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Volume 23 No. 18
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Tony's Take: NFL sponsorship

Tony Ponturo is executive vice president of strategy for Turnkey Intelligence. He oversaw Anheuser-Busch’s marketing, media and sponsorship from 1991 to 2008.

Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.” As we look at the NFL sponsor awareness results, it is apparent that this translates to advertisers that have a heritage as a sports sponsor. Those who fully leverage their IP rights will win with the consumer every time.

If you just walked up to 100 consumers and asked, “Who are the top sports sponsors?” Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Budweiser and Bud Light, AT&T and Visa would quickly come to mind. It’s almost like a cornerback playing five yards off the wide receiver — you are giving the receiver a pretty good chance to make a quick catch and then see how many yards he can get from there. Many advertisers benefit from their long-standing associations with sports and leagues.

This was one of the challenges that affected Hyundai. As a relatively new NFL sponsor, it was difficult for it to break through to fans, especially in such a competitive category and cluttered sponsorship environment. Even with increased TV advertising during NFL games, without a historic connection and a fully integrated creative message, Hyundai saw a year-over-year decline in sponsor association.

On the other hand, Pepsi, known for its long-term presence in sports, saw impressive results. It posted an 11-point year-over-year increase in sponsorship awareness, even though Pepsi decreased its spending on NFL advertising. Pepsi’s TV creative embraced its NFL association.

One could argue that their long history of sports sponsorships, especially with the NFL, benefited Budweiser and Bud Light. These brands have 66 percent combined brand awareness, which is very strong.

The bottom line is that brands need to be consistent year over year. They are building a tradition of messaging and association. It is very difficult to be an overnight sensation with the consumer.