Aug 05, 2009 at 11:17 PM
written by

n-ASK-ar: Marrying Content & Competency

If content is king, then IBM is the dynasty when it comes to sponsorship. IBM has since the early '90's used tennis' grand slams and high profile golf events to showcase their ability to provide back-end technology infrastructure, rich and reliable data and real-time scoring and statistics. They've done this through a well constructed combination of co-branded content and competency.

But might be next to the throne. Six months into signing their $2 million official NASCAR sponsorship the search engine is throwing around some impressive numbers. Market share went from 1.9 percent to 2.2 percent in the first six months of this year, a growth of 22%. Product usage is up 12% among NASCAR fans and awareness and positive impressions have skyrocketed by 43% and 14%, respectively. Here's what Ask President Scott Garrell told SBJ recently:

“We selected NASCAR because of its famously loyal fans and because we thought we could create the best search experience for the fans on the Web. We were looking to appeal to audiences, not so much on a product level, but on a fan experience level.”

Ask's social media strategy has been to communicate their value proposition, not through co-branded content as many sponsors these days are doing, but by providing a rich and customized showcase of their core competency. They've done this through branded search, customized toolbars, and rich (competency-driven, not brand message-driven) content like the Top 10 NASCAR searches and athlete's searched.

In addition to the official NASCAR deal, Ask has also spent a little under $4 million on a team deal, approximately $1 million on track deals and close to $3 million to promote their initiative through Fox media buys.

Today it seems many sponsors automatically rush out to create co-branded content because it's a must, without considering the environment, usage or opportunity cost for other activation possibilities.

Now don't get me wrong, co-branded content is a great tactic for generating excitement, tying into affinity, differentiation and converting to customers in YOUR environment (retail, on the sponsor site, etc.) and most certainly more effective than a banner ad (if you can use your competency to create content all the better!). But in the property's environment (i.e. on-site at an event, on the property's website, etc.) it can be a different story. In the property's environment, you must consider is your content interesting to the visitor? Just because your demographics may match up well, doesn't mean you should be answering yes! Is the environment cluttered with other sponsor co-branded messages? Another consideration: is your sponsor message too long and lost in the property's more appropriately targeted and relevant content? If you're talking about cleaning supplies it's going to be tough to compete with athlete interviews for consumer eyeballs. If you're looking for a real winning combination in the PROPERTY'S ENVIRONMENT (website, on-site, etc.) look for ways to marry the property's content with the sponsor's competency.

The Pitchagorean Theorem (for activation in property environments):

property content + sponsor content = 2; property content + sponsor competency = 3

What's your equation look like: content squared or content + competency? Both can be done right, but to be perfectly cliche, sometimes the most valuable messages are sent through action, rather than words.

Look no further than a technology leader reshaping its image, and one trying to build it, with event sponsorship.