Sports Sponsors Should Keep Low Profile

Citi's $400 million naming rights sponsorship for the new New York Mets stadium sparked an outcry and greater scrutiny of sponsorship spending. Financial services firms in particular have come under fire for accepting federal bailout money because they are in trouble yet appear to continue a business-as-usual approach to their marketing spending. Is this the view of politicians grandstanding on an issue sure to win favor with voters, or is it the sentiment of the broader population?

Results from a recent survey by Performance Research suggest Americans are not enamored with companies engaged in expensive sports sponsorship deals. Nearly on-third of those surveyed said they pay less attention to corporate sponsorships than they did a year ago. Furthermore, 62% believe companies that are experiencing difficulties should be spending less on sponsorships. It seems that consumers believe the cost-cutting measures they have taken with their household spending should be mirrored by corporations.

Feelings toward sponsors vary depending on the type of sponsorship. Only 13% of the sample said they would have a more favorable opinion of companies if sponsorship of their favorite sporting event were to increase, with 26% reporting they would have a less favorable opinion. The positive opinions about sponsorship involvement were higher for cultural events (20%) and non-profits or causes (41%).

These results indicate sponsorship is not a medium that should be abandoned altogether during these difficult times. However, strategic decisions should be made about the type of property with which a company aligns through sponsorship as well as the scope of involvement. If companies' support of a property via sponsorship is perceived as integral to the property's success (which would more likely be the case for a non-profit or cause), the more positive consumer acceptance of that association will be. This trend will hurt the venue naming rights market and other forms of sponsorship that have succeeded in landing eye-popping deals in the past.

Link: Performance Research - "As Consumers Tighten Their Belts, They Expect Corporate Sponsors to Do the Same"

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