Seeing the point

For the third weekend in a row, I’ll be settling down on the sofa on Saturday morning to watch some rugby. It’s the second British & Irish Lions test this weekend – I can’t wait. A lot of sponsorship has gone into making this tour happen, and I’ve definitely got a favourite: I am completely enamoured of the Specsavers sponsorship of the referees.

It’s one of those where you say, ‘How did no one think of this before?!’ Brilliant. (And equally brilliant that Specsavers has not taken the mickey out of referees explicitly in its sponsorship spots – that necessary respect is preserved).

This is sponsorship at its best: relevant with a completely natural link… and a little bit funny, even a little cheeky. As a consumer, I don’t need to think about why it’s a good fit – I don’t really even need the brand to explain it to me (although that’s a nice bonus with a fun TV spot).

There are a few pitfalls with sponsorship but the most toxic is a lack of relevance. If it’s shoe-horned in, even if you have an ident before and after every ad break, you are going to struggle to get the necessary cut-through. Not every link will be as natural as this one, but if the link is clear, it is more likely that people will get it. They won’t work hard to understand the link, they’ve got cups of tea to make.

There’s another kind of relevance, too: relevance to your historical campaign Big Idea. If your sponsorship is doing something completely different than you’ve ever done before, you’ll have an extra challenge layered on top of the existing cut through challenges. Of course, it can be done – but how much harder will your hard-earned pennies and pounds have to work if you’re going against the grain?

From a media mix perspective there are a couple of other pitfalls to avoid too. The first is stand-out. If there are fifty other sponsors, you’ll need a little extra oomph – from your content and campaign strategy – to stand out from the pack. In the case of Specsavers, they stand out from the other sponsors because the strategy to sponsor the referees fits in so well with their historical communication, as I noted already.

Also from a media perspective, there is the dreaded curse of the sponsorship ident. These little beauts can be amazing – tell an eloquent, funny, touching, [insert your chosen adjective here] story over time. Or they can annoy the heck out of people because there’s too much frequency for a small pool. If the idents – or indeed your TV spots – are running frequently – and likely amongst a repeat audience of, say, rugby viewers – better to vary them a little, lest irritation run too high.

When it’s relevant and well-deployed, sponsorship can be a fantastic tool to really pay into your brand. I can certainly see the point of using it.

Tara Beard-Knowland is a Director at Ipsos ASI. Follow Ipsos ASI on Twitter @IpsosASIUK.

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