Stand Out Sponsors

Kevin McCallum shares his views on the strategy sponsors must undertake to set themselves apart among a plethora of sports sponsors.

In May, the local organisers of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan gave restaurants and bars a gentle and yet firm warning: Do not run out of beer. With more than 400 000 thirsty rugby fans expected in the country between September 20 and November 2, the organisers were worried that local businesses would underestimate the amount of beer they would need, and could thus miss out on “lucrative business opportunities”.

Breweries in Japan have vowed to do their bit, led by official Rugby World Cup sponsor, Heineken. In June, Heineken Kirin KK, the company that handles the Dutch beer brand in Japan, said it was predicting a 70 per cent increase in beer sales in September and November. The Kirin Brewery Co has planned to increase Heineken production in September by 80 per cent. “We’ll try not to run out of stock no matter what,” the company said.

Exclusivity Deals

As a sponsor of a World Cup in a year of World Cups, there can be fewer more satisfying results than seeing your investment in sport returned in increased sales. Of the three biggest single-sport World Cups, the Rugby comes in considerably cheaper than football and is about even with cricket. World Rugby says its World Cup is the third-biggest sporting event on the planet after the Olympics and Fifa World Cup. Heineken must believe the same thing as it was estimated it has put almost half of its marketing budget into generating exposure from the tournament.

At the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, the R380-million they paid to World Rugby gained it an exclusion zone of 500-metres around every stadium inside, in which only its product could be sold.

Bang for your buck is uppermost in the minds of World Cup sponsors, but standing out amidst all the marketing noise of the other sponsors takes careful planning and research. And a bit of luck. The International Cricket Council signed up 20 commercial partners for the Cricket World Cup, six of them are from India: MRF Tyres, Bira 91 beer, Royal Stag whisky, Dream11, a digital fantasy sports platform, and Games and Britannia Industries. About 30 brands advertised on Star Sports.

Amul, India’s biggest dairy co-operative, and water purifier maker Kent RO, decided to make their own mark on the tournament by sponsoring Afghanistan and Kent RO respectively. This gave them extensive air time for at least nine matches. The Cricket World Cup has seen different brands moving into the sport. Nissan, smartphone manufacturer Oppo, Booking.com, Emirates Airlines, Uber, Coca-Cola, GoDaddy, Hublot watches, Swiss bank UBP and Veuve Cliquot. Uber has been clever with its Uber Delivery promotion on the television graphics.

Brand Ambassadors

Emirates has made Bryan Habana a professional plane passenger for the Rugby World Cup. The star of the 2007 tournament in France has travelled around the world with the Webb Ellis Cup, promoting the tournament. Being a sponsor’s ambassador is gruelling work. By May, he had made 44 flights, 28 of those international. Emirates, the world’s biggest airline, also sponsors the Cricket World Cup, seeing those tournaments as value for money, certainly cheaper than the Fifa World Cup, which last year saw a drop in revenue as sponsors opted out after a series of corruption scandals.

Rugby is seen as a cleaner sport in that sense, World Rugby having kept its nose clean with its administrators mostly keeping their noses out of the trough. In the end, sponsors want to see a return on investment, whether that be in exposure to new audiences, an increase in favourable marketing sentiment or, most importantly, not running out of beer.

Image: Bryan Habana on board Emirates flight EK-318 with the Webb Ellis Cup on its way to Japan

You might be interested in these articles?