Ad Agencies Need to Balance Sponsorship Benefits with Risks

Kristi Clough, an associate at Seattle PR firm Firmani + Associates Inc., recently wrote a guest column in the Puget Sound Business Journal about the benefits and risks of company sponsorships.

You can read her column here: http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2010/05/17/focus22.html?b=1274068800^3358031&ana=e_vert

While Ms. Clough believes that the benefits of sponsorship tend to outweigh the risks, she acknowledges that “Character flaws and basic human nature can derail brand alignment seemingly overnight.”

It’s that overnight derailing part that bothers me. As I’ve previously noted on this blog, the potential downsides to linking an organization’s brand with a public figure are significant. It can take a long time to build a brand through a celebrity, yet that goodwill can evaporate very quickly when there’s a scandal.

Of course, there are many examples of celebrity endorsements that have been highly successful and which generated increases in sales. But, when you combine risk factors with the large outlay of money that top celebrities typically demand for endorsements, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t smarter ways to spending marketing dollars.

Perhaps there’s some safer middle ground. Earlier this week, Marketing Daily reported that the Aflac duck has teamed up with “Toy Story” characters Woody and Buzz Lightyear in a 30-second commercial promoting “Toy Story 3.”

Now there’s a celebrity team that’s hard to beat—and one that’s pretty unlikely to engage in anything controversial or unsavory.

Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.

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