Pushing Sponsorship

While strolling along Copenhagen’s main street recently, I noticed a peculiar thing. The baby carriages parents were pushing had changed. No longer were they essays in color harmony — they’d exchanged their anonymous liveries for branded ones. In fact, the baby buggies in Copenhagen were heavily branded. I encountered a carriage promoting a toy product, another lauding a cell phone operator, and yet another displaying a clothing brand. I was transfixed by the phenomenon of private people promoting brands in the most untraditional space I’d ever seen.

The story was that these parents had sold corporations the rights to promote their brands using the buggies as the advertising space. In return for displaying a message controlled by the advertiser, parents received a check or a buggy free of charge for use during the required period.

Sponsorships as we know them have reached into new spaces. They used to be seen only on T-shirts and billboards at football stadiums. It’s now clear that extra creativity was needed to push the sponsorship stage beyond the confines of sporting arenas. Sponsorship has reached a new level in revenue generation and awareness building.

Several national parks in the U.S. are close to striking sponsorship arrangements with companies such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Such arrangements will give these companies the right to install their vending machines in the parks. A San Francisco-based promotions company has specialized in selling advertising space on private cars. One company has even offered parents substantial sums of money for the rights to name their children! Whether that story, first reported in USA TODAY, is true is another matter, but its currency indicates brand sponsorship is reaching into unexpected quarters, and the spaces it’s finding are inspired by brand builders’ creativity.

Now, how might this effect the Net? Just imagine alternative sponsorships for Yahoo Instead of banner ads, icons, and buttons, there’d be, say, an M&M’s color-vote campaign that takes over the Yahoo logo for a day or two. Crazy? Well, a couple of months ago AOL signed a sponsorship agreement with Britney Spears. The star will re-record the world-famous “You’ve got mail!” utterance. It’s a deal that provides more evidence of the alternative thinking being exercised in the world of sponsorship deals. Get ready to see brand sponsorships entering every media channel in a bid to secure a more effective voice. In a bid, in other words, to secure attention.

I guess my problem is I’ve never really believed in the effectiveness of sponsorships. However, creative thinking is clearly injecting new brand-building potential into the practice. In fact, sponsorships are probably the way to go these days. I’d certainly remember the first baby buggies I saw that were decorated with Yahoo, LEGO, or Nokia branding. My perception of AOL would certainly change if I heard Britney announcing the status of my mailbox. And I’d certainly remember M&M’s if that colorful confection replaced Yahoo’s usual icons for a day.

But, I reckon I’d still claim to forget anything I’d seen in traditional sponsorship environments. Perhaps they worked at some point, in my unconscious memory. But the effect hasn’t been enough for me to recall more than one or two of the promotions I’ve seen displayed during World Cup matches — despite the fact I’ve been watching every match.

My question is, if you had to choose between creative sponsoring methods and more classic methods, which way would you go? I’d put money on your selecting the former alternative. So, before you race out to invest your next wad of sponsorship money, rethink the sponsorship’s execution and add a twist of creativity to it. It’s possible to increase the effectiveness of your sponsorship investment just by getting some creative thinking behind it.

Right now, the space is all yours. We still live in a world clothed in the results of old-fashioned thinking about sponsorships. So go out and get your space — before someone else does.

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