Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Creating Brand Awareness through Sponsorship is Academic

Academy Sports + Outdoors has a history that can be traced back to the late 1930s as a military surplus store, but for the past 18 years it has expanded its presence as a sporting goods retailer. The company now has more than 150 stores in 13 states. Its most recent expansion includes opening the Kansas City market this summer with two stores. Any business that is new to a geographic market is faced with the challenge of how to build awareness, create associations with the local community, and gain market acceptance. In response to these challenges, Academy Sports + Outdoors is taking a page from the sponsorship playbook.

Numerous scholarly studies published on sports sponsorship are virtually universal in their findings that the top two objectives sponsors have for their sports marketing investments are: 1) increase brand awareness and 2) create a desired brand image. The Kansas City market has formidable competition as Dick's Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Bass Pro Shops, and Cabela's operate in that market. Academy Sports is making a splash in the Kansas City market by partnering with the Kansas City Royals. A multi-year sponsorship deal will put the Academy Sports brand in front of Royals fans at Kauffman Stadium and create a platform for the company to create promotions and other local marketing campaigns that tie in to its Royals sponsorship.

Sponsorship can be an effective tactic in support of geographic market expansion. Consumers in the Kansas City market will have few or no associations with the Academy Sports brand. However, linking Academy Sports + Outdoors with a brand that is familiar and liked in the market will not only give exposure to the Academy Sports brand but create secondary brand associations. One of the strengths of sponsorship as a marketing tool is that secondary brand associations, or thoughts about the sponsor brand originating from some other source (in this case the KC Royals), can be developed in the marketplace that might be difficult (if not impossible) to create otherwise.

The Academy Sports + Outdoors sponsorship of the Kansas City Royals does not guarantee successful entry into the market, but it can accelerate brand building efforts required to compete in a crowded space. Achieving "I know you exist" is a minimal accomplishment for marketers but one that is a must to have any chance of success. Not only will the Academy Sports-KC Royals association aid in raising brand awareness, it will also begin the process of informing consumers about the brand even before they set foot into one of the company's new stores.

Kansas City Business Journal - "Royals Team Up with New Sporting Goods Store"