Making the most of big event sponsorships

by John Cassillo, FleishmanHillard Los Angeles

Published on
August 22, 2016

As the Rio Olympics comes to an end, John Cassillo, a consumer marketing and communication specialist from our global partner FleishmanHillard, looks at recent examples of brands succesfully and authentically leveraging sponsorships. 

Your brand is an official sponsor of the Final Four. Or the Super Bowl. Or the Daytona 500. You put forth a lot of money to get that spot, but the only visible benefit is your name or logo on the game. And the benefits to your customers don’t seem obvious. On top of that, your largest competitor is de-positioning your sponsorship through its social media channels, using legal workarounds to continue talking about the game, too. Your large investment is suddenly looking questionable.

That’s the situation sponsors sometimes face, whether it’s on sports’ largest stages or some of its more localized, smaller ones, too. With so many partners, so many messages and so many constraints on how to activate, sponsorships can end up being no more than a logo in the venue. Even during the Super Bowl, viewers recall less than 10 percent of ads. Why would they remember something as simple as a logo?

The answer? They don’t. It’s why sponsors need to use authentic engagement tactics to speak to their audience and build lasting relationships through their sports partnerships. Some recent examples:

Nike Lets Fans Be “His Airness”

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan brand, Nike gave fans the ultimate experience at the 2015 NBA All-Star Game in New York: to relive Michael Jordan’s greatest career moments. Users were invited into an immersive, 10 million-pixel display where they could recreate two of his signature championship-winning shots. The 1,200-square foot, responsive LED installment was about connecting fans to the part of Air Jordan they love the most: the memories of watching Jordan himself achieve at a high level. Images and video of the activation were some of the biggest highlights of the star-studded weekend.

Taco Bell Encourages Young People to Live Más

Taco Bell’s consumer demographics skew younger, and the company has used this information to inform its sponsorship decisions. For the 2015 College Football Playoff, they introduced the Live Más Student Section, providing free tickets and pre-game fun for fans with a valid student idea at the games. They did it again in 2016, this time adding the Live Más Scholarship. Tying into their sponsorship goals and overall marketing slogan, the scholarship targets young people’s self-expression and uses it to help get them to college and receive a proper advanced education.


PepsiCo Game Day Grub Match

Food is a major part of the Super Bowl, and it’s also a major part of PepsiCo’s business (FleishmanHillard represents various PepsiCo brands). Joining the two and celebrating promising young chefs in the process seemed like a perfect match. PepsiCo’s Game Day Grub Match returns this year, challenging the Culinary Institute of America’s best chefs to use Pepsi food and beverage products to create the ultimate Super Bowl dishes. Working with a host of former NFL players, Food Network’s Anne Burrell and digital media company Tastemade, PepsiCo created a fun and genuine experience for everyone involved. Best of all, it got fans talking about how to use the company’s products for their own game day meals.


As the noise around these large events continues to grow, brands are going to be challenged more and more to connect with fans in the hopes of strengthening a lasting relationship. For those that take this challenge as more than just a tweet or a sweepstakes, or a free water bottle at the venue entrance, there’s a good chance they’ll be rewarded.

About the author

John Cassillo helps support the consumer sector team in FleishmanHillard’s Los Angeles office, handling client marketing and communications, sponsorship activations and social media recommendations. His experience includes securing top-tier business press opportunities for clients large and small, managing on-site marketing activations, creating brand campaign materials, launching new companies and originating client social media activities. Prior to joining the agency, Cassillo held positions at Edelman and SHIFT Communications

This article was originally posted on FleishmanHillard TRUE.