As a sponsor with the majority of professional sports stadiums, arenas, and concert venues, there was a concern that the brand was being viewed only as a product to be bought at the event, rather than as an official sponsor.
Using a single city as a model market, the sponsor implemented focus groups as well as quantitative on-site and telephone research among attendees at nearly all of the available sports, entertainment, and recreation venues, covering a wide range of events such as basketball, baseball, soccer, concerts, auto races, museums, theme parks, movie theaters, fairs and festivals.
Preliminary research confirmed that although the brand was associated with the sport or venue, the sponsor’s presence was viewed as “wallpaper” - detracting rather than adding value to the event experience. More importantly, the company was viewed as supplier rather than a sponsor, and as unfairly profiting from the venue relationship by deliberately setting high prices for their product in a setting where there was no purchase alternative.
Recognizing a serious problem in sports sponsorships, the company’s entire sponsorship strategy was changed to directly respond to the needs, desires, and emotions of core consumers. Sponsorships that could not add value to the entertainment experience were dropped, and the money saved was diverted to on-site activations where the sponsor could take a leading role in enriching the positive atmosphere of the fan experience.
New sponsorship activations were tested both quantitatively and qualitatively on a regular basis to determine relevance to consumers and resulting effects on brand image and purchase intent. In addition, a separate research project identifying product purchase costs and perceived value was implemented to search for opportunities to reduce the negative impact of inflated venue prices.
The sponsor has continued this research format (preliminary focus groups, re-design of the sponsorship, and quantitative testing of new programs) as contracts in all sponsorship areas are presented for renewal.