OPINION: DUMORTIER ON ... SPONSORSHIP

Now that the dust has settled on Euro 2000, sponsors are considering the payback of investing in the event. My argument is that in sponsorship, like in soccer, commitment is everything.

Now that the dust has settled on Euro 2000, sponsors are

considering the payback of investing in the event. My argument is that

in sponsorship, like in soccer, commitment is everything.



Why is MasterCard sponsoring sports events? Well, the positioning of

payment cards has changed over recent years. These days, we need to

focus on building emotional relationships with customers because often

the decision on which card to apply for, which one to take out of the

wallet, comes down to how people feel about the brand. MasterCard’s

long-running ’priceless’ campaign is about linking the practicality and

versatility of the brand to deeper, more human emotions.



Football is a fantastic vehicle to achieve this. It’s more than just the

most popular form of TV entertainment. It crosses generations, genders,

geographies and social classes. Everyone who will ever use a MasterCard

is a potential participant. More than that, it allows our brand to

become part of national pride, frenzy and excitement. In this way,

soccer can be the real ’glue’ of a brand’s marketing mix.



However, this association can’t be achieved by sponsoring one big

event.



The key is consistent, related sponsorship. We are now involved in the

World Cup (sponsored since Italy 1990), the European Championships

(sponsored since Sweden 1992) and the UEFA Champions League (sponsored

since 1993).



Each event builds on our brand equity from year to year.



Sponsorship is about building association by emotion but one has to

invest extra in making this happen. Boards around the pitch are not

enough - they are only registered on a subliminal level. Paying to be

associated with the event logo is only the beginning. A sponsor buys a

ticket to an empty theatre stage and then has to put on a play. In our

case, that took the form of intense through-the-line activity. Through

this, we could maximise contact not only with a TV audience but with the

millions of visitors to the championship.



The result? One Dutch telephonic survey, Trefpunt, saw our prompted

brand awareness in the Netherlands jump to 74.6 per cent, way above

Philips, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.



The association our sponsorship has established with FIFA and UEFA also

gives us great opportunities for the future. Because of its consistent

sponsorship, MasterCard is well positioned to make our card the payment

tool of choice for supporters buying tickets over the internet. One

example that speaks for itself: during autumn 1999, a first tier of

600,000 Euro 2000 tickets was sold on the internet, primarily to Belgian

and Dutch fans. More than 40 per cent used MasterCard for the

purchase.



There are things that you can’t really measure. We are told we all waste

50 per cent of our advertising budget. Well, a branding exercise in

sponsorship is like that too. However, we must not forget that events

such as Euro 2000 generate unequalled passion among fans, both at the

events and through the media.



That is the exciting intangible that we are buying into.



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