Like Category Doesn't Always Mean Like Strategy
At my old agency we used to get many proposals where the client would simply drop in our client's name with another in the category - and vice versa. In fact, on occasion we'd get a proposal for a client that we didn't even represent. This may work for a few categories, but often times brands, even within the same category, have differing marketing objectives, which guide a unique sponsorship strategy. Take for instance, a major sports sponsorship category like personal care products, and specifically antiperspirants.
Axe's new street musician sponsorship program profiled in today's NY Times, just shows how many different sponsorship strategies can be employed within the same category. The Unilever brand, known for sponsoring house parties, ritzy nightclubs and webisodes, has started sponsoring musicians to put up “Axe Instinct” signs, offer free deodorant samples and, sing a song that Axe is using in commercials. Send them a proposal with a whiff of "official" and you probably won't get far - unless you somehow integrate sex appeal or Lindsey Lohan into a clever activation, that is.
On the other hand, fellow Unilever brand, Degree Men, has become the official antiperspirant of several major sports properties over the last month alone including the Mexican National Soccer Team, Major League Soccer and the U.S. Army's All-American Bowl.
Head over to Gillette and you'll find that a good proportion of Old Spice's sponsorship dollars are going into NASCAR through an official deal and sponsorship with Tony Stewart's #14 - and to activate against P&G's NFL "official locker room products" deal. Parent company, Gillette of course has the longest running sports sponsorship association in the U.S. with the MLB, which grants the company exclusive rights to the deodorant category.
Former P&G brand, and now a staple of Dial's portfolio, Right Guard in 2008 picked up the title of official deodorant of the NBA from Colgate's Speed Stick.
While Speed Stick, who has at one time or another in the past sponsored the NBA, NHL and NFL, appears to be heading younger and edgier with these new TV spots and a series of sponsorships with smaller, urban events in the 18-24 demo.
It would take a lot more time and some serious excel to map out this entire crowded category, but my key point is that while grouping by category can provide some valuable frameworks for defining exclusives and pitching prospectives, never assume objectives based on like-categorization alone.