(For us sponsorship old-timers, it’s likely nothing will surpass the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, but it’s not for lack of candidates.)
However, the day before the first bowl games kicked off, the former Alfa Romeo Formula 1 team seemingly tried to steal their thunder and claim top prize in the most ridiculous incorporation of a sponsor’s name sweepstakes.
With the Italian automaker leaving the organization (to be replaced by Audi beginning in 2026), the new name—logically—would again include Sauber, reflecting the legacy of Peter Sauber, who founded the team that first raced in F1 32 years ago. But common sense went out the window with the decision to brand the team with the names of two of its sponsoring brands: online betting operation Stake and livestreaming service Kick, the upstart competitor to Twitch backed by the owners of Stake.
Not thrilled with the name Starco Brands LA Bowl Hosted By Gronk? What do you think of Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber?
You are not alone if you dislike that headscratcher. The negative reaction on social media resulted in the team posting the following statement four days after the name was revealed: “It seems our recently released team name has been getting a lot of attention. While we are not ready to unveil the final result yet, we are aware of what’s at stake. Rest assured we are on a mission to unleash the most exciting team identity this team has ever seen. Gone are the days of the short and sweet. We’re cooking up a feast.” The organization indicated the new name would be announced on New Year’s Day.
Was the first name a deliberate red herring to gain attention or did the team and its brand partners actually think no one would bat an eye at Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber?
Regardless, this is an example of what can happen when properties and sponsors put too much focus on branding assets and naming rights instead of making their partnerships relevant and engaging to fans and consumers.
Contrast that to this week’s news that OURA, makers of the smart ring that delivers personalized health data, has been named an official partner of the New York Knicks.
While the brand will receive signage inside and outside Madison Square Garden, the partnership’s signature elements will revolve around digital content. According to the deal’s announcement: “OURA will be the presenting partner of two original content series that will run across Knicks digital channels, one which spotlights the key role that strength and conditioning plays within the organization and the other featuring custom storytelling content with Knicks guard Jalen Brunson.” Brunson will share how his Oura Ring has aided recovery and discuss the impact of sleep on his game.
Oura’s activation may not be revolutionary, but it is an organic way to connect with a property and its fans, especially compared to the disconnect of Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber.