Fit between a sponsor and a property is a clear driver of sponsorship performance. In fact, the right fit will substantially improve brand awareness. This awareness is often needed to obtain a positive return on sponsorship investments and also to achieve more elaborate goals, like brand image transfer, affinity with a specific target market, better attitude toward the brand and a rise in purchase intents. High fit will increase a brand’s acceptance by the public, and its presence will be perceived as more altruistic.
What is fit?
Fit, also called congruence or relatedness, is the perceived pertinence in consumers’ mind between a sponsee and a sponsor. Spontaneously, we’re thinking about the natural fit between Adidas and the World Cup or Shell’s involvement with Ferrari. This natural association is called “functional fit” for the usefulness of the product or service to the property. There can be multiple degrees of fit, less obvious than the logical congruent associations mentioned above.
Are your consumers predominately hanging at one event or supporting a specific cause? Kruger’s, Canada’s #1 tissue brand, is supporting the Canadian breast Cancer foundation and the Scotties®' Tournament of Hearts® championship precisely because their consumers are involved in such organization or touched by it to some degree.
A brand image is composed of many elements, like brand attributes, a series of associations, benefits and attitudes. The personality match between two brands can be an excellent driver of fit, like the now defunct Nike sponsorship of the Livestrong foundation.
Country of origin
The fit between the nationality of an event and the brand is also an overall driver of perceived pertinence. Examples abound, especially in amateur sports. Roots, a Canadian clothing company, sponsored the Canadian Olympic teams for many years with excellent results.
The consumer’s attitude towards the brand can also act as a powerful driver of fit. This is different from brand image because we are thinking about people’s positive or negative perception of a brand or event. For example, an event perceived as raunchy could go very well with a company that play along those lines like a hot sauce or a motorcycle company. Low level of fit can make a brand stand out and be more recognized, but it is not the norm and also a significant risk to take. For example, Techno-Bloc, a masonry products company, sponsors the Montreal Canadian Hockey team. The absence of fit in this case makes the sponsor stand out and increases its recognition. Fit is a key driver in sponsorship effectiveness. It will positively impact the consumer’s information treatment and will provide a better return on sponsorship objectives. The more degrees of fit you can incorporate into a partnership, the better the recall.
It there a way to fake it?
When there is no evident fit between the sponsor and the property, and you absolutely have to be there as a sponsor, there are ways to mitigate the lack of fit and still make the sponsorship work for you. For instance, banks have to be extremely creative in order to find fit with the multiple properties they sponsor. Indeed, there is very little natural fit between banks and sports. Some have brought forward the philosophical or corporate culture fit between the two organizations. For example, communications focus on the shared values, like performance, excellence, and so forth.
Lloyds Olympic sponsorship and UBS sponsorship of the Alinghi sailing team are examples in which employee’s excellence and motivation are used as a pertinent message. This is called articulation, a process in which the activation campaign is used to create a fit between the sponsor and the property. Even with a very low fit, the association between a sponsor and a property will build over time in the consumer’s mind, provided that sponsorship visibility is significant enough. Examples abound, like Casino sponsorships of sports, even when they have no sport-betting offer, like the Montreal’s Casino sponsorship of F1, football, soccer and tennis.
After about 3 years, consumer surveys show a strong association between the Casino and sports,. After many years, sport properties that have long been abandoned by the Casino sponsorship still have strong ties in the consumers’ mind. This points out the well-documented long-term effect of sponsorship on consumers.