ASB Bank says it wants to use its sponsorship of the All Blacks to benefit business customers.
The announcement this week underlined the careful research and planning that goes into modern sponsorship but was unusual in that ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman outlined the focus on business customers as a key element.
Most sponsors are wary of discussing plans for return on investment. In the past, many have viewed sponsorship simply as just coupling up with a popular team or person, seeking rub-off. Some don't even bother with measurement.
Chapman says the All Blacks sponsorship will be measured in terms of increased engagement with customers - retail and business - the brand, the ASB team and business generated.
Sponsors without such a strong focus don't find it easy to gain benefits, according to long-time brand strategist Brian Richards, of Richards Partners, who says: "If you don't position your brand closely to that of the sponsored brand, if you don't connect to it adequately, you lose the opportunity. If that happens, you are just giving them a donation."
Richards says estimates of the New Zealand sports sponsorship market at $200 million a year are conservative and companies have to explore carefully potential sponsorships and how to benefit from them.
Many sponsors typically spend 2.7 to 3 times the sponsorship fee on marketing and leveraging the association.
"Good sponsorships share the experience of supporting a team with a target audience. If the action is happening on a rugby pitch, you find ways to share that experience with viewers and those in the crowd at the game. You find ways to help them enjoy the event, the association and therefore the brand," he says.
"There are still many who just run a few basic ads in support of their sponsorship. They don't act as if they are part of the event or part of the team. They just slap a few ads on a hoarding. Or it's a matter of the chairman's whim - he likes opera so the company sponsors opera."
Chapman says the bank has approached the sponsorship strategically.
"A team like the All Blacks is not just what you see on the field. They have a front office and a back office and a whole group of people who support them.
"They are constantly seeking improvement, they employ innovation, inspiration and motivation - and that's where we want to work with our business customers ... what is it that makes the All Blacks successful and how can ASB learn from that and bring it into the realm of business?" Chapman says.
"Business is made up of teams too. ASB is a team so we want to learn what we can from what makes a high-performance sports team successful," she says.
"The All Blacks want to be unbeatable and so do we. They have executives, people like [mental skills coach] Gilbert Enoka, doctors, lawyers and many others who are all part of this success - we want to bring them and our business customers together to learn."
Chapman says the other key reason for the sponsorship was staff.
"We have a very simple vision - to be an unbeatable team with unbeatable service. Who better to be with in terms of values, ambition and passion - we couldn't be more aligned to the All Blacks."
New Zealand Rugby commercial manager Nick Brown says the All Blacks attract an increasing number of potential sponsors but "natural fit" is important.
"We like to make sure we have common goals and organisational values and in terms of the audiences we serve," Brown says.
"It's a good fit with ASB on all those things - we like that they are so active in the community, supporting a lot of events and things like financial literacy programmes. That kind of leadership makes them an attractive partner."
One example of sponsorship raising brand awareness and value internationally is Kia Motors - sponsors of football's World Cup, Australian Open tennis and, perhaps most effectively, the National Basketball Association since 2008.
According to the Interbrand Top 100 Best Global Brands survey last year, Kia rose from outside the world's top 100 brands a few years ago to 74th last year, with a growth rate of 15 per cent for each of the past two years to an estimated brand value of US$5.4 billion ($7.2 billion).
Kia carried out a number of strategic brand-building activities including a brand identity system emphasising characteristics of "vibrant, distinctive and reliable". It leveraged that in its NBA sponsorship through digital and social media elements to reach audiences better.
One was a "Top Plays" initiative which allowed NBA fans to vote on best plays during the season, also allowing fans to influence a Kia highlights-based commercial.