The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Sponsors Bonkers …
February 28, 2012, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment

Brands love sponsoring stuff.

Family Days.

You name it, they sponsor it.

Of course some sponsorship is both commercially valuable and creatively powerful – or at least one of the two – however there are a lot of times where the impression you are left with is it was done because the CEO likes it.

There’s two ways you can tell.

1. They run ads that say, “The passion [insert athlete, sports team, band, etc] has for [insert activity], matches the passion we have to make to make the best [insert cars, food, drink, chocolate].

2. They do stuff like this:

What the fuck?

Photocopier machines. Basketball players. The line, “Giving Shape To Ideas”.

Excuse me?

It feels like some weird school exam where they shove a bunch of random words together and your task is to find how they interconnect. Except in this case, they don’t.

As much as our job is to make the uninteresting, interesting – that doesn’t mean you have to go to such ridiculously bad extremes.

Years ago I was approached by a photocopier company.

While they knew who they needed to target with startling clarity, their approach – which basically swung wildly between facts about their reliability or contrived razzmatazz – just wasn’t cutting it.

Our approach was to start from scratch.

We spent a bunch of time with their salesmen, clients, office workers, secretaries and from all that a fucking awesome insight came out.

“The only reason people know the brand of the photocopier they use, is if it breaks down all the time”

It was with this – and the fact they were quantifiably more reliable than all the key competitive brands – that we ran a campaign entitled “Introducing the photocopier you’ll never know the name of” … and you know what, it worked gangbusters.

I’m not saying this to be a smug bastard, I’m saying this because if the purpose of communication is to try and help sell stuff on behalf of our clients, it’s not necessary to go out and sponsor a basketball team, nor spend copious amounts of cash on an outdoor billboard [errrrm, especially not spend copious amounts of cash on an outdoor billboard], it’s simply knowing who you need to talk to and what will influence them.

Not over the top.

Not hard.

Just the most basic principles of communication practice.

As I said, sponsorship can be great – especially when it enables you to ‘lock out’ competitors in high-sales environments – but there are far too many deals that have seemingly been done for no other reason than to satisfy ego or self interest … and while I don’t know the intricacies of the Konica Minolta / Basketball deal, I would give anything to see how they are going to evaluate the return on their investment, but then I have always enjoyed reading fiction.

50 Comments so far
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You just don’t get it, do you Rob?

Neither do I.

Nice photocopier story.


Comment by Ciaran McCabe

You cover a lot in this post, from the value of sponsorship, the mistakes of sponsorship and how to do an interesting, and relevant, photocopier ad campaign. Great read. That billboard is ridiculous. It makes no sense unless it’s like those old silk cut ads where you had to figure out the meaning.

It would be too easy to say this is “Chinese advertising/sponsorship” but there’s equally as bad campaigns all over the World and with the Olympics coming up, they’ll be plenty more.

Just recently I saw an ad for UK travel agency, Thomas Cook, saying they were the official Olympic “short break sponsor”. No, I didn’t understand it either, except the Olympics will sell their rights to anyone who can pay enough.

Comment by Pete

Of course you didn’t understand it, you work in planning and thus, if Rob is anything to go by, you don’t take short breaks, you take months off at a time.

Comment by John

“Thus?” How very Shakespearen of you John. A touch of much needed class on this blog.

Comment by DH

That is a benefit that is unique to Rob, John. Sadly.

Comment by Pete

What do you mean, I haven’t got another holiday till, ooooooh, April.

Comment by Rob

you lazy motherfucker.

dan. dan. arent you going to put a fucking stop to all this?

Comment by andy@cynic

But, of course, you did understand it, it’s a strategically water-tight idea that has razor-sharp focus that guarantees great ROI in terms of short breaks for Thomas Cook execs at all Olympic stadia.

Comment by John

And back to normal.

Comment by DH

Razor, razor right. Aren’t they almost bankrupt though? Seems the cost of sponsoring the Olympics is going to give Thomas Cook the longest short break of them all.

Comment by Pete

why dont you ask campbell who gave him his fucking olympic opening ceremony tickets doddsy. go on. humour me.

Comment by andy@cynic

Four hours watching people in tracksuits mill around? I can see that at the local court any day.

Comment by John

you mean crown court, not tennis court.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by John

Also known as Nottingham.

Comment by Rob

The only reason you’re so pro-photocopier is because you’re the copy and paste presentation king and you feel you’re kindred spirits.

Comment by DH

I assumed it was something to do with the bizarre photocopies their maintenance people kept finding in his machine.

Comment by John

He has a “special man” for those specific items. Or he did, I assume no one cares in China.

Comment by DH

What’s a photocopier? Do you mean there’s a machine that does it? I thought it was Kat because whenever I needed something copying, I’d just ask her do it. If there is a machine I can’t work out why she’d always complain. Lazy woman.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Stop trying to showoff Billy, everybody knows asking K to do something like that would result in a bleeding nose and blurred vision. Funny comment though.

Comment by Pete

Unless you were George.

Comment by Pete

I did her reviews.

Comment by George

Good point well made Pete.

Comment by DH

k wouldnt pass me a fucking postit note without making me feel my life was in severe fucking danger so dont talk big bollocks billy because youre more fucking scared than an italian. sorry mrs c.

Comment by andy@cynic

It is because you always used them to scrunch up and throw at George, Andrea and Jemma. If you used them properly I would not need to be so stern with you.

Comment by Katerina

i was doing it to defend your honour against those using pricks. no one fucking appreciates how good i am to them. except maybe ex #1 and #2 and they dont really give a flying fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

She knew you had difficulty with pushing the right buttons.

Comment by John

Great final sentence Rob. Andy will be proud.

Comment by Pete

Sponsorship has some excellent benefits but too often they play second fiddle to the ego of the sponsoring company. It doesn’t help when organisations are so willing to create pointless sponsorship categories to secure additional investment. For smaller events, where investment is literally the difference between success and failure, I can understand their willingness to diversify but some, like Thomas Cook’s, seem more driven by fame association, though if their “official mini break” sponsorship includes short breaks for people to see the Olympics, it makes more sense.
I liked this post Rob, especially bringing back our 3rd ever bit of work under cynic. It really was rather good wasn’t it.

Comment by George

When you wanted to be.

Comment by DH

Joke George. That’s called a joke.

Comment by DH

it was always good when i was fucking involved. when it was just you planning fucks, it was a fucking disaster.

Comment by andy@cynic

why are there so many fucking comments this early? havent you all got fucking lives to live? oh i forgot. no. fucking losers.

Comment by andy@cynic

This is how it will be when a certain distraction decides to come and out and ruin your life. I mean, play. Ahem.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

In a matter of weeks, you’ll be acting like our colleague Tom, who became a Dad yesterday:

Comment by Rob

i wont make photos of my kid available. unless someone pays big fucking bucks. theyve got to earn their keep.

Comment by andy@cynic

by the way, that billboard is fucking terrible in every fucking way. the ideas(?) shit. the art direction is fucking bollocks and there is literally no fucking branding on the bastard unless you have superman vision. bollocks. bollocks. bollocks.

Comment by andy@cynic

I thought “magicolor” was a brand of felt tip pens.

Comment by Danny

I like how the player in a white shirt, which means he is from an opponent team, attacks in the same direction as other players.

Comment by toto

Nicely spotted Toto.

Comment by Rob

Typical plannerly assumption – could be an away strip and anyway the blue strips look different to me, so it’s possible they’re sponsoring a league or a tournament. Probable, in fact, because that ensures execs get tickets to the best teams without having to know about basketball.

Comment by John

But it might not be too …

Comment by Rob

Damn straight. We have a Xerox…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

“They run ads that say, “The passion [insert athlete, sports team, band, etc] has for [insert activity], matches the passion we have to make to make the best [insert cars, food, drink, chocolate].”

The Toshiba/Tendulkar ads in India are particularly special in this regard.

Comment by AJ

Oh don’t get me started on fucking sponsorship. It’s the absolute bane of my life.
This is a genuine exerpt from a recent comms strategy I got from Mindshare to ‘work with’ (ignore) because no one has a passion for xxxx we need to be part of what they’re already passionate about. We need to play where they play’
Not a single sentence about what we could be adding, just ‘borrow interest’
You know, as opposed to doing the work and finding out how you CAN make XXX interesting. Trust me, it’s fucking easy.

And here’s another gem from client brief “We don’t need to make ourselves relevant to football, we need to make football relevant to us”

Comment by northern

I’m astounded at how many organisations – and agencies – approach opportunities or challenges with the view of ‘leveraging’ what is already there.

It’s not about efficiency, it’s about laziness.

Of course, the opposite is also sometimes true – where organisations – and agencies – try and add dimensions to existing properties for no reason other than to appease their ego.

Enhancing and giving meaning is always a good thing, but the trick is to understand it from the audiences perspective, not the CEO’s ego and yet time and time again [as your 2 examples above demonstrate], common sense goes out the window in favour of laziness, ego and a complete lack of understanding regarding what these events do for people and what they are there to achieve.


Comment by Rob

Good idea, change football!…
Bloody hell.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

[…] much as it pains me to say this, Rob Campbell has written a pretty smart post about why corporate sponsorships fail. Required reading for brand marketers and agencies, […]

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