You spend years building a partnership between a brand and a property and then, for various reasons—objectives not being met fast enough, lack of vision at the management level, a changing of the guard or simply the strategic realignment of a scattered portfolio—and the time comes to call it quits.
No matter how good the reasons are for leaving, every brand needs a solid exit strategy. There are multiple players involved, from the property to the media to fans and the general public, and their reactions should not be underestimated. You don’t want to run the risk of having years of hard work crumble with a single news story.
All good things come to an end, and partnerships between sponsors and properties are no exception. Financing sponsorships is becoming an increasingly costly endeavour, and when a contract comes up for renewal, there are times when a brand decides to walk away. The results of the above study suggest that even if pulling out of a sponsorship is negatively perceived by consumers, brand sponsors can mitigate that response by paying special attention to how they announce the news and when they decide to make it public.
When a scandal breaks, keeping quiet can seem like the most appropriate course of action for a sponsor. But there are, in fact, many different tacks a sponsor can take when the time comes to distance itself from an important property.
Turn the scandal into a business move: the Festina Affair
Long before Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France already had a number of scandals under its belt (hence the nickname: the Tour of Doping). The most significant scandal was the Festina Affair in 1998. For the first time in the history of cycling, an entire team was excluded from the Tour de France after their soigneur was arrested at the border with large quantities of doping products in his car. It was tough for Festina—the luxury watch brand sponsoring the team—to distance itself from the scandal when its name was peppered all over the media. The Festina team put an end to its activities in 2001, and the brand redirected its involvement in the event: it became the official sponsor of timekeeping for the Tour de France and set up a foundation to prevent doping.
Have you ever heard of 3Com Park or Monster Park in San Francisco? No? Despite attempts to name the 49ers stadium after a brand, the team ended up going back to Candlestick Park after San Francisco residents voted largely in favour of bringing back the original name. Fans around the world often react negatively to branded name changes by protesting, boycotting or refusing to acknowledge the new name.
Though title sponsorships attract sponsors that see them as a powerful tool to increase brand awareness and improve their image through association with the property, there are a number of downsides to the deal. Fan resistance can have a negative impact on attitudes towards the sponsor and on word-of-mouth. Fans who identify deeply with the property and the region where their team resides react more strongly to name changes. When a property is steeped in tradition and heritage, a title sponsor can pose a serious threat to its identity.
2005 was a year with no Olympics, no soccer World Cup and no rugby World Cup. So how could it deliver one of the most unforgettable sporting events of the last few decades? Ask Liverpool fans who celebrated the 10th anniversary of their team’s riveting Champions League Final last week—perhaps the most enthralling in the history of the competition. In 2005, in front of more than 70,000 spectators in Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium, with three billion more watching the game on television, Liverpool, trailing AC Milan three goals to nil at halftime, rallied during the second period, scoring three times in a six-minute frenzy. After a scoreless extra time, Liverpool carried their momentum through to the penalty shootout, where they came out on top, thanks to a stunning save by their goalkeeper.
This series introduces readers to university publications on sponsorship. It offers a summary of the article and highlights the impact of the findings on sponsorship management.
Change in a Sponsorship Alliance and the Communication Implications of Spontaneous Recovery
Original authors: Anna R. McAlister, Sarah J. Kelly, Michael S. Humphreys, and T. Bettina Cornwell
When sponsorship deals are up for renewal, we often see a tide of change when it comes to the organization’s partnerships. And that brings about a communications problem: the public continuing to associate the event with the previous sponsor.