In 2003, Maya Angelou said, “People will forget the things you do, and people will forget the things you say. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” It has been almost two decades, but it seems that sponsorships and partnerships have started to listen to Maya Angelou. The nature of sponsorships has evolved.
Sponsorships bring brand awareness
At the origin, we have sponsorships, such as when brands pay a large fee to have the naming rights to a given property. Think of MetLife Stadium. There is not much brand alignment if you think about it. What does MetLife have to do with professional football? Not much. But the naming right provides the brand, in this case MetLife, an immense amount of brand awareness. Yet awareness is all the brand gets. So, when looking at the brand marketing funnel — which begins with awareness, and goes to consideration, purchase intention, brand loyalty, and ends with brand advocacy — only getting awareness isn’t ideal.
Partnerships build a deeper connection
Then, we began to see a transition toward traditional partnerships. This is when the marketing world started to heed Maya Angelou’s advice. Like sponsorships, there is typically a large fee involved. With partnerships, however, the consumer engagement occurs more deeply, allowing the brand to receive both awareness and consideration from their partnership. Think of Microsoft and the NFL. Microsoft paid a large fee to be associated with the NFL and is seen by millions of viewers on the sidelines being used by professional coaches and athletes to improve the game of football. Consumers see the brand, and if they believe the brand improves the game they are likely to consider it. This goes a step beyond a normal sponsorship. Microsoft, in tandem with their partnership, launches campaigns to deepen their connection with the consumer. If you haven’t seen Microsoft’s Create Change campaign, you should. It details how Microsoft is used to help young children transition out of the hospital to at-home living, while still getting the attention and care they need. The campaign focuses on NFL player Greg Olsen and his child, and how Microsoft’s technology impacted their lives. This deeper emotional connection, in tandem with the partnership, leaves an impact on consumers.
The future of partnerships: experiential marketing and beyond
Going even further, we are starting to see the emergence of non-traditional partnerships. Unlike their predecessors, non-traditional partnerships have brand alignment and often have no fee involved — or at least the fee is not the focal point of the deal. At their core, there is a value exchange where each brand leverages the other’s IP to raise both of their brands’ value. A unique aspect of non-traditional partnerships is that their cultural relevance unlocks brand loyalty and advocacy. Think of Microsoft and Netflix. More specifically, Microsoft and Stranger Things season three. Stranger Things celebrates unlikely heroes who have the power to change the world but just don’t know it yet. Microsoft’s brand purpose is to help people unlock their potential. The brand alignment is there. Microsoft launched “Camp Nowhere” at all of its stores, offering STEM workshops for children using Microsoft’s technology. If you don’t know “Camp Nowhere,” it was made famous in Stranger Things. This partnership campaign utilized multiple touchpoints, storytelling, and a brand-new event. It elevated both brands’ images and helped kids everywhere feel seen. Consumers wanted to go to Camp Nowhere, watch Stranger Things, and use Microsoft products. It provided Microsoft and Netflix not only with brand awareness and consideration but also with purchase intention, brand loyalty, and brand advocacy.
If more brands want to take their target market through the entire marketing funnel, they should listen to Maya Angelou and look for non-traditional partnerships to leave a mark on consumers’ minds, hearts, and wallets.