Netflix’s first foray into live sports programming, The Netflix Cup, had both elements to love and elements to hate, and unfortunately its sponsorship component falls into the second bucket.
Although the event was full of fun twists on match play golf and showcased how the streaming giant plans to take a fresh approach to live events, its incorporation of presenting sponsors T-Mobile and Nespresso was as old-school as it gets.
For their reported $2 million investment, those brands merely had their names slapped on golf carts and video segments, despite remarks from Peter Naylor, Netflix’s vice president of global advertising sales during an Advertising Week appearance last month that the brands would be integrated in a “natural and holistic” way.
While viewers benefitted from a program that was free of commercial ad blocks interrupting the action, the streaming giant missed an opportunity to deliver more engagement and activation platforms for its sponsors, something it will no doubt get better at as it moves on from its rookie effort.
Consider this a blip for T-Mobile, which has a robust and strategic sponsorship portfolio to rely on—including involvement with this weekend’s Formula 1 Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, just down the Strip from Wynn Golf Club, home of The Netflix Cup.
But it is a disappointing first sponsorship foray for Nespresso, a brand with deep pockets—it just signed David Beckham as a pitchman for its machines and coffees, adding him to a roster of other stars appearing in its ads, including George Clooney, Julia Garner and Simone Ashley—that could be poised to spend much more with sports and entertainment properties considering its stated objectives.
Appearing at the same Advertising Week event as Naylor, Jessica Padula, Nespresso’s vice president of marketing, said The Netflix Cup sponsorship was a chance to “do something big” and “make a statement” for a brand in “household penetration build mode” in the U.S. “What better way to do it than with something that’s the first time and exciting and really a cultural moment that we can associate ourselves with in a way that just introduces people to a different side than they expected.”
Experienced properties and sponsors know that it requires more than billboards and tune-in emails containing espresso martini recipes to make a partnership relevant and give consumers a reason to care, remember and respond. A fully leveraged partnership not only allows brands to penetrate households but also helps them stay there.