[Sponsoring a cycling team often comes off as a labor of love, rather than a sound marketing investment. It doesn't have to. The good news for marketers is that there are many ways to increase their return without ramping up the resources attached to the sponsorship. This series will explore them, one at a time. And briefly - because marketers are busy people.]
How to Sponsor a Cycling Team
Part 3: Pony up, Buttercup
The Wall Street Journal reported today that many of the Super Bowl advertisers from years past won't be returning to the big game this year. Most cited the economy. It doesn't help that the price has gone up again - this time to $3 million for a 30-second spot.
Included in the list of Super Bowl DNS for 2009 is Garmin, who advertised in 2007 and 2008. But unlike most of the others staying on the sidelines, Garmin said their decision was "unrelated to the economy."
Go ahead, cheer. Cycling 1; Super Bowl 0. We win.
Garmin's budget shift helps the rest of us make the case that there may be meaningful ROI to be had from sponsoring cycling. And you don't even have to spend $3 million to sponsor a squad. But you do need to pony up, and where the budget comes from is as important as how much you need to allocate.
Garmin's Super Bowl savings are not just the $3 million they didn't spend on the media. They also didn't have to create a world-class ad expressly for the occasion, construct a microsite to capture all that game-day traffic, create an accompanying campaign for their other marketing channels, and fly 100 of their best customers, distributors and partners to the game, where they put them up in a luxury box and fed them gourmet hot dogs at $250/head. The $3 million in media is only half the investment.
Cycling is the same way. Or it ought to be, anyway. If your budget to sponsor a cycling team is $20K, think about how much of that you need (creative costs) to make the most of what you're giving directly to the team (media costs). If you give all $20K, you've got nothing left for orange cowbells like the ones ING gave away at the Capital Criterium, prizes and premiums to give away to racers, product samples to distribute to the team you've essentially hired to act as ambassadors, or travel expenses to get your representatives at the events for the in-person marketing that's so important.
So how much should you earmark? Naturally, it depends. But start with 1/3 and then figure out if that's enough to do everything you want with the team. But if you put nothing aside, all you've done is buy the :30, without an ad to run in that block.
Teams, don't go hatin on me for pulling budget out of your coffers. Better to have sponsors who get the most of a smaller investment and come back next year, than to spend the entire off-season hunting after a year of burn-and-churn.
For more thoughts on marketing through bicycle racing, try the section entitled "What GamJams Believes" in the GamJams Media Kit, available for download as a PDF here.