Sports are a huge part of today's culture. There are millions of fans around the United States who dedicate time every week to watch, or even attend sporting events. During the 2014-2015 season, the combination of the Super Bowl, NCAA Football National Championship, and the FIFA World Cup Championship brought in:
- Attendees: 230,715
- Viewers: 162,300,000
With numbers like this, sporting events create an enormous opportunity to reach consumers, but with limited sponsorship and marketing opportunities available, marketers are competing just as hard as the athletes, vying to win placement at these events. In order to win sponsorship roles, marketers are being challenged to become even more creative with their sponsorship campaigns. Here are my top 5 favorite sports sponsorships of 2014:
NCAA College Basketball & AT&T, Coke Zero and Capital One
Every march, millions of fans across the U.S. look forward to the NCAA Basketball Tournament aka March Madness. As three of the main sponsors of the tournament, fans are used to seeing the AT&T, Coke Zero, and Capital One logos all over the broadcast and advertisements for the games. While this connected with viewers and some attendees of the tournament, these three companies took their sponsorship further in 2014 by hosting the "March Madness Music Festival." The 3-day music festival was filled with music by popular artists including Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw, and The Killers - all for free to the public, on a first come first serve basis. AT&T's director of corporate sponsorships, Jamie Kerr, said that the March Madness Music Festival helped fans to connect their passion for both sports and music through a unique and interactive experience.
PGA Tour & Quicken Loans
Birdies for the Brave, the military outreach initiative for the PGA TOUR, has always worked hard to support the military community. Within the first few months after Birdies for the Brave originally launched their online military ticketing platform in 2013, more than 10,000 golf fans with military affiliations received free or discounted tickets to watch pros golf and enjoy complimentary food and drinks at the Players Championship's military hospitality tent - a package that would normally cost up to $150-$200 a day per person. Recently, military members' experience with the PGA TOUR got even better thanks to a sponsorship from Quicken Loans. Quicken Loans sponsored Birdies for the Brave's exclusive military ticketing system which enables military members across the U.S. to access complimentary or discounted tournament tickets online. The military community is made up of more than 30 million members and has created a huge market and opportunity for the PGA TOUR and Quicken Loans.
World Cup Championship & Adidas
As one of the main sponsors of the World Cup, Adidas is the sole provider of the official match ball as well as a majority of the equipment used and worn by the players of each team. For the 2014 World Cup, Adidas decided to use their sponsorship as a way to connect with their fans. Fans helped to name the ball, "brazuca," which is an informal local term meaning "Brazilian." When Adidas fans followed @Brazuca on twitter, they got behind-the-scenes access to the World Cup through the GoPro camera that was installed in each ball. Adidas sponsorship of the match ball helped it to be one of the most positively talked about brands during the World Cup and also helped to connect fans with an all-access pass to the player tunnel, the field of play before the kickoff, and into the team huddles.
NCAA College Football Playoffs & Taco Bell
During the College Football Playoffs, Taco Bell and ESPN got creative with their sponsorship technique. Since Taco Bell wanted to reach the student population, they targeted their sponsorship directly at colleges by creating the first ever sponsored student section. Taco Bell gave away 1,000 tickets to each school with a team in the playoffs. Students who got a ticket not only got admission to the game, but also admission to a Zac Brown Band concert, food at the game, and a Taco Bell road trip kit. Connecting with the college market can be a difficult task, but since there are currently 21 million students enrolled in college, with a purchasing power of $417 billion, Taco Bell made a good decision to connect with the student population
Super Bowl & Pepsi
Pepsi has been sponsoring the halftime show at the Super Bowl for three years now and Simon Lowden, the CMO for Pepsi, says it is the best way for the brand to gain exposure. This year nearly 114.1 million viewers tuned in to watch the Super Bowl game, but 118.5 million tuned into watch Katy Perry perform, which is the most watched Super Bowl halftime show ever. Along with sponsoring the performance, Pepsi engaged consumers with the halftime show by making it "shoppable." Limited edition products branded with Perry's name were made available to viewers during the halftime performance through hosted TV apps and Twitter.
While all of these sponsorships had different goals and different target markets, there are similarities in the fact that they all worked hard to reach a consumers through free concerts, military discounts, all-access passes, exclusive student offers, and limited edition products. While the consumers benefited from the sponsorships, the companies benefited even more by gaining exposure and a positive brand image through these creative campaigns. Since March Madness is upon us, look for what the sponsors are doing this year to draw positive attention to their brand and connect with sports fans around the nation.