The Art of the Sponsorship: Learning from Real Situations

Some people believe that negative publicity is still fair publicity because it brings attention to a brand, but this is a sarcastic axiom that should never be taken literally. A sponsorship deal is a leap of faith; in essence, brands trust that the entities or individuals they sponsor will project a wholesome image for consumers. There is no crystal ball that can determine the fate of a sponsorship, but marketing professionals often evaluate details of previous agreements to learn about what went right and potentially prevent what went wrong.

Let’s look at four sponsorship situations that brands and marketers can learn from; the first two ended up in disaster, but the last two have been very positive.

McDonald’s and the 2012 London Olympics

The world’s most prominent fast-food brand miscalculated its branding strategy during the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Even though McDonald’s was no stranger to sponsoring the Olympics, its branding was too ambitious and aggressive in 2012. Opening a massive restaurant with a seating capacity of 1,500 in the middle of the Olympic Village was not enough; McDonald’s went too far when it took advantage of the nascent social media boom to show athletes ordering dozens of burgers, French fries, milkshakes and carbonated drinks, thus prompting a major public backlash. To make matters worse, McDonald’s mascot characters were spotted handing out chocolates and assorted junk food to children who attended Olympic events.

Chanel and Kate Moss

In 2005, British supermodel Kate Moss was photographed consuming controlled substances at a nightclub, and the images were promptly published on a tabloid newspaper. Fashion brands such as Burberry were quick to distance themselves from Moss, but Chanel opted to wait a few weeks until her contract expired. The problem here is that public relations experts explained the lingering issue of speciousness. On one hand, these brands were probably familiar with Moss’ lifestyle; on the other hand, they waited until paparazzi snapped photos to withdraw sponsorship agreements, and Chanel even went as far as letting the clock run out instead of taking immediate action.

Inride and the Washington Spirit

This sponsorship example speaks volumes about excellent timing. Car subscription service inride, which serves the Maryland, Northern Virginia and District of Columbia metropolitan area, signed a sponsorship deal with the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League just weeks after the United States National Team won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Samsung and Timothy Goodman

In 2016, graphic artist Tim Goodman made a trip across the U.S. armed with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and the “S Pen” digital stylus. In every stop along the way, Goodman drew sketches right on the Note 7, which were promptly shared on social networks and showcased at some art galleries. Samsung covered all the expenses of the charismatic artist’s American tour, and he obliged by showing consumers that sketching on a smartphone can be an artistic endeavor as long as you have the right tools.

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