Similar to pushing the shuffle button on a CD player, Sony Electronics, Inc.’s sponsorship portfolio goes through frequent rotation on an annual basis.

The consumer electronics giant adjusts its portfolio each year based on the marketing needs for priority products. The company solidifies most product category budgets by April 1st, the start of its fiscal year.

“Our product mix determines where we go in a given year. We try to return to sponsorships that are successful, but sometimes our product assortment prevents us from returning,” said Brad Thorson, Sony Electronics’ ringleader of experiential marketing.

Sony renews roughly 40 percent of deals in a given year, he said.

Sony uses sponsorship to support advertising campaigns for its hero products, with a focus on events located in targeted DMAs.

“Experiential marketing as a share of Sony’s total marketing dollars has increased, but it doesn’t make much sense to invest in sponsorships that don’t align with our overall marketing strategy.”

While Thorson declined to comment on Sony’s 2014 strategy, a look at last year’s portfolio provides insight into how the company leverages the marketing medium.

Sony in 2013 partnered with film festivals, action sports events and other lifestyle properties to promote the Sony Action Cam, 4K media players and other consumer electronics products.

Ties included the Electric Daisy Carnival EDM festival, Napa Valley Film Festival, Surf City Surf Dog competition in Huntington Beach, Calif. and the Bridge Day presented by Subaru base jumping event in New River Gorge, W.V.

Sony activated the events to showcase its technology in action. For example, the company activated the Surf City Surf Dog competition by outfitting canines with the Sony Action Cam harness for dogs.

“We were looking for ways to talk about the product in a unique environment.”

While Sony has not announced its 2014 portfolio, the company has sponsored several events this year on behalf of the Action Cam. Ties include the Geico Motorcycle EnduroCross series and the May 7-11 Snowboarder Magazine Superpark 18 presented by Gatorade at Oregon’s Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort.

The Key To Success: An Organic Storyline
Sony’s experiential marketing strategy centers on enhancing the consumer experience through organic product integration.

“We don’t want someone to think we’re buying a sponsorship in exchange for brand promotion. We want to ensure we have an authentic connection.”

Thorson points to the Electric Daisy Carnival as an example. Sony activated the music festival with the Sony Electrolounge, a two-story cube-like structure where attendees could access WIFI and check out Sony Action Cams, VAIO computers and other products in a setting endemic to the EDM lifestyle.

“It was a meeting place, rallying point and social media hangout. It was much more than ‘come and check out this stereo equipment.’ ”

Sony activated the Napa Valley Film Festival by outfitting a screening room with 4K projectors and home audio systems.

“We used consumer audio visual products that you can buy off the shelf. Projectionists thought we were nuts, but we succeeded in showing in an over-the-top fashion the extreme edge of what our products can do.”

How Sony’s Sponsorship Strategy Has Evolved
The consumer electronics giant has made the following changes to its sponsorship strategy over the past few years.

More focus on measurement. Thorson in 2011 developed metrics to measure the effectiveness of experiential marketing programs.

“If we’re spending above a certain amount on cost per engagement we’re probably not seeing a return at retail.”

Natural engagement, not purchased engagement. As demonstrated by the Sony Electrolounge, Sony is placing more focus on consumer engagement programs that promote relevant products in an endemic environment.

“All of our technology is related to entertainment. How can we bring that message forward with an entertainment experience for consumers?”

As part of the strategy Sony now relies on its entertainment experience to draw consumers to its on-site promotional space, not premiums.

The strategy has resulted in significant cost savings. Sony quadrupled attendance to its display space at the Lollapalooza music festival and reduced its investment by more than 20 percent as a result of not using premiums.

“What do consumers want to experience at an event, and do we have a story that creates natural engagement as opposed to purchased engagement?”