If you’re going to sponsor something, don’t hold back: lessons on commitment from Air New Zealand and the Rugby World Cup

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I was lucky enough to jump across to Auckland last week (for meetings, I wasn’t that lucky) where it wasn’t hard to notice that there was a small rugby competition in progress.  aside from the obvious signs – like Steve Rider standing at the bar or Lawrence Dallaglio’s MacBook popping up on my shared drives – it was impossible to avoid the advertising making us aware of various brands’ sponsorship of the event.  it fact it was harder to spot a poster that didn’t relate to the rugby world cup that to spot one that was.

all of which is well and good.  a host of brands have invested in attaching themselves to one of the best sporting competitions in the world, and quite rightly want to leverage that attachment and investment.  but here’s the rub.  the tyranny of clutter.  oh how it mitigates and compromises and diminishes the value of our collective investments.

the fact is that to effectively leverage any sponsorship now, you have to create a crucial step between the sponsorship and the advertising.  you have to create something that amplifies and justifies your connection, and talk about that.  telling people that you’re a sponsor with a nifty copy line simply doesn’t cut it any more.

no one understands nor activates that better than Air New Zealand.  of all the brands that fought for my attention with their rugby world cup efforts, none stood out or cut through more than Air New Zealand.  I wasn’t alone … the subject of what they had done to amplify their association came up more than once in conversation and not by me.

the above is the in-flight safety instruction video.  it’s not going to win any oscars but it doesn’t have to…  it demonstrates an absolute commitment to the cause and leverages the connection to the RWC through the most credible of symbols – the All Black players and coach themselves.  I see and lot of in-flight videos.  I watch very few.  I watched this one again online afterwards.

in addition an entire aircraft has been liveried in black to activate the sponsorship (see below) and the interior furnishings on the plane have been given an All Black makeover for the occasion.  the planning for this alone must have been years in the making – short term response planning its not.

some lessons:

dominate and disrupt your owned media  don’t hold back.  plan and think ahead about how you can radically disrupt the media you have at your disposal.  what can you create in-store or in branch?  what can you do to alter your web presence or DM or eDM mailings?  use your staff and people as part of the message – involve them in what you’re creating.  and bring what you’ve done to life through content so that you can…

allow word of mouth to do at least some of the amplification  yup use broadcast media to amplify your innovation but don’t over-rely on it.  socialise the content around what you’re doing and encourage sharing.  it doesn’t have to be amazing quality, just good enough.  more good content is better than just a little awesome content.  content is fleeting and disposable these days; invest accordingly people.

utilise credible symbols to leverage your investment  if you’re putting hard earned dollars into a sponsorship make sure you get more than badge-ing rights.  if you’re sponsoring a tournament get access to the home team.  if it’s a media association leverage journalists or on-air personalities and co-create content and platforms with them that communicate the relevance of your association.

create a return path for sales  create breadcrumbs back to retail or sales channels so that interest and saliency can be easily activated into return on investment. can you create a unique offer around your sponsorship?  how you create a path to sales by showcasing your goods or services?  once again, Air New Zealand’s YouTube channel is a lesson in how to do just that…

Air New Zealand YouTube

above all don’t think that telling people you or your client is a sponsor will be enough.  too much clutter.  too much noise.  too much convergence on the same message.  you’ll get lost.  or at best you’ll win a phyrric share of voice victory that cost you more than it returned.

will all this cost more?  you bet your sweet pretty ass it will.  you may need to do less overall and focus investment on fewer bigger better projects … but it’s more than worth it.  don’t hold back, if its good enough to sponsor its good enough to invest the time and energy in making the sponsorship count.

full declaration: Air New Zealand are a client of PHD Australia, where I work.  I’m breaking my first and most important rule of blogging by writing about a client, but it was just too good an effort not to comment on.

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