By: Kevin Houseknecht and Liz Niton
Well, we’ve made it to the end of 2020. COVID-19 managed to change the “normal” in about everything we knew, changing drastically some of the simplest things like how we communicate and stay connected.
Brand marketers were challenged, as it became a test to see who could adapt their brand plans and pivot the quickest. One thing's for sure, 2020 has changed how we approach sponsorship marketing.
As we close out the year, our team has pulled together our picks for some of the most memorable sponsorships of 2020. With everything from fast food to fitness equipment and even all the way to politics, this year has been full of some great brand integrations.
Kicking us off, it’s the partnership that whipped us into shape, Peloton x Beyoncé. It's not every day a brand can partner with a cultural icon, but earlier this year, Peloton announced a multi-year partnership with their most requested playlist artist, Beyoncé, in which she will help curate classes for the fitness company’s subscription service.
The partnership kicked off to commemorate Homecoming season for students at ten Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs) across the United States. As most Homecomings shifted to virtual settings this year, Peloton and Beyoncé created a series of themed workout experiences to extend Homecoming and offered two-year digital memberships to students at participating HBCUs.
"Peloton and I both believe that the power of music can help uplift, motivate and inspire those on their fitness journeys" - Beyoncé
This is what we love to see.
During one of the most stressful times to date this year (election week), the Calm App made us all take a deep breath and laugh just a little with their brand placement during CNN’s live coverage of the 2020 Presidential election.
Calm has been slowly gaining some steam this year with their multiple different brand placements, however none of them have had as much traction as their election night partnership with CNN. While hundreds of thousands of Americans were glued to their televisions during election night, Calm was able to strategically place their logo at the bottom corner of the CNN Key Race Alerts throughout the evening. This placement seemed to have worked wonders for the app as they had over 35,000 downloads on the two days after Election Night, which is about 10,000 more per day than what they were averaging the week prior.
This just goes to show that even the smallest sponsorship placements can have some of the largest impacts, if the brand fit is right.
There is definitely no monkeying around with this sponsorship. This past October the NFLPA announced an exclusive, long-term deal with daily fantasy sports (DFS) platform, Monkey Knife Fight. This deal is one of the first that bring together a DFS platform and a players association.
As part of the multi-year partnership, the NFLPA became a strategic owner in the DFS company, which doesn't happen very often. The deal also includes a long-term licensing agreement, joint marketing commitment and significant involvement from players in multiple Monkey Knife Fight activities.
It seems that the NFLPA was not only thinking about their own organization when building out deal terms but the players as well. DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA noted that “With this deal we have taken another large step to solidifying the role of players being collectively involved in businesses that partner with their sport.”
Despite the uncertainty of sports leagues at the beginning of the pandemic, the National Women's Soccer League and new commissioner Lisa Baird went to work this year. While many sports leagues faced declining viewership, the NWSL enjoyed a massive 493% bump in viewership year-over-year thanks to new partnerships with CBS and Twitch. Both broadcasters had provided important visibility for the league's NWSL Challenge Cup, a major bubble tournament held in Utah.
Procter & Gamble and Secret Deodorant, major sponsors of the United States Women’s National Team, became Presenting Sponsors of the Challenge Cup, expanding their relationship within women’s soccer and using the platform to show their support for women's sports. Throughout the tournament, the brand was integrated into content such as the “Secret No Sweat Play of the Game” and “Post-Game Day Recap”(s), all while being the presenting sponsor of virtual watch parties for tournament games. The brand also brought the partnership to life through featured 'Wipe it Down" social spots with NWSL players.
In addition, the league was a leader in gender equality and social justice messaging this year, and thanks to Secret, part of that message was amplified through a branded campaign called 'See Me'. The campaign pointed out that women's sports receive only 4% of all sports media coverage and was featured during the NWSL Final on CBS. The 30-second commercial featured nine players, including Sarah Gorden and Katie Stengel, and made a statement to demand the media to double coverage of women's sports through the greater message of: "Equal work. Equal sweat. Equal play".
What's great is that the message feels authentic, as the brand is a longtime champion of women’s equality and vocal advocate for female athletes. Earlier in the year, they announced a partnership with Serena Williams to further progress gender equality and in October, they provided the largest corporate commitment ever made in North American professional women’s hockey history through a $1 million donation to the PWHPA.
We’re looking forward to seeing a lot more of this in 2021, and beyond.
Back in 2017, Glossier launched their original campaign for their Body Hero line, featuring diverse nude models showcasing the beauty of all different body types.
Flash forward to 2020, the brand released two new products in their Body Hero line, and took the opportunity to revisit their previous Body Hero campaign through a new partnership with the WNBA, the league's first ever 'beauty partner'.
The revamped campaign highlighted the personal narratives of 16 unique body heroes, ranging from nurses, to artists, and students, as well as eight of the WNBA's most empowering and championing women.
These eight athletes, which included Sue Bird and Stefanie Dolson among others, self-shot content that highlighted their routines and perspectives on beauty, all while living in the WNBA’s Bradenton, Florida. bubble for the 2020 season. In a time when we have never been more disconnected from athletes, this partnership gave consumers and fans a behind the scenes look at the habits and rituals of the world's top athletes and how they’ve come to define beauty as individuals.
The partnership allowed Glossier to highlight their mission that “the power of beauty goes far beyond products or aesthetics”, which was expressed through these personal connections, narratives and expressions of the 16 Body Heroes.
When you think of all the brands associated with the National Football League, the one that often stands out is Bud Light. Even with COVID-19 putting a damper on all most things sports, the brand has continued to find ways to not only keep fans entertained but the athletes enjoying moments on the field as well.
To start, the brand installed the "Bud Light Showtime Cam", a camera and TV installation that showcases fans and players celebrating, in a number of NFL stadiums to celebrate key moments during games. It seems that the light beer brand has figured it out: that despite limited fan attendance, players and fans still will always get excited from a touchdown celebration. It seems to be the perfect way to integrate their brand into that excitement.
Not only are the on-field cameras capturing creative touchdown celebrations, but teams are also creating #BudLightCelly highlight videos each week featuring the best touchdown celebrations. The brand is also working with a number of team to create “Behind the Celly” videos to showcase on their social platforms.
These “Behind the Celly” videos highlight what goes into creating a player celebration from a player's perspective. Some NFL teams have gone so far as to ask their fan bases to submit their best celebrations and then allow players to pick the ones they thought were the best. They have also had their own players take to social media and critique their own teammates touchdown celebrations in some hilarious videos.
It's not everyday a naming rights sponsor won't even have their name on the stadium, but this past summer, people were buzzing with excitement around both the Seattle Kraken's new team name and their naming rights partner Amazon.
Instead of having Amazon's name included in naming rights assets, you will be seeing the name Climate Pledge Arena in a nod to the brand's pledge to be completely net zero carbon by 2040 (a decade before the Paris Agreement).
It is the overarching goal of Oak View Group, the Seattle Kraken and Amazon, that Climate Pledge Area will become the first net zero carbon certified arena in the world. They will try to achieve that by powering the arena with renewable energy including on-site and off-site solar, installing the first all-electric humidification system in the NHL, utilizing reclaimed rainwater for the ice, eliminating all single-use plastics and sourcing around 75% of the arena's food program from regional farmer to start.
“We have always set out to create the best home ice advantage; now we are innovating to create ice from reclaimed rainwater and the greenest ice in the country,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO, Seattle Kraken. “This is going to be the best arena in the NHL and we’re proud that there will be many opportunities for our fans to make a difference nightly."
With such a big push to help with the ever-growing climate change problems our world is facing, this to us is one of the “greenest” deals we have ever seen.
When the NBA announced their return to play in a bubble format this July, it would be the first time that the season would be played without any fans in attendance. With that in mind, the NBA decided to re-imagine the way they connect to fans and players through their partenrship with Microsoft.
Earlier this year, the technology giant became the 'Official Technology Partner for the NBA', with the goals to create and deliver new fan engagement experiences and enhanced streaming capabilities. And they did just that. Microsoft Teams along with the NBA, gave fans a virtual seat into the action and the opportunity to cheer on their favorite teams from home. The partnership was the debut of the new “Together mode” in Teams, which allowed fans to watch both a live feed of the game right within the platform while also feeling like they are sitting 'courtside' with other fans. In a time when every league was pivoting, this was a transformative way to bring back a sense of NBA community at games for both players and fans, while showcasing the features of their new partner.
Beginning with the 2020-21 season, Microsoft will become the Official Artificial Intelligence Partner and Official Cloud and Laptop Partner for the NBA, WNBA, NBA G League and USA Basketball. The technology brand is expected to be introducing a new direct-to-consumer platform on Microsoft Azure this year that will use machine learning and AI to deliver personalized game broadcasts, while integrating the NBA's various products and services.
Lots more to come from this partnership ahead.
In one of the most surprising partnerships of 2020, award-winning artist Travis Scott teamed up with McDonald’s to create a limited time menu item called the Travis Scott Meal. For context, the last time a celebrity had a meal named after them, it was Michael Jordan during the height of the Chicago Bulls championship era in 1992.
The Travis Scott Meal is basically a customized classic Quarter Pounder including Scott’s variations such as adding a side of fries, BBQ dipping sauce, and a Sprite, for $6. The partnership seemed to spark a lot of excitement and resonated with McDonalds’ younger consumers. The brand created an opportunity to connect with their youthful multicultural customers, in a language familiar to Gen Z: with hip-hop, food and co-branded merchandise.
Over the course of the first two weeks, the Travis Scott Meal had been so popular that McDonald’s locations had started running out of ingredients and, in several cases, have sold out of Quarter Pounders entirely. To see a company that sells about two billion hamburgers every year start to struggle with supply is a bit incredible.
In addition to the custom apparel released, the partnership created five ultra-rare action figures that showed Scott holding his Travis Scott Meal and McDonald's showcased the action figure in an animated TV advertisement.
Prior to the partnership, Scott was known to post about his trips to McDonald's and it made this deal the perfect authentic match. In fact, this may be one of the best music and food pairings we’ve seen in years.
This year we saw a very unique sponsorship when Burger King decided to sponsor one of the lowest ranking soccer clubs in England's League Two, Stevenage FC. Despite sitting in last place in the division, Burger King was not really looking at the club for their on-field performance but rather for their potential reach on FIFA.
After Burger King became a jersey partner, the brand created The Stevenage Challenge, where fans could compete on FIFA to win Burger King menu items such as a Whopper or Chicken Fries. In order to win, a player would simply have to complete one of the challenges online and share the victory on social media.
With the ability to re-roster teams in FIFA’s Career Mode, the burger brand went so far as to ask fans to sign high profile players like Lionel Messi and Neymar to Stevenage FC online. By having the star players join the team online, the players were virtually representing the Burger King brand through their jersey sponsorship and the results were incredibly positive.
Although the campaign only lasted two weeks, Stevenage became the most-played with team on FIFA's career mode, more than 25,000 goals in the club's kit were shared online and earned the team over 1.2 billion impressions online.
Heading into the end of the year, Burger King announced they were expanding the partnership to include support for the Stevenage FC's women’s club. To support the partnership, Burger King created a new “Burger Queen” logo for the women’s kits and rebranded the only Burger King location in Stevenage into a Burger Queen.