Hooters restaurants made big news last week when it announced a deal to sponsor thoroughbred Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the Triple Crown series. The timing was great for Hooters as Big Brown was hoping to become the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years. Hooters never fully realized the impact the deal could provide as its logo was not allowed to be displayed on the silks of Big Brown's jockey, Kent Desormeaux.
The Hooters-Big Brown link was not the first quirky marketing deal the chain has undertaken over the years. Remember Hooters Airlines? The exposure Hooters received (as if anyone or anything associated with Hooters needs more exposure) was great in terms of brand mentions and publicity, but those outcomes are not the foundation of a sound sponsorship strategy. Sponsors should seek to associate with properties that are highly relevant to their customers. Linking with a top thoroughbred for a Triple Crown race may be opportunistic, but it has no long-term rationale. When selecting sponsorsorship partners, clearly define the outcomes that are be achieved. Also, remember that the rights fees to be a sponsor are merely a starting point in the investment needed to make a sponsorship successful. Sponsorship is a relationship, not a one-night (or one-race) stand!