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Volume 22 No. 3
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Tony's Take: Sponsorship evolution

Tony Ponturo is executive vice president of strategy for Turnkey Intelligence. Previously, he spent 26 years at Anheuser-Busch, overseeing the company’s marketing, media and sponsorship from 1991 to 2008.

Research suggests that the consumer’s perception of official sponsorships has evolved from “You must be the best” to “We realize you spent the most to attain that recognition.” Marketers face tough challenges to desensitize the money cloud and find ways to relate to consumers in a “real way.”

Sponsors in competitive categories such as Coke, Budweiser, Chevrolet and T-Mobile are all down in awareness year-over-year, while Mastercard and Bank of America are essentially flat.

All of these companies are in a competitive arena and unless they are on target with memorable MLB associations and consumer connections, it is understandable that their competitors could also break through.

Additionally, brands that have an official category designation with MLB, yet have a competitor that has 10 to 12 local team deals, will see their efforts diluted.

There is no one solution. Sponsors must step back and understand the landscape of their competition and have an offensive strategy that maximizes the assets they purchase.

We see this with Geico. As a new MLB partner, its brand awareness is increasing through the use of TV commercials such as “First Date Surprises” and “Wild Wings Prank,” which are fun ways to leverage the company’s MLB associations.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Papa John’s had to deal with quite a bit of controversy this season, as well as the suspension of many of its team deals and activations. The company has to refocus to communicate the new face of Papa John’s, its workers, in the market versus the C-suite.

A word to the wise — it is generally an ego boost when a CEO decides to be the face of a company, but it is not a smart marketing decision. The consumer does not want to see or hear from the CEO. The consumer and the brand connection should be the focus — make it about the consumer, not you.