You can’t see an ad for an Omega watch this month that isn’t on Daniel Craig’s wrist, or a Heineken bottle that isn’t positioned next to the 007 trademark or in Mr Craig’s hand. They illustrate how important sponsorships are to a company’s branding strategy.
The product placements for Skyfall have created a windfall for the film’s producers, and they have been dubbed by the New York Daily News as a “Bond market” for other brands such as Tom Ford, Coke Zero, Sony Vaio, and Caterpillar.
And if one skyfall wasn’t enough, did anyone who watched Felix Baumgaretner leap to earth from 128,000 feet in October – reaching a speed of Mach 1.24 – not know the project was sponsored and funded by the energy drink Red Bull?
For the past five years, I’ve participated in the Boughton/BCLI GreatDebate, a fundraising event by the British Columbia Law Institute, sponsored by my law firm. Attendance has increased every year, and the audience consists of lawyers, law professors, members of the media and judges.
The BC Law Institute is a non-profit society with a mandate to promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its adaptation to modern social needs, to promote improvement of the administration of justice, and to promote and carry out scholarly legal research. BCLI recommendations and draft statutes can influence legislators and become law.
If scholarly research on law reform is the “yin,” the Boughton/BCLI GreatDebate is the “yang.” Or, to date myself, one is the “Rowan” and the other is the "Martin” because the GreatDebate is not supposed to be serious at all. It’s supposed to be light, entertaining and funny, in contrast to the perception that law reform is boring, tedious and dull. Over the past five years, we’ve debated the future of copyright law, testamentary gifts to parrots, the end of lawyers, and the arcane law of “champerty and maintenance.” The debaters have included the deans of two of B.C.’s law schools, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a former attorney general of the province.
This year, under the watchful eye of our regular moderator, CBC Radio 1’s Rick Cluff, four lawyers representing different Vancouver firms debated the pros and cons of the HST in B.C., something that was debated to death throughout 2011 and 2012. We made a tired topic light, entertaining and funny.
Other lawyers in our firm occasionally ask me why we’ve sponsored (and financially supported) an event when there isn’t a client in the room, and the answer is as relevant to those lawyers as it is to anyone in business.
Branding, branding and branding.
We believe it’s important and worthwhile to sponsor and participate in events that “get our name out there,” and which, in this case, supports an organization that is important to B.C.’s legal community.Sponsorship of a legal event that caters to legal professionals is different from product placements in a film, but when it comes to branding, you have to associate with the right organization, the right event or the right cause, otherwise there could be a disconnect between what you are and what you stand for.
Businesses large and small – add to that law, accounting and other professional services firms – should be seeking out sponsorship opportunities that are consistent with their goals, principles and marketing objectives. For a small business, it may be a kids’ baseball or hockey team, or sponsoring a worthwhile charity or social cause.
On the other hand, if you’re a really big business, maybe sponsorship of social or charitable causes is less important than getting your product in the next James Bond movie. After all, Heineken paid $45 million (U.S.) for 007 to shake his martini habit and drink its beer instead.
Tony Wilson is a franchising, licensing and intellectual property lawyer at Boughton Law Corp.in Vancouver, he is an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University (SFU), and he is the author of two books: Manage Your Online Reputation, and Buying a Franchise in Canada. His opinions do not reflect those of the Law Society of British Columbia, SFU or any other organization.