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.

Accenture Replaces Tiger Woods with Animals in Ads

This was too good to pass up. After posting my comments yesterday that it’s safer to link a company with an animal “spokesperson” such as a gecko, duck or cow than with a celebrity, today I learned that after six years of a sponsorship agreement with Tiger Woods, Accenture is replacing his image with a line up of animals.

According to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (which I just saw referenced in another publication this afternoon), “After nearly a month of focus-group testing and production work, Accenture is rolling out the new global marketing campaign this week. The creatures, which include an elephant, a chameleon and some frogs and fish, will star in a series of TV, print and online spots. They also will appear in airport ads in 28 countries.”

Wonder if this is the start of a trend where other companies will soon be following the herd?

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

Tiger Woods Fiasco Has Important Lessons for Ad Agencies

Until now, I’ve resisted weighing in on Tiger Woods’ marital woes. Like a lot of people, I already know more about his escapades than I wish I did. Still, there are some important lessons ad agencies can glean from this fiasco.

I can’t recall ever seeing a person’s reputation fall so quickly and dramatically, followed closely by sponsors dropping this hot potato left and right.

I found it interesting that earlier this month Ad Age ran a story saying some people in the sports-marketing industry were speculating that Tiger’s newfound notoriety “might actually redound to the benefit of the brands he endorses.”

One PR expert suggested Tiger could rebound if he and his wife stay together and he keeps winning. Apparently, winning covers a multitude of sins, at least according to this line of reasoning.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out that way for Tiger, and now there are question as to whether he will ever play golf again professionally.

One of the most obvious lessons to be learned is that in a crisis, stonewalling doesn’t work very well. Especially when you’re someone famous, the media will dig out the truth and put you in a reactive mode.

A second lesson is the risk companies take in sponsoring an individual. When Tiger’s favorability ranting in 2000 was the highest in poll history at 88%, having a close corporate tie no doubt seemed like a good idea. In the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, his favorability dropped to 33% — a 55-point swing from his peak.

Perhaps the most important lesson, though, is that in an age when tolerance reins supreme, there still are some things most people won’t tolerate from celebrities, and repeatedly cheating on one’s spouse with multiple partners is one of them.

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

Ad Agencies Tips for Post-evaluation of Event

At the conclusion of a special event in which a client participated, everyone involved on the client and agency side should evaluate what worked well and which areas need improvement. Key questions to evaluate the event include:

1. Did the organizers deliver on their promises?
2. Did the event live up to its attendance projections?
3. What percentage of the attendees would be considered our target market?
4. What new business opportunities emerged?
5. How good a quality were the leads that were generated?
6. Did the event prove to be newsworthy?
7. How did this activity compare with other PR/marketing efforts in terms of value for the investment?
8. Did we stay on budget?
9. Did we leave an impression that is consistent with our brand?
10. If we had it to do again, would we still have been involved?

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

Criteria for Ad Agencies when Evaluating Partnership Opportunities

The following are criteria for ad agencies to consider when evaluating partnerships related to charitable giving, events or sponsorship opportunities for clients:

1. Is the event/cause compatible with our objectives, values and mission statement?
2. Will this partnership help us effectively reach our target audiences?
3. How many people are expected to attend the event or be exposed to the sponsorship/donation?
4. Does the organization have a solid track record and good reputation?
5. Is the chemistry right?
6. Is the partnership compatible with our brand’s personality?
7. Does the partnership provide opportunities to develop new business?
8. Is there an opportunity for employee involvement?
9. Will management support the partnership?
10. Will certain segments of our customer base have objections to this partnership or be offended by it?
11. Are any of our competitors involved?
12. Is there a logical tie to our business?
13. How does this partnership compare with other available opportunities?
14. Are the organizers open to new and innovative approaches?

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

Ad Agencies Benefit from Sponsorships and Philanthropy with Direct Link

Whether it is strategic philanthropy or cause marketing, the most mutually beneficial relationships generally are those in which the organization has a direct link. Here are a few examples of causes that directly tie with industry and corporate objectives:

• A pharmaceutical company that contributes to medical-cause charities
• An architectural firm that renovates buildings at children’s homes
• A food company that supports food stamp funding programs
• A bookstore that sponsors a literacy program
• A music store that sponsors a concert
• A toy manufacturer that contributes to child abuse causes

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

Sponsorships Hold Potential Risks and Rewards for Ad Agencies

At a time when many companies are cutting back on sponsorships, Under Armour is working on a deal with baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr., “that could expose the public company to hundreds of thousands of youth athletes around the world,” according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

Assuming the deal is finalized, will this be a good investment for Under Armour? The Journal states that the youth apparel category made up $56.5 million, or 8 percent, of Under Armour’s 2008 revenue of $725.2 million. Sponsorships can be risky, but if they expand market share among a key audience the company is trying to reach, they can be a worthwhile investment.

Ad agencies are sometimes called on to help clients evaluate requests for sponsorships, charitable contributions and participation in events. A “blueprint” will help assess the best, most strategic opportunities through a set of clearly definable criteria. It also will answer questions such as:

• What is the goal of this sponsorship?
• What is role of the sponsorship/event in our marketing mix?
• What are the core principles that should drive our sponsorship efforts?
• How will we measure the return on investment?
• What are our competitors doing?
• Can we better leverage the sponsorships we already have?

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