The debate over the value of exclusivity in corporate partnerships is as evergreen as a ponderosa pine, primarily because there is no singular answer to the question of what it is worth.
Value is dependent on many variables related to the brand partner’s business and objectives. For certain sponsors, being the singular partner associated with a property or program is paramount. For others, it may be a benefit that’s nice to have, but far from necessary.
Exclusivity can of course refer to category—the only bank, soft drink, telecommunications provider, etc.—aligned with a rights holder. Value in that regard primarily is based on the competitive dynamics of an industry or sector.
But being a sole sponsor can also refer to being apart from any other brand, regardless of category. This is often achieved by being the title—and only—sponsor of a designated area, piece of content, proprietary program, etc. Many sponsors place a premium on separating themselves from the crowd and avoiding clutter, believing that they will be able to forge stronger connections with fans and audiences if they are not competing for their attention.
The issue for rights holders is just how much of a premium will a brand be willing to pay for exclusivity and will that be enough to make it worth their while to limit a specific asset to one partner rather than opening it up to multiple players.
Unfortunately, the focus on exclusivity often pushes aside considerations of the alternative—the value of non-competitive sponsors sharing a key property asset. For example, take a look at what the Philadelphia Eagles are doing around the launch of their new kelly-green throwback jersey, which the NFL reports had the highest-selling alternate jersey launch upon its release on July 31.
Knowing the jersey would be a huge hit with Eagles fans, the team could have sought a premium price for an exclusive tie-in. Instead, the team has taken the opposite approach, with a multitude of existing sponsors becoming promotional partners of the jersey campaign, per Sports Business Journal.
They include Toyota, which sponsored the jersey’s digital reveal and McDonald’s, which is offering a kelly-green meal box with Eagles players imagery. Convenience-store chain Wawa is wrapping its hoagies in team-logoed kelly-green paper while the battle of the beers sees Bud Light producing kelly-green aluminum bottles and Miller Lite turning its cases the same color while the cans inside remain white.
The sum total of all those activations, plus the others not mentioned, provides incremental value for each individual program—delivering a big bang without shelling out the big bucks for exclusivity.
So while the answer to whether sole or shared sponsorship is better will always be situational, we should remember not fall victim to thinking standing alone is always preferable to sharing the spotlight.