One of the founding principles of sponsorship is that sponsors pay rights holders for an ‘association’.
The value exchange is based on the principle that the sponsor brand will benefit from the positive brand and image transfer of being placed next the rights holder and therefore seen in a more positive light by fans and customers alike.
The specific association/image transfer that sponsors are looking for can vary – some want to be perceived as major international brands and some of the major international brands don’t want to be seen as huge corporates. Instead they want to perceived as more friendly, ‘good’ companies that ‘give back’ to fans and customers alike. But it all ultimately comes down to credibility – sponsors are all paying for credibility in some shape or form.
Which leaves me to question, given the intense scrutiny FIFA has come under over the last few years, why it has taken so long for sponsors to ask: ‘What does sponsoring FIFA say about our brand?’ And start to question the value of the partnership given the rationale for the investment?
Lastly what is the sponsorship industry going to do about it? The hosting of major events such as The World Cup, an F1 Grand Prix and The Olympics is big big business and so is finance but when no one is regulating the regulator there is little that can be done. Except, perhaps, hit big business where it hurts (money), just as the banks found out. By walking away and finding better alternatives the industry will force change and ensure it rights itself.
Sponsorship is now a big business and has lost its way. I don’t think Sony and Emirates not renewing their FIFA partnerships is a coincidence and it will be very interesting to see what happens next. It’s time the industry got back to its founding principles and stuck to them.
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