Two news items from the past week might signal a return to some successful sponsorship practices of the past.
Marking the beginning of its second year as a sponsor of the 23XI Racing NASCAR Cup Series team, financial services app MoneyLion launched MoneyLion Hot Pass, a rewards program.
Racing fans who download the MoneyLion mobile app and participate in weekly Twitter polls can earn rewards such as 23XI merchandise, VIP access to races, and meet and greets with drivers Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. The polls will feature questions related to spending and financial literacy tips. Hot Pass will also offer cash, tickets to watch races from pit road, pre-race pit pass credentials, and race-used items and autographs.
Decades ago, the concept of offering rewards programs specifically tied to a sponsored property or sport threatened to become ubiquitous, but the rise of other digital media and content plays soon relegated the practice despite its potential to connect with passionate fans and offer them tangible reasons to become involved with a brand partner.
The other announcement that harkened back to earlier partnership activity was the revelation that supermarket giant Kroger would become the jersey patch sponsor of the Cincinnati Reds.
The locally-based chain, according to Sports Business Journal, has been a Reds sponsor for more than 69 years and will increase its current commitment from more than $1 million a year to $5 million annually.
At that level, the sponsorship will surely become Kroger’s largest sports partnership, putting it ahead of its naming rights to Kentucky’s football stadium and a NASCAR Cup Series sponsorship of JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 Camaro and driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
That fact could lead the company to look to recoup some of its significant investment by establishing a vendor program in which it passes through rights (negotiated in advance with the team, of course) to the marketers and manufacturers who sell products in Kroger’s stores.
Such programs are currently popular for supermarket sponsors of pro golf tournaments, but were once a staple of retail sports sponsorships in auto racing and other sports. Such a program operating in Major League Baseball could raise interest from other grocery operators, as well as pique the curiosity of other retail categories, including sporting goods, hardware, drugstores and convenience stores.