In recent times, we have seen a deluge of cricket-themed ads in India, centred around the CWC 2011. Preceded by the magnanimous FIFA World Cup and the CWG ’10, wherein there were infamous ambushes of the ‘official sponsors’ by the competitors, I was wondering on how important sponsorship of mega events is for market competitions.
1. Nike vs Adidas: FIFA World Cup ‘10
Adidas was the official partner of the FIFA World Cup ’10 but it was Nike who walked away with the consumer mindshare. This was through the very popular video campaigns that Nike ran, bolstered by YouTube. The ‘Write-the-future’ campaign, with 23-0dd stars took out the zing from Adidas campaign (while Adidas had the rights to the world cup, a large proportion of the star players were Nike endorsers. This really clinched it for Nike)
Check it out here:
2. Pepsi vs Coca Cola: Cricket World Cup ‘96
In the ’96 Cricket World Cup, Coca Cola was the official sponsor and was using that leveraging license in its campaigns. Pepsi strongly destroyed that campaign with the now-epic ‘nothing official about it’ campaign. A perfect spoof, a direct attack and Coca Cola lost a large share of advantage for being the official sponsor.
3. Cricket World Cup ‘11
Coming to the most relevant and recent set of examples, have you noticed the SONY Bravia ads by MS Dhoni? Compare that with LG campaigns on the Mobile Army. Which one seems more effective to leave a lasting impression? (Granted that SONY ads are on its TV range while LG is focused only on the mobile handset space). Given LG is the official sponsor and SONY is not, there does not seem to be a major perceived advantage that LG seems to have gained.
Other similar campaigns are running from players like MTS who are not the sponsors, but allude to being one, while their competitors have paid big money to get licensed as one.
The above examples indicate that if some creativity is put into play by competitors, they can very well garner a large chunk of consumer mindspace (that too, being perceived as an official partner). As far as the rules and regulations are concerned, the official sponsors can’t really do much. After all, you can ban MS Dhoni to act in ads for competitors in Indian cricket team jerseys, but in another plain shirt, he is equally recognizable and hence does the trick – Plenty of loopholes to work around and exploit.
Plus, the extra money that you have in your pockets to burn since you did not pay the hefty licensing fee to the organizing bodies like ICC, FIFA etc. allows you to be more expansive in your ATL and BTL activities.
Official sponsorship still grants you a lot of creative licenses to work with, plenty of freedom to operate using both the players as well as the numerous symbols like jerseys, logos, insignia etc. If done correctly, such sponsorship can reap rich benefits for you in terms building awareness and popularity. Also, your logo is still there on the side-screens, ground, boundary markers etc.
But there is no insurance that a competitor will not be able to attack you. You will still be vulnerable to attacks, because it is likely that your competitor also bid for the same sponsorship and lost out. He will do his best to derail your advantage and gain the minutest of edges.
Campaigns, be it of a sponsor or an attacker, have to be imaginative, taking into account the thought process of the consumer. Merely offering 5 free tickets to a match is not going to pull enough participation from your consumer, and hence not enough awareness is generated (seriously, in a nation of 120 crore cricket-crazy people, who wants to think about the chances of 5-10 tickets!! )
Let’s hope to see some new campaigns as the tournament unfolds, and it will be interesting so see some ambushes, though nothing major has propped up yet..