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When In-Arena Branding Is More than a Sign

When In-Arena Branding Is More than a Sign

4 Minute Read

Article Highlight

• In a time when sponsors have a wide variety of digital assets at their disposal, in venue branding can at times be stigmatized

• MKTG highlights three instances where in venue branding can realize greater value for a sponsor than originally anticipated, such as being involved in an iconic sports moment

• Sponsors can also look to add programming around their branding to create greater fan engagement

As technology has advanced inside sporting venues, the list of sponsorable inventory has evolved. However, in-arena branding still remains a staple in the overwhelming majority of sponsorship deals.

Branding alone will not drive a market-leading sponsorship strategy, but still has an important role to play in driving awareness and a brand’s association with a given property. Many sponsors - some by design, and others by good fortune - have seen their in-arena branding become something more. MKTG examines three instances of best-practice in-venue branding.

Endearment to a Fanbase through Sustained Presence

Brands can demonstrate their commitment to a property by investing in sponsorship year over year. Continued investment can endear a brand to a fan base. This is the case with the American oil and gas brand Citgo’s sign in the outfield of Fenway Park in Boston. Since its installation in 1965, the Citgo sign can be prominently seen from inside Fenway Park and has since become a landmark. In 1983 there were plans to tear down the sign, however, there were public protests and instead the sign was refurbished. In January, the building which the Citgo signs sits atop of was sold by Boston University. The current future of the sign is in doubt, however there will likely be plenty of vocal support to keep the sign intact.  Due to its continuity and iconic position in the sky over Fenway’s “Green Monster”, Citgo’s sign has taken on a life of its own with Red Sox fans.

The Sign is involved in an Iconic Play

Sports have the opportunity to produce highlight reel plays that will be replayed the next day on recap shows and shared via social media. Some sponsors with in venue branding can get lucky and have one of their signs captured in the highlight. With the added media value the branding receives through online and broadcast replays, sponsors can see a greater return on their sponsorship. The sponsors can even provide follow up programming to acknowledge their involvement in the play. This was the case last year when Toronto Blue Jay Kevin Pillar made a home run saving catch against the outfield wall where there was an MNP (tax, accounting and consultancy firm) sign. The play has been viewed almost half a million times on YouTube and has been replayed several times on highlight shows - all with the MNP branding in full view. MNP then released a spot just before last year’s playoffs showing their support of the team while acknowledging their part in the Pillar catch. MNP was able to activate beyond a static outfield wall sign by creating a new spot incorporating the play. While sponsors cannot bank on this strategy, being involved in an iconic play provides an opportunity to organically join the fan conversation and develop real-time content. 

The Sign is Activated with a Unique Experience

In-arena branding, once installed in the venue, typically remains static and is a pure branding play. However, some sponsors have added programming around their branding to increase the level of fan engagement and create a more memorable experience. The following are three best practice examples of sponsors adding an experience to their branding:

Coca-Cola Bottle at AT&T Park - At AT&T Park in San Francisco where the Giants play, there is a large Coca-Cola bottle that rests in the outfield. The bottle is almost 15 meters tall and lights up during Giants’ home runs. In addition to the sign being highly visible, it also has a built in slide that runs down the centre of the bottle. Kids 14 and under can slide down the bottle during games. By offering kids an activity during the game, Coke is able to enhance the experience for baseball-engaged families. 

WestJet Flight Deck - In 2013 the Rogers Centre in Toronto renovated their Windows Restaurant in the outfield into a viewing deck for fans. Beginning in 2015, WestJet secured the naming rights to the area, calling it the WestJet Flight Deck complete with a prominent sign above the deck. The West Jet Flight Deck now provides a differentiated spot for fans to watch the game creating a value-add experience for fans. 

Google Hangouts and Manchester United - In soccer, sideline LED branding is very prominent. It runs the length of the field and throughout the game displays branding from team sponsors. One of the most prominent international sports properties, Manchester United, teamed up with Google to accommodate the team’s international fans. Google created a live Google Hangout during a Manchester United match and displayed fans from all over the world watching live and displayed them on the LED branding.

In-venue branding, when used in isolation, is not enough to create a truly impact partnership. However, there are a few instance where in-venue branding can go beyond and create a truly memorable experience. Through consistent investment, a guest appearance in a highlight reel play, or an experience provided to fans centered on their sign, sponsors can break through the clutter. 

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