With its seemingly endless stream of new product innovations and an ever-growing consumer appetite for the latest gadgets, the consumer electronics industry remains a hot sponsorship category.

As with other technology-based categories, convergence is a major issue for electronics companies and the properties they sponsor. Once content with exclusivity for TVs, stereos and other mainstay products, the trend now is to lock up all categories that reflect the ability of a wide number of devices to play music and video in addition to performing other functions.

Case in point: Sony Corp.’s new seven-year, $305-million FIFA deal, which includes exclusivity in the “digital life” category, including high definition TVs, audio components, personal computers and gaming equipment.

Other hot buttons for the category include displaying and demonstrating new products–HDTV being the current focus of many sponsorships–and building relations with the trade through client entertainment, in-store promotions and employee sales incentive contests.

COMPANY
BenQ America Corp.
53 Discovery
Irvine, CA 92618

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
Upstart consumer electronics company plans to sponsor Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest and other music properties in the U.S. this year as part of a brand-building push to gain a foothold in the U.S. market. Uses sponsorship to gain visibility, acquire new retail accounts and build relationships with existing trade partners. Looks for broad exclusivity, on-site product display and title or presenting status; when top tier is not available the company tries to carve out an on-site component it can own. BenQ—short for “bringing enjoyment and quality to life”—signed first-time sponsorships earlier this year with two jazz festivals in Canada. Sells personal computers, LCD displays, MP3 players, scanners and other products.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
Jimmy Davlouros
executive vice president, sales and marketing,
BenQ North America
949/255-9500

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
Title: BenQ Live Concert Series, Canada. Presenting: North by Northeast Music and Film Festival and Conference, Toronto. Cosponsor: TD Canada Trust Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival; TD Canada Trust Vancouver Int’l Jazz Festival.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Formerly known as Acer Communications and Multimedia Inc., Taoyuan, Taiwan-based parent BenQ Corp. was spun off by Taiwanese computer giant Acer Inc. BenQ also sponsors Western Europe’s National Gamers League and has official IT status with the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week. Largest-ever deal was $29 million to be official IT sponsor of ’04 UEFA European Football Championship.

COMPANY
Panasonic Corp. of North America
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
Panasonic uses sponsorship to reinforce its Ideas for Life positioning, enhance brand image, demonstrate products, engage consumers and retailers, and drive incremental sales. Looks for media and ad impressions, PR stories and exposure of brand and products to “major influencers.” Auto racing is primary sponsorship activity. “Efficiently leveraging our motorsports program at the retail level is an important part of Panasonic’s ongoing brand strategy,” said Gene Kelsey, vice president of brand strategy, who reviews and signs off on ties with Greenberg and Andy Takani, president. Leverages IndyCar team with mobile marketing rig at key retail accounts in race markets. Touts HD TVs and DVD recorders through Busch team. Collaborating with Wyndham Hotels on promotion benefiting Komen Foundation.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
Bob Greenberg
vice president of corporate brand marketing
201/348-7000

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
Title: Panasonic Open, Dew Action Sports Tour, Louisville; Smith Brothers NASCAR Busch Series team; Super Aguri Fernandez Racing IRL IndyCar Series team. Cosponsor: AFL San Jose SaberCats; MLB San Francisco Giants; MLS. Supplier: USA Luge.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Accepts proposals at www.panasonic.com/corp_cont/sponsorship/sponsorship.asp. Ultimate parent Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. of Osaka, Japan is a TOP VI sponsor (categories: audio, TV and video equipment and recording media, and car navigation systems) and titles the Toyota Racing Formula 1 team. Panasonic Canada Inc. earlier this year renamed Toronto’s New Yorker Theatre the Panasonic Theatre.

COMPANY
Philips Electronics
North America Corp.
1251 Avenue of the Americas
20th Floor
New York, NY 10020

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
Following the lead of its Dutch parent company, Philips has streamlined its U.S. sponsorship program to focus on soccer as a marketing platform. The company leverages its tie to the U.S. federation primarily through online activations, such as providing real-time scoring through MatchTracker on USSoccer.com. Philips also is presenting sponsor of the Web site. The company looks for opportunities it can leverage across multiple divisions: Its five-year U.S. Soccer deal affords exclusivity in consumer electronics; lighting/light bulbs and lamps; electronic shavers and electronic kitchen appliances. At Philips Arena, company operates the Philips Experience, a 10,000-square-foot interactive zone that involves visitors in sports and TV-related activities that involve the use of Philips’ products.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
Terry A. Fassburg
vice president, brand communications
212/536-0500

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
Title: Philips Arena, Atlanta, through 2019. Cosponsor: U.S. Soccer

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Amsterdam-based Royal Philips Electronics N.V. is an official partner of the ’06 FIFA World Cup. Philips AG Consumer Electronics, Switzerland, sponsors the Sauber Petronas Formula 1 team; the company has provided the team with plasma screens, DVD equipment and LCD projectors for wind-tunnel and trackside use.

COMPANY
Samsung Electronics
America, Inc.
105 Challenger Rd.
Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
Uses sponsorship to build brand visibility, gain touchpoints with consumers and build relations with the trade. Primary focus is on proprietary cause-related programs that can be leveraged with trade partners, such as Samsung’s Hope for Education–a year-old program that donates millions of dollars worth of consumer electronics products and Microsoft software to schools–and the three-year-old Samsung’s Seasons of Hope program that supports nonprofits linked to high-profile sports and music celebrities. Samsung leverages the tie by aligning a national retailer around each cause for account-specific in-store promotions. Recently partnered with Best Buy Co. to cotitle the Home Run Porch at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, home to the MLB Twins. Plans to activate the partnership with on-site promotions giving away flat screen TVs.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
Peter Weedfald
senior vice president, sales and marketing
201/229-4000

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
Title: Samsung‘s Four Seasons of Hope; Samsung’s Hope for Education. Cosponsor: AFL Philadelphia Soul; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; Jazz at Lincoln Center presented by Bank of America; MLB Minnesota Twins; Time Warner Center.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Korean parent Samsung Electronics Co. sponsorships include TOP VI (category: wireless communication equipment), the LPGA’s Samsung World Championship, World Cyber Games and the Nobel Museum’s ’07-’10 worldwide traveling exhibition. Weedfald, who oversees all Samsung Electronics America marketing initiatives, signs off on corporate ties and those funded by its business units, including mobile phone unit Samsung Telecommunications America. The company’s European operations recently signed a five-year, $95-million deal with England’s Chelsea Football Club on behalf of mobile phone products.

COMPANY
Sharp Electronics Corp.
One Sharp Plaza
Mahwah, NJ 07430

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
Company uses its partnership with more than a dozen pro sports teams–many of which are in renewal talks–as a platform to drive retail traffic, generate visibility and entertain retail accounts. Also looks for opportunities to demonstrate current and future products. “Plasma TVs are hot right now, but what we want to see is what other opportunities exist. How can other technologies be incorporated down the line?” said Shawn Downs, vice president and group account director with Strategic Sports Group, a New York City-based agency that screens and manages Sharp’s ties. Sharp recently placed more than 50 Aquos flat panel TVs in premium seating areas in redesigned Dodger Stadium.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
Andrew Kritzer
senior director, marketing and communications
201/529-8200

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
MLB Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants; NBA Memphis Grizzlies, New Jersey Nets; NFL New York Jets; NHL Florida Panthers.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
Also using new multiyear tie with Giants to promote the company’s solar energy systems; the company has installed a system on the roof of SBC Park and has Sharp Solar signage. It also is running a radio promo around the tie encouraging consumers to take advantage of California’s rebates and tax credits for installing solar electric systems and to call for a home evaluation. Subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Sharp Corp.

COMPANY
Sony Electronics Inc.
16450 W. Bernardo Dr.
San Diego, CA 92127

TARGETS/OBJECTIVES/KEY ACTIVATIONS
The consumer electronics subsidiary of Sony Corp. of America is a far less active sponsor than its gaming sibling Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., but it has recently stepped up ties on behalf of its mobile audio and HD TV products. The company recently re-signed with the NHRA to include title of the Sport Compact Racing Series on behalf of its Xplod mobile audio brand. In addition, Sony has aligned with the Padres to promote its HD-equipped sets; the company has placed 240 HDTVs and 560 standard sets throughout Petco Park. Also uses associate sponsorship of Penske’s No. 12 entry to promote its HDTV products. Looks to incorporate multiple products into its deals. For example, Sony titles a PlayStation Zone and sells co-branded Padres digital cameras at Petco Park.

SPONSORSHIP CONTACT
John Dolak
corporate communications
858/942-2400

CURRENT SPONSORSHIPS
Title: NHRA Xplod Sport Compact Racing Series. Cosponsor: Penske Racing NASCAR Nextel Cup entry; MLB San Diego Padres.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
In April, ultimate parent, Tokyo-based Sony Corp., signed an eight-year, $305-million deal to be one of six FIFA Partners beginning in ’07. The tie affords exclusivity in the “digital life” category, including personal computers, gaming platforms and consumer electronics. Sony Corp. also sponsors the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii. Canadian deals include official consumer electronics partner status with the Canadian Football League, cosponsorship of Toronto’s Air Canada Centre and NHL and minor league hockey teams.