Disrupt was the theme of the 33rd IEG Sponsorship Conference and it was prevalent throughout the week. While disrupt was the official theme, experiential was the unofficial theme amongst all of the presentations. From Peter Thompson of Avaya talking about stadium technology, to BMO Harris and the Chicago Bulls talking about their partnership, to Chris Brandt at Taco Bell talking creative strategy, creating experiences was something all teams and brands are looking to achieve.
MasterCard and Budwesier presentations resonated with me the most. Raja Rajamannar of MasterCard spoke about the “Priceless Role of Partnerships” and how they focus on providing opportunities for cardholders through their sponsorships. The two examples they gave were surprising fans with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like singing with Ellie Goulding and attending the UEFA Champions League Finals with Michael Ballach. They want their cardholders to feel brand loyalty through opportunities and experiences versus offering the best credit card APR.
Budwesier has similar execution but with different motives. Eecol van der Noll, VP of Experiential Marketing at AB InBev, said Budweiser’s old strategy was to put their brand everywhere at sporting events. You would see the Budweiser and Bug Light logo on video board signage, behind home plate, on the canvas, on the pitch and under the scoreboard. Now they are shifting from being the biggest sponsor to being the best, by spending in experimental marketing versus branding. Eecol said it put a smile on his face to see the large “Budweiser” sign above the scoreboard come down at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, because it meant they were spending money smarter.
Both MasterCard and Budweiser are looking beyond signage and TV advertisements in their partnerships. People are easier to reach but harder to engage. Sponsors are no longer able to check the box by putting their brand and product in front of customers expecting them to purchase by association. They want to connect with individuals and tell the story of these connections in an authentic way. In this day in age, the sponsors that are willing to invest in experimental marketing are making the greatest connection to their current and future customers.