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How wise is sponsorship?

November 17, 2009

So, with college hoops back in season, I’m back to watching at least an hour of games per night.

And it seems like these preseason tourneys are overloaded with product sponsors. Tonight, I’m watching Louisville and Arkansas, and the court has huge Bud Light logos on each end, and apparently the 3-second area is sponsored by Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Now, I’m not a purist, and I have no problem with corporate logos and sponsorship being a part of sports.

But I don’t understand what’s in it for the companies. It seems like an odd choice of spending your sponsorship dollars. I don’t know how much the Scotttrade Center in St. Louis charges to Reese’s logo in the paint, but wouldn’t you get more out of your investment by hiring a sampling team to hand out your latest innovation?

The same is true of TV. How much more does it cost a sponsor to have their name mentioned before the show, as opposed to just running a commercial? Last night, CBS Monday Night shows were brought to us by T-Mobile. Still don’t care, not buying T-Mobile. Although my opinion of the brand is aided more by Catherine Zeta Jones then it is by sponsoring Accidentally on Purpose.

I’ve always been a much bigger fan of product samplings and product placement. One of the brands that has done the best job with product placement in the past few months is Izze, the sparkling juice brand. Izze shows up in shows like Entourage, the Big Bang Theory, and Grey’s Anatomy. And people notice the clear glass bottle, think to themselves, “hey, I saw that at Starbucks, maybe I should try it.”

Notice that Izze didn’t sponsor any of those shows. And they didn’t pay to have their logo on an already crowded court.

The one type of sponsorship that I am in favor of is when you can grab exclusive commercial sponsor. Subway has done the best job of this. Check out any ESPN Podcast (like the Bill Simmon’s Podcasts, drawing almost 1 million listeners). And it’s sponsored by Subway. Subway gets a couple of chances to plug their sandwiches before and after the podcast, and the chain is mentioned constantly. It’s a great tie-in, and more than a few times I’ve left the podcast to grab a sandwich.

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