My precious – being anal about sponsorship

ringAt his first round match at this year’s Wimbledon tournament, Andy Murray, sponsored by the Highland Spring mineral water brand to the tune of £1m a year, was asked by the umpire to remove the label from the bottle he was drinking from. This is in order to placate Evian, ‘official water of Wimbledon’ and £3m a year sponsors.

Just how far should you go in protecting your investment in sponsorship?

This situation could easily have been foreseen by Evian, Wimbledon and Highland Spring – Murray’s sponsorship deals are all public knowledge. Even spectators at the event are being asked to remove the labels from non-Evian bottles of water for fear they be seen on TV drinking a different water.

The newspaper snippets about this tend to imply that Evian are obsessing over this enforcement and they come out worse – they’re ok with people drinking ‘other’ water as long as it’s not labelled. Evian meanwhile have one of the most distinctive bottle shapes, so it’s obvious when someone isn’t drinking Evian.

The situation with spectators could be avoided very simply – a water amnesty: swap your ‘probably warm-by-now’ bottle of water you brought in with you for a chilled bottle of Evian. You get your brand in more hands, multiplying the opportunity that the crowd will be seen drinking it.

The situation with players who have water sponsorships is murkier – they have responsibilities to their sponsors to promote their brands, the Wimbledon organisers have a responsibility to Evian to give their brand exposure. By having players remove the labels, Evian lose out because they come across as petty, the other brand possibly wins by virtue of brand mentions in newspaper coverage, where they are presented as the wronged party (they’d win more if they had a distinctive bottle design; consider the power of an advert that is simply a shot of their player, holding a de-labelled bottle with the caption ‘Clearly Highland Spring’).

The core failing this situation highlights is how some marketers, even when throwing around £3m a year in sponsorships fail to extrapolate the possibilities. Did they never attend a tennis match before this? Smart marketers experience as much of they can in and around every type of activity they engage in so they can see the potential opportunities and pitfalls.

Photo credit: Bandita