In today’s fractured media environment, the multimedia nature of the agreements is also attractive to brands. In many professional sport environments, sponsors and their agencies are forced to engage in multiple agreements with various entities in order to secure rights across television, radio, digital, social media, and live events (such as stadium/arena signage and on-court/field promotional opportunities). That takes time and costs sponsors money.
For example, even the largest sponsors of Major League Baseball and their teams are forced to enter into separate agreements with Major League Baseball Advanced Media if they wish to run online promotions or receive other digital rights, such as the ability to use MLB team logos online.
Sponsors entering into agreements with IMG, Learfield, and other rights holders can secure an integrated sponsorship of an institution’s athletic teams inclusive of digital assets, television or radio advertising, and signage, all in one agreement. For brands seeking national coverage, rights holders can package large groups of institutions together in one agreement, making it even easier for brands to make an efficient purchase. They can then quickly start the process of leveraging the sponsorships to achieve business objectives.
With the rise of video on demand (VOD) services and digital video recorder (DVR) penetration approaching 50% of U.S. households, traditional commercials are largely ignored or simply forwarded through by viewers. However, brand integration, defined by Wiles and Danielova (2009) as “the inclusion of branded products or identifiers through audio or visual means within massmedia programming,” causes a brand to be exposed during the actual event and is increasingly coveted by marketers.
While brand integration has been popularized in reality television (i.e., Coca-Cola and “American Idol,” Starbucks and “The Voice,” and Dunkin’ Donuts and “America’s Got Talent”), live sports events are the original source of brand integration, from Gatorade on the sidelines to Nike on a jersey.
Many college sports events can also provide brand integration unavailable to sponsors of professional sports, in the form of branding on the field of play, on field goal nets, basket stanchions and other desirable locations. These unique opportunities provide sponsors with brand integration that is difficult to find elsewhere.
Breaking through the Clutter
Some professional sports such as NASCAR have struggled with declining viewership and attendance at events, leading to issues attracting sponsors. Even for brands who believe in NASCAR and have supported it in the past, standing out is difficult amongst the clutter, given the vast number of sponsors involved. Recent research we presented at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston provided evidence that clutter is predictive of shorter-running sponsorships. Clutter inhibits the success of sponsorships given that it impairs cognition, as research has proven we can only accept and retain so much information, and makes servicing sponsors effectively more challenging.
Seeking to break through the clutter, sponsors of college sports events are able to secure title sponsorships, described by Clark, Cornwell, & Pruitt (2009) as the “crown jewels” of sport sponsorships. From title sponsorships of bowl games to conference championship tournaments to neutral site contests, college sports provide a multitude of the title sponsorship opportunities desired by marketers.
Watching the New York Life ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament as I write this, one can easily see what attracted the financial services firm to the opportunity. The title sponsorship of the tournament, held for the next two years in their home market of New York, provides the brand with the ability to place their logo right on the court at Barclays Center, ensuring the brand is exposed to desirable, well-educated attendees and television viewers in an un-cluttered environment.