Assets of the Future
Sponsorship has become a staple in today’s marketing landscape to the point that it can be hard to remember a time before sponsorship existed. While the precise timeline and history of sponsorship’s creation is ambiguous, it is widely believed that the first naming rights deal can be tracked back to 1912 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Taylor family -who owned the Red Sox at the time - also owned Fenway Realty and sought to leverage the ballpark’s naming rights for promotional value. Next, corporate sponsors entered arenas when in the late 1970’s, rinkboards were introduced inside NHL buildings. The Minnesota North Stars were the first franchise to debut rink board ads, selling eight pairs at $3,000 a pair.
The world of sponsorship continues to progress. While the premise and fundamental strategic benefit behind sponsorship is constant (a transference of brand attributes / brand opinion between a sponsor and property), the way in which brands are able to bring these associations to market has evolved with time.
In this week’s MKTG Insights blog, MKTG seeks to provide a line of sight to notable “Assets of the Future” – emerging opportunities for brands, case studies of how current sponsors have leveraged these assets, and key takeaways for each.
From naming rights in 1912 to social media in 2015, sponsors continue to find new methods to tell their brand story. As sponsors seek differentiation, and technology continues to evolve, new sponsorable assets will emerge.
Assets to Watch:
Virtual Reality (VR):
Asset Overview: VR is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with through special equipment. Following Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of VR company Oculus, other prominent brands such as Google and Sony have begun to release their own VR technology.
Case Study: The NBA has been investing in VR significantly. The 2015 NBA All-Star game and festivities were filmed with VR cameras. Consumers with an Oculus Rift headset were able to watch the game as if they were there. Samsung has also partnered with the NBA to get exclusive content for Milk VR (the company’s VR streaming app).
Future Application: Sponsors will have the ability to tell greater stories through VR. They will be able to transport fans anywhere. Fans can feel what it’s like to play hockey in a packed NHL arena or drive in a race car at a Motorsports event.
Asset Overview: 3D printing is becoming more mainstream due to its widespread applications. Having the ability to create a three-dimensional objects from a digital designs will unlock limitless potential for brands.
Case Study: To promote the launch of their new mini bottles in Isreal, Coke ran a contest offering consumers a chance to win a 3D printed version of themselves. Using 3D printing technology at the Coke offices, the winners came in for a digital scan which was then turned into a customized miniature figurine.
Future Application: Sponsors will be able print timely giveaways and go beyond the pre-meditated branded premium. For example, this could enable brands to produce a bobblehead of the player of the game instead of having it planned in advance. Further, 3D printing will allow for greater customization in consumer giveaways.
Asset Overview: Hologram technology allows for the re-imagining of an object, person, or even live event. In Japan’s 2022 World Cup bid, they promised to live broadcast matches to 400 international stadiums through hologram technology. Fans could watch in the stands as both teams would be re-imagined in 3D on the field.
Case Study: ANZ (Bank of Australia and New Zealand) brought a hologram tour of Keith Urban to malls across the region to promote their new digital app, Grow by ANZ.
Future Application: Much like the ANZ example, brands could use this as a way to effectively scale their endorsement roster. While holograms inherently lack the authenticity of real-life personal appearances, they will offer sponsors a hedge against the limited availability of an ambassador or a finite amount of secured appearances.
Live Streaming Apps (ie: Periscope / Meerkat)
Asset Overview: Live-streaming apps have enabled users to broadcast events live from their phone. Twitter invested heavily into this space by purchasing the live-streaming app Periscope for $100 million. Live-streaming apps have already caused a controversy when many users streamed the pay-per-view broadcast of the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. This has caused the promoters of the fight to threaten legal action over lost pay-per-view revenue.
Case Study: Brands like the NHL, Spotify, and Mountain Dew are some of the top brands already with Periscope accounts. Under Armour leveraged the platform to invite social media users into the company’s MVP party for marquee endorser Stephen Curry.
Future Applications: As more and more properties, from sports events to music festivals, begin using the platform, brands will have the opportunity to sponsor and enable unique viewing opportunities for fans unable to attend live events, allowing sponsors to satisfy the demand for first-person content.
Key Takeaways for Sponsors:
Emerging technologies are attractive for properties seeking new ways to bring their product to life, and present natural “if you build it, they will come” extension channels for corporate sponsors. However, innovation means accepting the risk of failure. Key things sponsors must keep in mind as they invest in the Assets of the Future:
1. Ensure Simplicity: New technology can feel complicated, especially when it is niche and not at the level of high adoption. Brands should strive for simplicity through innovation rather than complex experiences that leave consumers feeling confused.
2. Use for Good not Evil: Technology such as Periscope or Meerkat can enable sponsors and properties to bypass broadcast rights- going forward, it may be important for both to draw a line.
3. Understand Your Consumer: Not all technology has a natural fit with every brand. Virtual reality makes sense for Mountain Dew and skateboarding but it may not fit for another brand. Invest in the right technologies, not the next technologies.
4. Find the Sweet Spot: There is a sweet spot that organizations must identify where they do not innovate for the sake of innovation but are creating meaningful value for consumers. Innovation for the sake of innovation is an empty shell. A “tried and true” activation that is on strategy will always win over off-strategy innovation.