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A Tale of Two Jersey Patches, Seeking Differentiation and Banning the Ban

This week’s post is inspired by TicketManager CEO and founder Tony Knopp’s “Three Things I Learned in Saas, Sports, Tech & Live Events,” a weekly collection of insights that’s worth reading or watching on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube or your favorite podcast platform.

Below, three observations on sports and entertainment sponsorships, partnerships and activations:

1. As NHL clubs prepare their strategies for selling the jersey patches that will debut with the 2022-23 season, they should keep in mind that after four seasons of jersey sponsor ID in the NBA, only 17 of the league’s clubs still have the same patch sponsor they started with. The remaining 13 (43 percent) have turned over the partnership or are in the market seeking to sign a replacement.

Such a data point should signal to NHL teams that despite widespread knowledge that sports partnerships are most valuable as long-term propositions that take time to build fan loyalty and support, as well as all the discussion about jersey patches being the cornerstone for larger, integrated partnerships that include content development, live experiences and other activations, many brands continue to do one-and-done deals focused primarily on exposure.

For every Rakuten and Sun Life, there is a 5Miles and Bumble.

That is not to say brands in the latter category were wrong, or that their team partners signed bad deals. It’s merely a reminder that potential partners have vastly different approaches to sponsorship and sellers must have a good sense of what a prospect’s objectives are in order to craft and offer and negotiate a deal that meets both parties’ expectations and value equations.

2. In recent conversations with brand marketers, an oft-recurring topic has been how to stand out amid a sea of activations and promotions from other sponsors of the same property, not to mention set themselves apart from sponsorship activity by competitors in their category.

Many of those marketers pointed to a need for assistance from their rights holder partners in developing proprietary platforms within a property that a sponsor can call its own. Although we have seen many great examples of this in terms of physical spaces within venues, especially for top-tier partners, there is a need for similar differentiation for sponsors below the seven- and eight-figure level.

Digital content and other virtual assets would appear to be natural direction to go in carving out “ownable” territory where sponsors can plant their flag.

3. A well-meaning Bloomberg Philanthropies-backed initiative is stepping up its calls to eliminate any and all Formula 1 sponsorship by companies that make tobacco products.

While not championing Big Tobacco, I believe the effort should raise a small but not insignificant flag for the sports and entertainment marketing industry in terms of a slippery slope that could lead to calls to ban partnerships with spirits, beer, “junk” food, sugary snacks and drinks, cannabis derivatives and other legal products.

Although earlier efforts along these lines have fizzled, it’s not inconceivable that in the age of rapid mobilization through social media that campaigns against sponsorship could gain at least enough traction to cause some collateral damage to partnerships undertaken by some of the biggest brands in sponsorship.

If such a thing were to happen to, for example, Michelob Ultra’s just-announced commitment of $100 million to increase visibility for women’s sports, it would ultimately serve no purpose other than to undermine a worthwhile effort and damage a legitimate cause.

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