BY BARRY J. NATHANSON
Next week my favorite sporting event begins its run. For two weeks every year, the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament takes over Flushing Meadow, Queens. Now, I’m an ardent tennis player and an unabashed fan of the sport, and I don’t just look forward to attending in person or to watching at home, but I also let it become the focal point of my existence. I love the sport, but I also love the way it heightens my awareness of the sponsors of the event. The dominant presence of Heineken, Evian, and, over the years, various Pepsi and Coke brands has helped turn the Open into a high-profile marketing platform for beverage companies.
In thinking about the Open, I’m also thinking about the importance of other sponsorships and event marketing campaigns. They are one of the few types of initiatives that companies both large and small can and should engage. The connection to the consumer is strong, personal and lasting. You don’t have to be a major brand linked into every sporting arena to make your presence felt. You also don’t need a national presence to have impact. In fact, it’s more important to pick the right marketing angle than it is the biggest.
The zany madcap events such as the ones that Red Bull, Monster and the other energy drinks have created or aligned with have paid off their investment in spades. They personify their images and grow the brands. Beverages enable local and regional concerts, fairs, and music festivals to exist. It’s a win-win. The events go on, the sponsors gain an audience and create brand loyalty, and the consumer has their ultimate recreational experience. They also support the local retailers as they are partners in promoting the events and moving product.
I’ll always remember how, early on, Sweet Leaf Tea garnered its recognition in the marketplace with its Austin City Limits affiliation, and Apple & Eve solidified its wholesome, good-for-you image with its connection to the Newport Folk Festival. Just recently, Bawls has begun to regain a foothold within the online gamer world that the brand once rode to prominence. These are just a few shining examples of the types of affiliations that beverage marketers should consider. We receive dozens of news items of similar ilk, and post them on our BevNET site every week, from Rihanna concerts to movie premieres.
Sponsorships enable you to connect with the consumer and your community. As marketers you should look for events that are a natural extension of your brand affinity. There are music concerts of every genre, from classical to rap, that can help to enhance your brand and its image. Choose the event that serves you best, but make sure you choose something. It will serve you well.