By Eric Wamanji (@manjis)
My buddy Cliff, a.k.a Mapesa, gets heart attacks when I comment on sports. This soccer enthusiast is of the persuasion that some issues are not cut for me, for instance sports.
That’s true especially for football. I’m yet to grasp how, as they say, “a whole adult,” gets glued to a screen watching other adults chasing and kicking a piece of leather. It also knocks off my senses why such adults, would be enraptured upon what they call “gooooaaal!!!,” and even blast to a binge. Nor do I comprehend how these folks would sink into depression, groaning, losing appetite and libido, even committing suicide because “our’ team has lost.”
What I have learnt over the years though is that these untamed emotions are a treasure trove.
Indeed, that’s what I see, every time I chance on a crowd swept away by such passions- cheering or crying – for their team. Folks, I get a rash!
Emotions are potent. They sell products. And this is what sports sponsors are exploiting. How? They juxtapose the sports with their brand. Attributes of the sports are then transmitted to the brand in a subtle and complex psychological process. With time, fans see the brand from the prisms of the sport. Thus, fans will deem a sponsor, as a member of their in-group, a chummy chum if you will, vicariously though. They are inclined, sublimely, to support the sponsor.
This explains why globally, corporates worth their names are head-over-heels in the sponsorship bandwagon. And there is big money. IEG, for instance, reports that in 2015, sports sponsorships in the US totaled a dizzying $14.98 billion. IEG also projects that in 2016, sports events will hog about 70% of all the sponsorships in the US.
Getting local sponsorship figures is a bit tricky what with the secrecy beloved of our corporate honchos. Still we know of corporates who not only sponsor sporting events, they own teams. Top of the mind names include KCB, EABL, Sonny Sugar, and Mumias (before the sugar got bitter) and Brookside. Recently, gamblers and brewers have also poured handsome dollars on the Gor Mahia roulette.
Sponsorships are a great deal in brand building by constructing admiration, which leads to reputation, which, of course, is the soul of a brand.
Indeed, each sport generates twines of attributes such as “cheerful, endurance, youthful, sophisticated, fun, adventurous or tactful.” Others generate characteristics like “sporty, outdoorsy, grandeur, conservative, dynamic…” name them.
These attributes are then rubbed off on the sponsoring brand by sheer association.
When you sponsor an event or sports, and there is a match between the character of your brand and that of the sport, you create a ‘click’ with the spectators. Once this clutch is constructed, psychologically, that is how fans accept you as a member of their in-group.
However, free advise to sponsors: think through before you bet. Sponsorships ought to have “fit or match.”
This means that the event’s attributes must be aligned to the brand personality. Contrary to this doctrine, you are likely to create a cognitive dissonance and rejection.
And this is not far fetched. I have carried out wide-ranging studies on Image Transfer from a sport to a brand, Perceptions, Attitudes and Purchase Intentions. My findings have been interesting. For instance, in one of the studies, while the spectators were thrilled by the sport, they decried the incongruence of the sport and the sponsor. We found out that generally, fan’s purchase intention was lacking.
Sadly, my survey also established that most corporates lack a policy on sponsorships. This is why they bet their money on wrong horses.
Perhaps it is time to rethink corporate policies towards sports sponsorship. Policies are critical because they afford you entry into the nuances of psychology, branding and image development. That’s a critical territory for any one desirous to capture the consumer’s share of heart.
Ahem, Cliff, see, I may not be so much a fan, but, hey, I know where the money is!
The writer is a media and communication advisor firstname.lastname@example.org