By contributing to big sporting events, brands can endear themselves to fans, says Rory Maxwell.

The ambition of many sponsors  is to create an emotional  connection with their target audiences via a shared passion.

Whether it be sport, music, art, fashion or  causes, such shared interests is often an important part of consumers’ lives: something in which an individual  invests time, money and emotional  energy.

Brands  that  can  contribute to the way people enjoy their passions  are in a strong position to secure positive sentiment amongst  consumers. Research  shows that audiences will be more receptive  to brand messages from and more likely to think positively about a brand associated with their  passions:   especially  those  brands that can actively enhance  the experience.

Sponsorship is Unique
Though  elusive,  brands  continue  to  seek this magic point of engagement, given that an emotional  connection is more likely to break through  over more intrusive  – or, conversely, passive – forms of advertising.

Sponsorship marketing  is unique, because it can be targeted  to a specific community and   deliver   flexible   assets    that allow brands to  create a dialogue with  that target audience. Implemented correctly, sponsorship can deliver a credible and authentic message across all of the channels in which a passionate consumer engages. Those  that  do it well can endear themselves emotionally to that audience.

Sponsorship assets can be used not only to deliver brand awareness, but also consumer-facing experiential  events, product  integration initiatives, point-of- sale promotions, hospitality  experiences, CSR initiatives  and digital content platforms.

All these assets allow brands to deliver enhanced experiences and tangible value or benefits to the fan.

But successful  sponsorship requires  sound business  planning and clear objectives. A clear  vision, thoughtful creative  execution and consistent brand values will help create the desired connection with consumers.

Sponsorship has power across sectors
By sponsoring teams or events, a brand can tap into the passion  felt by their fans and, in turn,  create  passion  for its own brand. As a fan’s  relationship with,  for example, a  sports  team  develops  and  deepens,  so will their feelings toward those companies associated with the team over the long term.

Sponsorship hasn’t always been given the credit it deserves, but its power is now clearly recognised.

One of those who changed  his point of view is  David  Wheldon,  now  Global  Director of Brand at Vodafone Group. “I certainly spent the 1980s thinking sponsorship was a waste of money – a  chairman’s indulgence incapable  of driving brand engagement, brand equity or any of the other advantages I now know sponsorship can deliver. I’m a total convert to sponsorship as a marketing platform,” says Wheldon.

Brands that have long known about the power of sponsorship include Red Bull. The brand’s strategy has been to support and create extreme  sports  and  lifestyle  activities  that  connect with its brand values of revitalizing body and mind and increasing performance, concentration and energy levels. The brand has created  an avid fan community  around this lifestyle by sharing unique content with a huge, passionate audience.

In much the same way, Coca-Cola’s World Cup  sponsorship  single-mindedly focused on football’s  moment  of greatest emotion: the goal. Whether reminiscing about the greatest  celebrations in World Cup history, recording  a  World  Cup celebration song or touring  the FIFA World Cup around  the globe, the company has fuelled fan emotion.

It’s easy to argue that Red Bull and Coke are sexy brands, but the power of sponsorship is also used by numerous  brands in low-interest consumer categories.

Take npower’s sponsorship of the English Football League – the leagues  below the Premiership – and  E.ON’s role as a former sponsorship of the FA Cup. Both energy companies  are not only using  sponsorship to establish  brand visibility, but to drive a greater emotional  relationship with their Premiership by bringing  the fans closer to the competitions that matter to them.

The insurance sector has also been a strong player in the sponsorship industry for the same  reason:  to  drive  more  brand  loyalty and advocacy amongst  customers by communicating with them via the emotive environment of sport.

On an even more high-profile level, P&G’s global Olympic  Sponsorship as an IOC partner,  which  commenced  with  the  2012
London games, illustrates  the power that the company feels a movement like the Olympics can bring to its brands, many of which could be classified as low-interest FMCG products.

In  particular, P&G has used the  Olympic spirit to tell a moving story aimed at engaging a powerful audience: mums of Olympic athletes.

Perhaps   the  case  for  sponsorship  is  best made by those who seek to undermine it. Many brands try to ride on the coattails of official sponsors  with ambush  techniques: if sponsorship was ineffective, would these brands work so hard to replicate sponsorship’s effects?

Lessons from an Enduring Icon
Mass Market Emotions