SPORTS MARKETING: The Media Message

Article excerpt

If sponsoring a major event is too costly, make media work for you, says Alastair Ray.

Teaming up with a major sporting event isn't for the faint-hearted.

A partnership with the Olympics, for example, can set sponsors back a cool pounds 30m - and that's before the cost of letting consumers know about it. But there is an alternative: sponsoring the media coverage of events.

And such deals can bring some of the benefits of being an official partner.

According to research from Sport+Markt, the brand with the highest recall for TV sponsorship is Ford. As well as backing the Champions League, it sponsors Sky Sports' football coverage, helping it to 13% unprompted recall. Part of the attraction is that sponsorship provides greater impact than ads.

'Through sponsorship you get closer to the TV audience,' says Toyota's commercial director, Paul Philpott. 'During ad breaks, viewing drops. If you have the first five seconds of the break you'll catch those people still in the room.'

Toyota recently scrapped its sponsorship of ITV's Formula One coverage, claiming the four-year deal had already achieved its targets by year two. 'Among the ITV viewing audience, awareness of Toyota is now very strong,' says Philpott. 'It's difficult to justify more of that spend promoting a message that is already established.'

However, it's rare that a broadcast sponsorship on its own is enough to convince the fans that a brand really cares about their sport. 'Just to buy (a broadcast sponsorship) is a media buy, not a sponsorship,' says Dominic Curran, account director at Karen Earl Sponsorship.

Official partners often get first crack at the opportunity, but in cases such as the Champions League, on-screen presence can be part of the package of broadcast rights.

'Sports are starting to encourage official partners to look at the broadcast sponsorship package that might be available as a way of ring-fencing their involvement with that event or sport,' says David Reilly, joint managing director at Carat Sport.

There are also significant opportunities with other media. Newspaper Marketing Agency research shows that 51% of male readers read the back pages first and 25% of male readers spend more than 20 minutes reading the sports pages.

Curran's client Royal Bank of Scotland took advantage of this with a sponsorship deal with The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph's coverage of the Rugby World Cup to build on its sponsorship of the Six Nations.

Lloyds TSB, too, has linked its brand with the tournament through the papers. Simon Oliveira, associate director at Ketchum Sports Network, explains that as supplements can be written up to eight weeks before the event, he sought out a more topical option with the Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard. 'Lloyds TSB ran a guide prior to the quarter-finals, which is more pertinent,' says Oliveira.

When it comes to radio sponsorships, specialists highlight a lack of choice. One brand that has tied up with the main option, talkSPORT, is The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. Group marketing director Mark Dixon describes the deal, used to back the newspapers' sports supplements, as a partnership as much as a sponsorship. 'Rather than just run a 30-second commercial, we go deeper into it. We have had journalists who have written pieces in our supplements being interviewed,' he says.

The web also offers opportunities for sponsorship and a more targeted audience. Mobile phone company 3 has a sponsorship presence on Rivals Digital Media's football sites, while Visa has a link with the desktop avatars providing Rugby World Cup news to Planet Rugby users. Like the FIFA World Cup in 2002, the fact that the Rugby World Cup is taking place on the other side of the world means the web is a great place to attract punters in the office. …