Already under fire for a host of reasons, pharmaceutical companies are not doing themselves any favor by being disingenuous about their reasons for sponsoring. Quotes, such as the one from a Pfizer spokesperson in our story and in consumer media the past few weeks that sponsorships have nothing to do with promoting products, are sure to be seen by consumers as patently absurd at best and as deliberate lies at worst. Anyone doing a quick database search of IEG SR archives or a host of other publications can quickly uncover statements from pharma marketers about the direct promotion of prescription medications through sponsorship. Although properties may at first be happy that such spin by drug makers might help to keep their sponsorships going, in the long run it does not do our industry any good to have companies who sponsor to the tune of tens of millions of dollars portraying those investments essentially as acts of charity, rather than the brand–and business-building partnerships they are.

Fisher-Price’s experience with Fiesta Broadway offers a lesson to other properties: The best way to overcome sponsor trepidation about your price tag or high activation costs in your market is not to undermine your value by discounting fees, but instead to add value by delivering exemplary service. “We thought long and hard about the Fiesta Broadway sponsorship because looking at the cost versus expected return, we weren’t sure it made sense for us,” said Fisher-Price’s Brenda Andolina. “It was expensive to execute and it was a one-day event.” But sponsorship sales staff at producer All Access Entertainment persuaded Fisher-Price to take a chance on the event by promising assistance in driving attendees to the company’s proprietary area. “They were very aware of our needs and bent over backward for us,” Andolina said. “They put us in a great location, hung a banner across a street that was four lanes wide and directed traffic to us. That type of execution will make it easier for them to attract a repeat sponsor.”

While research has shown that primary sponsorship of NASCAR Nextel Cup teams positively impacts sponsors’ stock prices, Lars Bo Jeppesen of Danish agency Promovator points out the apparently similar effect of sponsorship of the ’04 UEFA European Football Championship. Official beer sponsor Carlsberg experienced a 13.5 percent rise in its share price on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange during the three weeks of the tournament. The average price of the other blue-chip companies listed on the exchange increased less than three percent during the same period. The brewer also credits the sponsorship with helping it achieve an overall 18 percent sales increase in ’04 at a time when beer sales in many countries have been struggling against increased consumption of wine and spirits.

Venues that offer signage opportunities should note how wildly popular digital signage has become among corporate marketers. Research firm Frost & Sullivan recently issued a report that notes digital signage ad revenue in the U.S. increased 39 percent from ’03 to ’04. The report also sees no diminishing of advertisers’ appetite for dynamic signage: It projects average annual revenue growth of 67 percent between now and 2011.

Lesa Ukman