With content, it's who takes the title

As the regular-season college football season winds down, my thoughts, of course, turn to content.

Content? Sponsored content, as in post-season bowl games.

Recently I was giving a talk about advertiser-created content, and the conversation turned to the benefits of title sponsorship as opposed to a “presenting” sponsorship. For instance: “The Microsoft Small Business Report” vs. “The Small Business Report brought to you by Microsoft.”

One of my mantras about such content is that presenting sponsorships are significantly less effective than title sponsorships, yet we see marketer after marketer settling for the low-impact stepchild.

The college bowl games are excellent illustrations of this point.

The Rose Bowl is the granddaddy of the New Year’s Day tradition. Does anyone have an inkling of which company “presented” this to 14 million television viewers as well as 93,000 live spectators?  For four years Vizio was the sole presenting sponsor, a designation recently taken over by Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance.  Remember?  Probably not.

Tostidos for 18 years did a great job blending its party-time imagery with the Fiesta Bowl in Scottsdale, AZ.  Its logo was integrated into Fiesta Bowl graphics “above the fold.”  Announcers frequently referred to the contest as the Tostidos Fiesta Bowl—though not always (ESPN, yes, and The New York Times, no).  Vizio, maybe feeling bitten by its poor recognition as the presenting sponsor of the Rose Bowl, last year assumed title of the Fiesta Bowl (though the domain is www.fiestabowl.com, not www.viziofiestabowl.com).

It takes more than just title to make the sponsorship work. It helps to have a lifestyle connection, a raison d’être. Tostidos’ party positioning fit nicely with Fiesta.  Its graphics were integrated seamlessly.  Not sure Vizio has the same stickiness.  We’ll see.

Then there’s Chick-fil-A, the fast-growing southern fried chicken fast-food restaurant.  Chick-fil-A took over title sponsorship of its home state’s Peach Bowl, which was first played in 1968. For the first few years of its sponsorship, the game was referred to as the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.  But a brilliant Chick-fil-A marketer, after listening to on-air reports and reading  post-game clippings referencing only the “Peach Bowl,” had bowl organizers  rename it the “Chick-fil-A Bowl.” Now all references—even those in The New York Times—include Chick-fil-A.  I’d say Chick-fil-A, now a $5 billion enterprise, is the championship bowl winner.