago, the presenter was doing the fashion
spot. ’There’s a new sports brand out there which could in time
challenge the likes of Nike and Adidas,’ he said. He produced a crisp
white jacket and almost reverentially revealed the red logo on the
It read ’Happy Shopper’.
He had got his hands on the umpires’ jackets that have been worn
throughout this summer’s Test series against the West Indies. He was
taking the piss and, to my mind, he was making a very good point.
The fact is, sponsoring sport or sportsmen and women can create
awareness for a brand. It can even do it quicker than MasterCard’s
long-term strategy with football, but it requires thought and planning
just like any other aspect of the marketing mix. Time and time again
though, able marketing people seem to lose the plot when it comes to
Examples of getting it wrong or wasting money are easy to spot. As the
British tennis team slumped to defeat against mighty Ecuador last
weekend, the line judges were decked out in sweatshirts with a big Hugo
Boss logo across their chests. You can see the thinking behind
connecting Boss to tennis, but dressing the line judges? Hasn’t anyone
ever seen what the average Wimbledon line judge looks like?
It didn’t stop there. Greg Rusedski had a tiny logo on his sleeve which,
if you concentrated really hard, you could pick out ’Freeserve’. I
struggled to work out what this small logo for an internet service
provider was doing on his shirt, then I think I got it. Rusedski is the
fastest server in the world, therefore Freeserve is ... of course, how
obvious. I don’t know how much Freeserve paid for this teeny piece of
branding, but it was probably too much.
The key thing is not to fire and forget. Sponsorship needs to be a fully
paid-up part of the total behaviour of a brand. It’s not enough to be
associated with something. You need an idea and a bit of old-fashioned
There is an idea in the fastest serve in tennis and an ISP but it needs
to be made to come alive in a compelling way. For instance, last
Saturday night Lennox Lewis pulverised Frans Botha. If Sony PlayStation
had been involved, they could have branded it as: ’Do not underestimate
the power of Lennox Lewis.’ When French Connection sponsored Lewis in
his two fights with Evander Holyfield, they were able to take the
attitude and spirit of the brand into the arena with FCUK FEAR.
Getting back to Happy Shopper, we have to give it full marks for
incongruity but where’s the idea? When was Dickie Bird ever happy? It’s
the umpire’s job to be grumpy. Now if the brand was ’Grumpy
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