Author: James Parrish,


In western countries sports marketing and sponsorship is an established tool for assisting businesses grow. Sponsorship is an investment and can – when planned and implemented correctly – deliver business growth quicker than almost any other platform, however brands in Asia haven’t come round to the idea yet – many still don’t fully understand the need for a strong brand. This week I want to share with you some thoughts and ideas I wrote for an Indian magazine with the aim of beginning to address this issue.

A Powerful Medium

Sports sponsorship can be powerful way to reach a target audience, as for the fans the sport provides an escape from everyday life and in many cases forms part of a persons self-identity. This emotional connection is an attractive vehicle for communicating with consumers and can help to build brand preference.

Talk to the right people

In order for brand preference to positively impact on the company’s financials, the communication has to be reaching its target audience. It goes without saying that marketers should know their customer demographics and segments. In western markets, brand and sponsorship teams – on the whole – also know the demographics of the sports fans, the team’s fans, and the individual athlete’s fans. If there is not strong correlation, the target market doesn’t hear or see the message and return on investment should not be expected.

Red Bull’s marketing has always had exceptional correlation. The Austrian energy drink has sponsored many different extreme sports and extreme events, from skateboarding and snowboarding to Felix Baumgartner’s leap from the edge of space. All these sponsorships exude the Red Bull brand and can be traced back to one message “The only limit is the one you set yourself.” Any consumer that believes in that message becomes the most loyal customer and an ambassador that spreads the message far and wide.

Sponsorship doesn’t = Branding

Once the demographic fit is established it is not a case of branding everything you can afford. In fact some of the most successful sponsorships have come in the Olympics, a property that offers sponsors no branding at all. British Airways saw great success in the UK last year with its ‘Staying at Home’ campaign, promoting the excitement and buzz that comes from a home Olympics. What BA were effectively saying was don’t fly abroad, stay here and enjoy the event. Quite a statement for an airline! But research has shown greater affinity for the brand and increased likelihood of travelling with BA in the future. Branding helps drive association but the activation of the rights and messages communicated are where brands drive preference.

Brand Fit & Association

You don’t need lots of branding to create a successful sponsorship, but a consideration that is vitality important, whether you have masses of branding or none at all, is that of brand association. The brand fit, the perception and the aims for the brand all need to be considered. A company should seek sponsorship only with properties that reflect and enhance the image of the company. A partnership that started in 1978 between Rolex and Wimbledon offers one of the best examples for mutual brand enhancement. Both are legendary, prestigious brands but the length of relationship also enhances the great history of both the event and the brand.

Product relevance 

Sponsorship can also be enhanced through product relevant rights acquisition. IBM is a large sponsor of tennis and produce the exclusive mobile device application for the US Open. Their ‘Smarter Analytics’ concept provides fans with real-time stats and analytics. But rather than a simple score sheet, IBM algorithms analyse more than 39 million data points to provide fans with three ‘keys’ to each competitor winning the match. This showcases IBM’s highly advanced technology and fans love them for it as their viewing experience is enhanced in a way they could never have imagined.


Sponsorship best practice is constantly evolving but by taking inspiration from western companies, Asian businesses will start to see greater brand preference, increased employee pride and ultimately increased sales revenue and profit.