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The sponsorship power of sportswomen / Mike Cavers, Lateral Group

by on October 18, 2013 in featured item, Lead story, PR, Rock 'n Roll, TV, Uncategorized

Anything we do in life is a gamble, but never more so than for those brands who dip their toes into the world of celebrity endorsements – particularly of sports stars. This is because the integrity of many major sports icons has never been under more scrutiny.

You just have to look at Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Oscar Pistorious, Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay, many whom, although the faces for some of the globe’s biggest brands, have sullied their reputations through a combination of drugs, crime and adultery.

Risk vs Reward

Is the simple solution for brands to turn their backs on sports heroes and look for other forms of celebrity endorsement? Not necessarily.

It’s clear why brands are drawn to sporting heroes: They wish to equate their business, whether it’s Nike, Adidas or Li Ning, with the values and images of those they sponsor. Ultimately, they hope that these relationships will engage customers by making them believe in the same pursuit of excellence that has powered these stars to the top.

Indeed, there are obvious risks, but brands continue to put considerable financial muscle behind sporting icons. Earlier this year, Nike backed Rory McIlroy to the tune of $250m for ten years, while Puma chucked almost $50m for three years to keep Usain Bolt’s face on its posters.

Men vs Women

One important point to note is that a majority of exemplary sports sponsorships, whether symbols of success or failure, deal solely with men. It seems that the path for achieving financial rewards through sponsorship is walked far less by women.

A study from the Commission on the Future of Women’s Sport found that only a staggering 0.5% of the total UK sports sponsorship market was diverted to the country’s female elite sports stars. This is nonsensical when you consider that NPD Sports Group believes the women’s sports industry to be worth more than £1.2bn each year.

Some brands are starting to sponsor women. Adidas set the ball rolling by placing Jessica Ennis at the forefront of their London 2012 ‘Take the Crown’ campaign, which was so successful that Ennis became known as the face of the games. The added exposure that women’s sports received at the Olympics led a recent study (backed by LOCOG, Sport England and the BBC) to estimate that three-quarters of brands believe new sponsors will penetrate the market as a direct result of the Olympics – with female sponsorship identified as a key area for growth.

Engaging and Inspiring

The focus for every brand is to achieve true engagement with the customer – this is the Holy Grail. Sponsorship of sports stars is a vital way to do this because it encourages consumers to gravitate towards the images/similarities they want to be connected with. Therefore, tying the brand to genuinely likeable and down to earth sports stars, such as Jessica Ennis and Laura Robson, will convince women across the country that an Adidas, Nike or even Diadora is the best option in helping them achieve their fitness goals.

Savvy companies will use sponsorship of female sports stars to cleverly engage with their target market and not only inspire women to achieve their fitness goals, but also ensure that they’re doing it while wearing the brand’s logo on their chest. The heroes at last summer’s Olympics are beginning to change perceptions.

Mike Cavers is Executive Creative Director of customer engagement agency Lateral Group
To learn  more about Mike and the company, click here

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