“Dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening.”
That might be all very well for you personally (if you’re into that sort of thing), but what about your brand or your store?
Every little thing you do with your brand (and if you don’t see your store as your brand, you should) builds or breaks the consumer’s (or potential consumer’s) perception of you. In 2018 your brand is your most important commodity. It is your currency. It’s what used to be called “goodwill” and businesses will rise or fall almost entirely because of it.
On an immediately commercial www.sports-insight.co.uk level, consumer research repeatedly shows that “brand” now pays a bigger than ever part of the purchase process. A brand’s image will reassure consumers that they are spending wisely, whilst credibility and being on trend will bring in new customers more easily than a simple product pitch.
So who do you trust your brand with?
Partnerships with individuals or organisations can have a huge impact on how a brand is viewed. For a brand, as much as an individual, “a man’s friendships are one of the best measures of his worth” (thanks Darwin), so too consumers will judge an organisation by who they associate with.
It’s common knowledge that successful sponsorships can be worth millions. Usain Bolt and his immeasurable glory will be forever linked with Puma. It will always be the Barclays Premiership for me and David Beckham became so much more than just the modern-day Brylcreem boy.
Conversely, in the sporting arena, contracts are famously ripped up when an athlete or sportsman falls from grace. Think Tiger Woods and Gillette, Lance Armstrong and Maria Sharapova and Nike or Ben Stokes and New Balance – all of whom went their separate ways, for their infidelity, drugs test failures and assault charge respectively.
Being associated with winners or great sportsmanship should be a boon to any brand. The reflected glory of success and the increased publicity it brings is what we are all seeking. But as brand guardians there’s an ongoing responsibility to monitor and review the relationship – and to not be afraid to call time when its due. Sponsoring your local Sunday-league football team may reap rewards while they are flying high in the regional table, but if they’re appearing in the local paper falling out of the town nightclub still wearing their kit with your logo writ large on the front, it’s time to reconsider.
Brand association in the running market had been brought to the fore with the major spring marathons. In Boston and London, two or three brands dominate the individual sponsorship of the elite athletes at the front of the race packs, but more attention can be paid to the events themselves and the businesses that invest in either sponsorship or appearance at the Marathon expos.
In New England, John Hancock (financial services, if you’re wondering) has been the headline sponsor of Boston Marathon for over thirty years. Not heard of them? Neither had I until recently. Back in Old England, Virgin Money has a much more descriptive name so perhaps their equivalent title sponsorship is clearer, and more direct. Their contribution to the financial infrastructure which facilitates the amazing charity fundraising that London is famous for is a natural bridge to the company’s main business area.
Elsewhere, Marathon expos have been on the decline for many years. With the increased distribution of running shoes and proliferation of specialty run and online stores, there is less need from a retail perspective for shoe brands to attend expensive multi-day exhibitions. Other than the official sportswear partner, none of the major footwear brands were at Excel this year for the London event. Despite (or maybe because of) this, the exhibition felt brighter, more innovative and more interesting than in previous years. Brands with secondary associations to marathons see the benefit of association with runners and the chance to present their products or services to 70,000 health aware people. Abbott, Lucozade and TCS brought interaction and engagement to the expo in 2018, as BMW have done previously.
It’s here that it becomes clear that the right partnership also needs the right execution. Just slapping a logo on a race number or hanging some banners at the start and the finish of a local 10km no longer have an impact. At an exhibition, there may be many thousands of runners ready to listen, but to cut through every other message being shouted at them, even to grab their attention for a millisecond, takes imagination and originality. It’s still important to be true to your brand when doing this. While there may be no such thing as bad publicity, attention grabbing stunts can backfire when your brand becomes known for something unsavoury or for a poorly judged partnership (Kim Kardashian and Sketchers anyone?!).
Your brand is the essence of what you stand for. Give it the respect that it deserves.
Attention to detail, rigorous assessment of partners and perfect positioning will serve you well, ensuring you can dance joyfully with everybody watching.