Redemption Marketing Anyone?
'There's no such thing as bad publicity,' right? For has long as there have been sponsors, there have been embarrassing situations for the properties they sponsor. However, when it comes to sponsors where do you draw the line between publicity and bad publicity. What role do/should official sponsors play in "redemption?" As sponsorship pros, we're engrained with the idea that to properly leverage a sponsorship you should find a unique way to borrow from the emotional capital that fans have invested in a team and/or player. But if there is an often talked about 'halo effect' on the way up, what about when the properties we sponsor are on the way down or struggling with difficult issues, on the world stage. Is it safe to assume that the more the sponsor has invested in developing an 'integrated' relationship (which is in many other instances hailed), the higher the potential for a negative affect on their own brand?
Two high profile examples from this week alone.
In both cases, the press conference sponsors, PNC and Switch2HFA.com, were front and center (or at least, over shoulder). And in both cases the message was squarely focused on redemption.
"I know I've done some terrible things, made a horrible mistake. Now I want to be part of the solution and not the problem," Vick declared.
In some cases the redemption press conference actually involves the sponsor, itself.
While I've heard some people say that these are examples of when "sports sponsorship backfires," wouldn't it seem a bit inauthentic to selectively choose which situations to be involved with? As a sponsor, you might wince, but doesn't this essentially come with the territory? Sure you can put in morals clauses and stipulations for your own redemption, but when you've spent years building up a deep association in the consumer's mind, what does it say to walk away? Where do you draw the line? Wrigley's recently drew it here.
Put on your PR hat and tell us, in these instances is there such thing as bad publicity for a sponsor? As sponsors activate aggressively to build an emotional association (and not just a logo placement), aren't they essentially trying to become intertwined with the triumphs, struggles and comebacks of the properties they sponsor and if so, is this a case where too much integration opens your brand up to additional risk exposure? How do you mitigate that risk exposure, while taking full advantage of sport's unique ability to borrow, leverage and build on the emotional capital fans have for their favorite team?
For the answer, check in with these companies in a couple weeks.