The terms “partner” and “partnership” have become synonymous with “sponsorship” in the vernacular of sports marketing. Too often though, they are merely just words.
So when either a sponsor or rights holder actually lives up to the ideal of being a partner, it deserves our attention and praise.
According to a recent Sports Business Journal story, such an occasion was recently marked when NWHL sponsor Discover Financial Services stepped up to ensure that the league’s post-season Isobel Cup tournament aired on NBCSN.
Although NBC Sports had planned to broadcast the semi-finals and finals when those games were originally scheduled for early February, COVID-19 forced their postponement with no guarantee that NBCSN would pick up the rescheduled postseason in late March.
Longtime NHL sponsor Discover had just signed on as a NWHL partner before the season suspension, but proactively reached out to the league to offer to fund “production costs associated with the games airing exclusively on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and on Twitch internationally,” according to SBJ.
Brands are well known for calling for flexibility on the part of rights holders when objectives shift mid-contract or other changes in circumstances occur. It’s not as frequent that we hear about sponsors stepping in to help when sands shift under a property’s feet.
To be clear, this was not altruism on Discover’s part. It was a sponsor literally putting its money where its mouth is and delivering on its stated commitment to growing women’s hockey. Although not obligated by its contract to make an additional investment, the brand seized the opportunity to demonstrate that commitment loudly and clearly.
If the virtuous circle of sponsorship lives up to its name, Discover will receive the recognition, credit and loyalty it deserves from fans of the sport.