Sponsor identification, whether through signage placement, digital branding, logos on uniforms and other types of advertising-like inventory often gets a bad rap. In truth, I have often been dismissive of these types of partner benefits, referring to them as the low-hanging fruit of the sponsorship tree.
The reason behind that is not because there is anything wrong with benefits that deliver exposure to the sponsor. On the contrary, visibility is a cornerstone of sponsorship and necessary for brand partners to achieve lower-funnel results.
Sponsor branding only becomes a negative when—as is too often the case—it is perceived as the sole or primary reason for sponsoring by either partnership buyers or sellers. And when its associated impressions and media values are relied on as the singular metric used to judge a partnership’s performance.
The bottom line is sponsorship can, and should be, more than just a branding opportunity. Branding is the critical first step, but it should not be the only step for most corporate partners.
Research company Wakefield recently shared a great example of the importance of sponsor visibility in generating results. Working with the Florida Panthers and JetBlue—which this summer renewed its 14-year official domestic airline status with the team and added its JetBlue Vacations unit as the lead brand for the partnership and title sponsor for the arena WiFi—Wakefield surveyed the NHL club’s fans.
Its early-season research determined that 56 percent of fans recognized the JetBlue Vacations sponsorship. That figure rose to two-thirds among season-ticket holders, as well as two-thirds of single-ticket purchasers.
That awareness was key in leading to preference for the brand over competitors Expedia and Trivago. Compared to fans who were unaware of the sponsorship, those who recognized JetBlue Vacations’ association with one Panthers asset were 57 percent more likely to prefer the sponsor to its competitors. Among those who recognized its association with two or more assets, brand preference shifted by 65 percent.
According to Wakefield, “Fans aware of the partnership are 2.5X more likely to pick JetBlue Vacations as their first choice to book vacations.”
It’s worth noting that JetBlue is further activating the partnership to build on that awareness and affinity among the team’s supporters. JetBlue Vacations is offering vacation package discounts to season-ticket holders.
The Panthers and JetBlue are also collaborating on programs benefiting the South Florida community. They kicked off the renewed partnership in August with a volunteer event preparing and serving meals to those in need through Broward Partnership, the largest comprehensive homeless services provider in Broward County.
JetBlue Travel Products, the wholly owned subsidiary of JetBlue Airways Corp. that operates JetBlue Vacations, is based in Dania Beach, Fla.