A new era in sports sponsorship

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The goal of corporate sponsorship is to create a relevant and emotional connection with fans and consumers alike, and there’s no better way to do that than through their beloved sports and teams.

The popularity of sports sponsorships is precisely due to fans’ high level of emotional investment. Brands have a golden opportunity to tap into that passion and enthusiasm by sponsoring the teams and events that consumers care so zealously about.

Many billions of dollars are spent every year in sports sponsorship with sports properties garnering the bulk of those sponsorship dollars. From being the official headphones of the NFL (Bose) to the official sports drink of numerous leagues (Gatorade) to the official airline of the New York Yankees (Delta), every type of brand has gotten in on the action.

But the landscape is changing.


More than logs and ads is needed

In fact, this strategy has become so heavily relied upon that fans are beginning to tune out, or even resent the corporate entanglement of their favorite team or event. It’s no longer enough to attach your brand name to a sporting occasion, or put your logo on a banner ad, and expect any significant return.

For the best ROI in sports sponsorship, brands must connect in a fun and engaging way. If a sports sponsorship doesn’t increase the intensity of fans’ enjoyment, the sponsorship is missing the target.

In particular, technologically-oriented millennials—now the largest generation in the U.S.—are demanding more and more from sports sponsors. They want content that’s entertaining and adds to their emotional engagement with the teams and events they’re passionate about. And, raised on the internet, they want meaningful interaction with that content.

Conditional rebates connect with fans

Conditional rebates are a tool marketers can use to structure a consumer offer in the event of something specific happening.

In the context of a sports sponsorship, conditional rebates allow marketers to reward a consumer if a particular team wins a game, scores a certain number of points or accomplishes some other feat—thereby increasing consumers’ personal engagement with the team and event, as well as with the brand.

However, the risk of paying out the prize(s) can be borne by an insurer, limiting the sponsor’s exposure.

McDonald’s Red Hot Football promotion, held in the U.K. is a classic example of a conditional rebate program, leveraging the restaurant chain’s official partnership with the FIFA World Cup. With the purchase of every large or super-size fries, McDonald’s gave customers a game card with the name of a participating country on it. If that country won the World Cup, the consumer was eligible to win £100,000!

Promotional risk management experts determined the odds of each country winning the World Cup and printed card quantities accordingly—the strongest teams being the rarest and the weaker teams more common. As the tournament progressed, an underdog team (South Korea) exceeded expectations and advanced out of its group, defeating giants like Italy and Spain.

Because South Korea was considered a long shot to win the tournament, many South Korea cards had been distributed, giving each holder a chance to win $100,000. Media attention and consumer excitement grew as thousands of people held these cards, pulling for South Korea to win. They were emotionally invested not just in the World Cup, but also in their McDonald’s cards.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re not a fan), South Korea eventually lost in the semifinal match to Germany, but the fast food giant was a winner, using the excitement of the world’s largest sporting event to increase global sales and engagement with McDonald’s.

Any brand can use conditional rebates in this way to leverage the excitement, awareness, and viewership of a sporting event to drive consumer behavior.

Dylan MacTavish,Business Development Manager, Insured Creativity.


I’m the Business Development Manager at Insured Creativity.

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