Sharp dabbles a bit in a lot of different major sports sponsorships and has for several decades, but its recent interest in up-and-coming sports properties could be an intriguing harbinger of what’s to come in the near future.
Currently, the Japanese electronics giant sponsors the National Football League’s New York Giants, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons.
In the National Basketball Association, it partners with Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Like a number of leading brands, Sharp has expanded is sponsorship umbrella to some minor league organizations including the Charlotte Knights and Winston-Salem Dash, both affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, as well as the San Diego Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks’ minor league team in the American Hockey League.
Sharp’s recent approach to corporate sports sponsorship reflects something of an evolution among companies of all sizes looking to make inroads into new and emerging markets by spending advertising and sales dollars in markets that haven’t been the traditional targets of these monolithic brands.
That’s not to say Sharp isn’t a player in the big leagues. Its logo was affixed to the front of Manchester United’s jerseys from 1983 to 2000, essentially becoming synonymous with the world’s most famous and popular international soccer club for an entire generation. It doesn’t get any bigger than in the world of international sports sponsorship and branding.
The move toward minor league baseball and hockey sponsor, however, is an interesting alternative that more companies are embracing as the business of minor league sports continues to expand. Terminix, Allegiant Airlines and Tickets.com, household names in their own right, are but a few examples of companies looking to cash in on the growing popularity and unique value-add offered by more regional and local sports entertainment properties.
Unlike their major league brethren, minor league and emerging top-tier professional sports leagues such as Major League Soccer and the WNBA provide a different type of marketing opportunity. Sure, everyone loves being associated with the Olympics or the Golden State Warriors, but these minor league partnerships aren’t necessarily tied to the performance of the team or any given star on a team.
It’s about getting your products, services and brand exposed to the masses and building brand awareness with a whole new universe of potential new customers and business partners. Whether it’s the naming rights for a new Triple-A baseball park or securing the rights to be the official technology partner or airline of the league itself, there’s a glut of new domestic and international sports sponsorship opportunities becoming available each year.
“We support our local communities, teams and markets,” said Naeran Rubio, senior communications manager, Sharp Electronics Corp. “Local sponsorships can be initiated by the local Sharp office while larger, national sponsorships are handled by our corporate marketing team.”
In addition to its MLB, NBA and assorted minor league associations, Sharp is a sponsor of NCAA football’s annual Peach Bowl as well as the PGA’s President’s Cup (a biannual golf tournament pitting the top American professionals versus their a team of international opponents). It also sponsors major sports venues including MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
Sharp declined to discuss specific total dollar investments in its extensive sports sponsorship programs. Its strategy focuses not only being a visible presence at these wildly popular sporting events but to also use these opportunities to showcase the breadth, depth and quality of their products at the same time.
“As an official sponsor of the New York Giants and New York Jets, we are proud to collaborate with MetLife Stadium to bring our advanced display technology to the fans,” Rubio said.
Sharp has approximately 1,445 Sharp professional displays placed throughout the stadium. The displays, which range in size from 20 inches to 80 inches, are used to show a range of content including live action, menu boards, advertising and more.
Self-promotion and the accompanying perks of tickets for customers, partners and employees is always part of the overall sports sponsorship allure. But for Sharp, the focus on local teams and markets extends far beyond the playing field.
“The best thing about being a sponsor is the opportunity to give back to our communities via local charity events that the teams are involved in,” Rubio said. “We recently had the chance to donate four interactive displays to a school for special needs children in New Jersey. At the event, team member from the New York Giants came to the school and interacted with students and our displays.
“It was an amazing experience to see the kids so happy to be able to hang out with these sports celebrities,” Rubio added.