Repucom asked Danny Glantz, AIG Global Head of Sponsorship, to share his personal experience with jersey sponsorship and offer advice for brands and rights holders considering one of the world’s most visible sports sponsorship assets. Glantz is a licensed attorney with extensive experience in sponsorship, intellectual property, e-commerce, Internet law, commercial and M&A transactions, marketing, and licensing.
Why is jersey sponsorship an effective marketing vehicle?
A jersey sponsorship offers a brand the ability to differentiate itself in a busy advertising and sponsorship environment and maintain visibility as ad-blocking technology grows. Exposure goes well beyond a match or game, with the brand featuring in sports highlight videos and photographs in traditional and social media. If done well, jersey sponsorships can grow brand awareness,loyalty,equity and recall. They can also help reach targeted markets.
Why did AIG partner with New Zealand Rugby and the All Blacks?
AIG found a counterpart in sport with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the legendary All Blacks. Both AIG and the All Blacks have followed adversity with success, value tenacity, and are dedicated to being leaders in their fields. The All Blacks are one of the world’s most respected, high-performance teams, with one of the best winning records of any sports team. AIG is a market leader, helping clients in over 90 countries and jurisdictions, and is respected for providing innovative insurance solutions.
The partnership of two world-leading organizations has many benefits for AIG, NZR, and the sport of rugby. Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, popular in markets where AIG is established, and growing in popularity in many of the same emerging markets AIG is focused on. As AIG and rugby both expand their reach, AIG and NZR both look forward to helping build awareness of rugby and the All Blacks brand in even more markets with fans around the world, which in turn opens up greater commercial opportunities for AIG.
The NZR partnership also offers AIG a unique opportunity to tell its story of strength and teamwork, and to engage employees and customers in new, exciting ways. Almost three years into the sponsorship, AIG colleagues in all of the 16 countries where NZR teams played welcomed and showed their enthusiastic support for the teams and for the sport. Local offices have organized events for clients, colleagues, and charities, creating unique and memorable experiences.
What should be considered before negotiating a partnership?
- Overall marketing strategy: A jersey sponsorship can provide tremendous exposure; however, it only makes sense if it fits into your brand marketing strategy. Ask yourself whether you will reach geographic and demographic audience targets, align with your business strategies, and support employee programs.
- Activation: Much more goes into a partnership than putting a logo on a jersey or billboard. A solid activation plan will need to be established along with the budget to successfully carry it out. If considering a jersey sponsorship, determine whether you will sponsor practice jerseys as well, and where exclusivity can and will be offered. In the case of a global property, the activation strategy needs to be flexible enough to adapt to specific markets.
- Organizational values: In the case of the AIG sponsorship of NZR and the All Blacks, we found a common bond in that both organizations are resilient, willing to defy the odds, promote global unity, and thrive through preparation and teamwork. Where there are other sponsors, the values that they link to their own partnership should also be considered to reduce the possibility of conflicting messages.
- Sponsorship sensitivities: Concerns over commercialization and internal support should be considered. The All Blacks sponsorship was historic because the front center of the jersey had yet to be branded and is considered sacred among players and fans alike. We received positive feedback on displaying the AIG logo in a way that respects the history and tradition of the All Blacks jersey and the enduring legacy of New Zealand Rugby. An article in Sports Business Insider said, “How refreshing it is that AIG have modified their logo so that it better fits in with the All Blacks’ look. Gone is the bounding box and their signature blue. It’s still recognizable, just more humbly understated. Rather than confusing their branding, AIG’s openness to compromise enhances their integrity by casting them as cooperative team players.”
- Research: Work with an independent third-party to get a reliable valuation; an accurate assessment of market, business strategies, employee and client presence; and industry and company specific key performance indicators (KPIs).
- Contractual Agreement: The agreement reached between parties should address rights issues; clearly define the apparel and brand elements on a jersey/kit, merchandise, and accessories; outline a creative design collaboration and approval process for your brand and third party sponsor usage; cost recoveries for any trademark registration and IP enforcement requirements, and specify the image, creative and promotional support around jerseys. Also, make sure your agreement includes a moral turpitude clause so the partnership can be dissolved if circumstances warrant.
What other advice do you have?
Some aspects of sponsorship are in your control and many others are out of your control. A brand can manage logo usage and activation. However you can’t unilaterally dictate things like apparel pricing, jersey quality, merchandising, old inventory, logo blocking, off-pitch behavior of players, media exposure, social and digital commentary, rules or brand guidelines associated with a sport, and category conflicts with other teams and naming rights partners. With a jersey sponsorship you are more likely to collaborate and work closely with the apparel partner and other third party sponsors. Where possible, responses to these types of events should be discussed and agreed in advance with the sponsored property.
What are some surprising outcomes you have seen through your jersey sponsorship experience?
Because of jersey sponsorships, our AIG logo has received exposure in some unexpected places. A Dublin GAA fan wearing a jersey with our logo was brought up on stage at a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden. A journalist who was kidnapped and held hostage for more than two years in Somalia was repeatedly photographed and videotaped wearing a Manchester United jersey with the AIG logo front and center.
A safety video for Air New Zealand (you can watch it on the right) currently features the All Blacks in business suits and an adorable dog “Frank the Pug” wearing the AIG branded jersey.
Most recently the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, in association with New Zealand Post, produced the world’s first jersey shaped coin and All Blacks Stamp.
Not surprising, but we have also received exposure as jerseys are presented to dignitaries, and long term residual value is to be expected in historical imagery and archival footage.
Marketing materials are enhanced with match and player imagery featuring your brand; and jerseys make great gifts, charitable contributions, and office décor. The internal demand for merchandise with our logo has prompted us to have retail outlets for employees and business partners.
We have received a considerable amount of recognition from communities regarding our global support and investment in sport, and acknowledgment of the impact we are making within the rugby community through our rugby safety initiatives and grass roots support.
Finally, how do you evaluate the success of your sponsorships?
Repucom has helped us measure the tangible and intangible value of sponsorships. We closely monitor in-game, traditional media and digital/social media exposure. Metrics involve brand exposure and recognition tracking, digital and social media, consumer engagement and employee engagement, and general hospitality and hosting metrics. Merchandise and spectator sales are also monitored. Furthermore, as a jersey sponsor broadcast ratings, stadium attendance, team success, and overall sport participation numbers play a role. We are in a good position to not only track progress, but to make adjustments where needed to maximize our sponsorship investments.
Men In Black Safety Defenders #AirNZSafetyVideo
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand, in association with New Zealand Post, produced the world’s first jersey shaped coin and All Blacks Stamp.