TicketManager | More Than a Name: Will DeColdest Crawford and Sauce Gardner Win for Partners?

Is there anyone who doesn’t love University of Nebraska wide receiver DeColdest Crawford’s 30-second spot for SOS Heating & Cooling?

And who wouldn’t chuckle over the fact that Buffalo Wild Wings’ newest limited-edition menu item is Sauce Sauce, in partnership with New York Jets rookie cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner?

Both deals are examples of fun, feel-good advertising that throw positive light on their respective brands. By that measure, they are already successful. Any substantive discussion of their actual worth would require deeper information on the marketers’ objectives, investment and results.

But these buzzworthy partnerships also serve as solid reminders to all marketers that no matter how attention-grabbing and likable a partnership may be, it requires more than just popularity to make a lasting impact. The key to achieving long-term success is not whether consumers notice or appreciate the association—it’s whether and how it is activated.

We know this from industry and scholarly research, which has long shown that whether the target audience “gets” the sponsorship or not, the continued activation of a deal is what can ultimately move them to change their feelings toward a brand, add it to their consideration set, make a purchase, or whatever other behavior the marketer wants to encourage.

Buffalo Wild Wings has already started down that road, hosting an autograph signing with Gardner last week at its location in Wayne, N.J., with the noteworthy detail that the signings—exclusively for members of its Blazin’ Rewards loyalty program–were done in sauce. The chain promises additional promotions this year, “with events as well as programs that will benefit the Buffalo Wild Wings Foundation.”

Whether a partnership is as cool as DeColdest or as hot as “Sauce,” surrounding it with other marketing efforts that build engagement and relevance among consumers is the only way to make sure it will work.

A footnote: That one of the most talked-about NIL deals of the new college football season came out of the University of Nebraska raises another issue regarding partnerships with individuals, as opposed to organizations, teams, leagues, schools, etc.

Surely the marketers at SOS Heating & Cooling must have given some thought to hiring coach Scott Frost upon his return to Lincoln in 2017, no? The conquering hero who led the Cornhuskers to a national champion as QB returning 20 years later as head coach? And with that name?

Well, if it did consider such a move, SOS dodged a bullet by not doing so, as the past few underwhelming seasons have given rise to an ever-growing “Fire Frost” movement.

Brands should keep in mind that fans’ deepest loyalties almost always lie with teams and institutions, not individuals, so they should tread carefully when affiliating their brands with players, coaches, entertainers and others.