Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Burgerville's Recipe for Sponsorship Activation

Sports sponsorship can be a powerful marketing platform, but not for the reasons that tend to come to mind. Yes, sponsorship can put a brand in front of an audience it covets in a positive environment. And, affinity for the sponsored property can influence affinity the audience has for brands aligned with the property via sponsorship. What can be even more important than enjoying targeted reach and building brand equity is connecting fans to a sponsor's business through activation. Paying rights fees for official sponsor privileges is only the beginning of a commitment to engage in a coordinated marketing campaign to use a sponsorship to achieve business objectives.

Basketball and Burgers
An example of how sponsorship should be managed as more than a promotion tactic is how restaurant chain Burgerville used its sponsorship of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Vancouver, Washington-based chain of 39 stores was recognized by the NBA this spring, receiving the Team Sponsorship Activation of the Year Award. Burgerville integrated its association with the Trail Blazers into its business through activation tactics that included:
  • New menu item- Introduced a limited time Blazers Burger in all stores to connect with sponsorship of the team and promoted through a multi-channel marketing campaign. Blazers Burger became the second most successful limited time product launch in Burgerville's history.
  • Courtside seat giveaway - Promotion tied to store patronage (use Burgerville Card three times during promotion period) to win two courtside seats and early admission to player shoot around. 
  • Meet the Rookies contest - Five customers won an exclusive meal with the team's rookies at a Burgerville restaurant.
 These activation tactics utilized several media channels and executed against objectives of generating brand interest and influencing product purchase. 

An Investment, not an Expense
Unfortunately, an activation program is too often an afterthought in sponsorship management. Sometimes, sponsors fail to adequately budget to market a sponsorship and are unable to spend aggressively to use a sponsorship to drive growth. Other times, sponsors put too much value on the assets received (e.g., signage and association privileges) and are not very creative in putting the "active" in activation. Entering into a sponsorship is like getting keys to a shiny new car. There are many places the car can take you; the challenge is coming up with a plan for how to get there. 

Too many times, sponsors just get in the car and drive around aimlessly, not taking full advantage of their asset. This situation certainly does not describe Burgerville. The company's multi-pronged activation of its sponsorship of the Portland Trail Blazers suggests that when sponsors are considering what to sponsor they should also be asking themselves how they could market the relationship.