Is your advertising helping your rivals rather than you?

sponsorshipWhen we pay good money for our logo or brand to appear somewhere we like to think that doing so will bring clear benefits to us in terms of increased sales or at least increased brand awareness.  New research suggests however that this belief requires more faith in the memory of consumers than is warranted.

The team of researchers from Michigan State University found that in most instances people believe the sponsor of an event is not the current sponsor, but a past one.

“Our findings show that when an “old” sponsor is replaced by a “new” sponsor, people are aware of the correct sponsor at the time of the event, but a little later they revert to thinking that the old sponsor is still associated with the event,” they say.

“This finding has important implications for incoming sponsors because it suggests their sponsorship dollars may be wasted as the old sponsor continues to benefit.”

Their experiment asked participants to name the sponsor of various high profile events, such as the Olympics, both at the time of the event and then again six months later.  Worryingly they recalled the past sponsor 26% of the time when asked during the event, whilst six months later this had risen to a whopping 79%.  Not good news if you've just paid big bucks for that slot.

They followed up this study with a test that saw participants exposed to a series of TV and radio shows.  Included within them were 12 sponsored events.  On day 1 the sponsors names were mentioned regularly throughout.  On day 2 however half of the events had new sponsors, whilst the other half had no sponsor at all.  The results are fascinating.

When a replacement sponsor was backing the event, viewers consistently got the name wrong.  However when there was no competing sponsor they suffered no such confusion.

The moral of the story is that if you want to get the best bang for your sponsorship buck you should give serious thought to who has been before you.  If you're following in the footsteps of a rival brand in your industry for instance then there appears a strong chance that consumers will confuse the two of you and recall your rival rather than you.

The research team suggest that if you want to lodge yourself into the public consciousness you have to start early.  So for instance if your sponsored event is in the summer, start promoting it in winter to remind people both of the event and your association with it.

“The more you can jog people’s memories, to see you associated with that event, the better,” they say.

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4 thoughts on “Is your advertising helping your rivals rather than you?

  1. I'm not surprised at all as to be honest I can never understand how marketers can justify the expenditure on sponsorship or even display advertising. I mean how do they determine ROI? All a bit fluffy for my tastes.

  2. As a guy who still names the Carling Cup as the Milk Cup and didn't know the sponsors of this years FA Cup (till the semis anyway) but can remember the 1995 sponsors as Littlewoods I can concur with this. The snooker and darts finals are still the Embassy World Championships not which ever betting firm it might be now.

    Happily the memories of the "Canon First Division" were quickly banised by removing the word Canon as were all visuals of a rather unsightly trophy.

    I'm with Wayne on this, I was never sure how you establish ROI on sponsorship alone. You often need to do lots of other support activities alongside, in-store promotion, giveaways, corporate dinners at the events etc.

    Though using my insight from mapping processes, maybe it's the brand sponsoring the event when you first become aware of it that is associated long term, not necessarily the first or older ones.

    Are there a bunch of English late teen boys who refer to the Worthington Cup?

    • Think you're right Mark. For me it's the Zenith Data Cup as we used to get to the final of it a few times, although as seemed the case back then we always seemed to lose them. Still, I'd rather lose to Forest than Liverpool 🙂

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