Solar energy companies represent a prime sponsorship target for just about every type of property.
Sponsorship activity in the alternative energy category shows no signs of slowing down.
Solar, wind and other types of companies have broadened their portfolios over the past few months, signing new deals with properties ranging from international sports events to local fairs and festivals.
On the international front, JinkoSolar Holding Co. recently announced a new partnership with Spanish pro soccer club Valencia CF, while MAGE Solar AG has aligned with Belgium soccer team RSC Anderlecht.
Solar energy companies also have ramped up activity in the U.S. market. Recent deals include Canadian Solar, Inc. and the NHL Los Angeles Kings; Hanwha Solar America LLC and the MLB San Francisco Giants; and GreenPointe.Energy LLC and Connecticut’s Thompson International Speedway.
In addition, Sunrun, Inc. sponsored the April 27-29 Stagecoach country music festival powered by Toyota in Indio, Calif.
And deals aren’t limited to companies in the solar space: Players that market wind, geothermal and other forms of renewal energy also are stepping up to the plate. Case in point: Exergy Development Group has come on board as a new top-tier sponsor of the May 13-20 Amgen Tour of California pro cycling race.
“The alternative energy category is very active. We’re seeing more players and more deals,” said Jason Pearl, the Giants’ managing vice president of sponsorship and new business development.
Much of that activity is driven by federal and state subsidies aimed at encouraging alternative energy adoption, he said.
While activity on behalf of wind and other forms of alternative energy is heating up, most deals are driven by solar panel manufacturers, integrators and other companies in the solar energy space.
Below, IEG SR breaks down the three most active segments in the category.
Solar panel manufacturers. Manufacturers of solar panels, wafers and other products largely focus on pro sports properties as a platform to build their brands.
Much of that activity is driven by Chinese and Korean manufacturers.
“There is a glut of Asian manufacturers, and many have an issue with branding. Solar panels are often viewed as a commodity, and people have trouble differentiating brands,” said Kevin Bartram, president of Bartram Sponsorship Strategies, a sponsorship consulting firm.
For example, Korean chip manufacturer Hanwah Solar partnered with the San Francisco Giants to build its presence in the U.S. market. The company is leveraging the tie with the “I Sun SF” marketing campaign that includes solar PV panels in AT&T Park, a branded sun-shaped LED sign above left field and a fundraising campaign that benefits Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco. The “How Far did it Fly” campaign awards $1 to the nonprofit for every foot a homerun hit by the Giants travels.
Other panel manufacturers include Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co. (Infineon Raceway, MLB Seattle Mariners); SolarWorld (Portland Fashion Week); and Yingli Green Energy (FIFA World Cup, U.S. Soccer).
Solar panel installers. While panel manufacturers focus on national and regional sports properties to build their brands, companies that install solar systems primarily sponsor local events to educate consumers about alternative energy.
Case in point: Sunrun sponsored the Stagecoach music festival to gain one-on-one marketing opportunities to talk up solar energy. The company markets solar financing around which homeowners can receive a solar energy system in exchange for a monthly fee with little or no money down.
“Ninety-seven percent of Americans overestimate the cost of going solar, and sponsoring Stagecoach was a way for us to teach homeowners that they can switch to solar without paying much money—if any—to install the panels,’ said Bill Stewart, Sunrun’s vice president of marketing.
The company was also drawn to Stagecoach due to the festival’s older demographic and location in Southern California, he said.
“The majority of attendees were over the age of 35, which means they are more likely to have a family and own homes.”
Sunrun plans to sponsor events located in other markets, said Susan Wise, Sunrun’s PR manager. In addition to California, the company markets in Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Pennsylvania, with additional states in the works.
San Francisco-based creative agency Heat spearheaded the Stagecoach sponsorship on behalf of Sunrun.
Utilities. In addition to solar panel manufacturers and installers, utilities are increasingly using sponsorship to promote their alternative energy offerings.
In what is perhaps the biggest sponsorship push in the category, NRG Energy, Inc. is using partnerships with the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New England Patriots and other high-profile NFL teams to demonstrate solar, wind and other forms of alternative energy in action.
Other electric companies also are signing new sponsorships or supporting existing partnerships with solar build-outs.
For example, Arizona Public Service Co. and the NBA Phoenix Suns last month turned on roughly 1,000 solar panels located on the roof of the US Airways Center parking garage. The garage is now called the APS Suns Powered Solar Structure.