Holden & Collingwood show how not to do brand sponsorship (in my humble opinion)

Driving back from a meeting this week I found myself travelling through the heart of Melbourne’s sporting precinct, along Olympic Boulevard. As I made my way between Hisense Arena and AAMI Park, underneath the Edwin Flack Footbridge adorned with a set of Olympic Rings from the 1956 games I looked towards the home of arguably the most famous Australian sporting brand of all – the Collingwood Football Club.

Collingwood are famous for being the most supported club in Australia (though not by much in 2015) and they are famous for protecting the integrity of what they see as their most important brand symbol and touch point – their black and white striped jumper; fighting hard with the AFL for many years over having an alternate strip they didn’t want to have until reluctantly introducing a variation black and white stripes (which was just bigger stripes really) in 2011. Which is why something didn’t look quite right as I passed by a group of players in that famous black and white kit on their first day of pre-season training.

Looking towards the headquarters of the famous Collingwood Football Club, I didn’t see their famous black and white colours – i saw a very big RED & white Holden Centre sign adorning the front of their HQ due to Holden securing the centre’s naming rights through a brand sponsorship agreement.

The Holden Centre (image from collingwoodfc.com.au) – Doesn’t look very Collingwood to me.

Red and white? Collingwood aren’t red and white? Driving by it got me wondering, why would they do such a thing?

The answer is obvious (money) but for a club that has been so firm with respect to their colours and their insignia I would have thought the the integrity of their brand identity sacrosanct when it came to such a prominent touch point such as their training facility and club headquarters.

Yes Holden’s brand is red, however I believe they would have more to gain from their sponsorship and its exposure from aligning their brand and its image more closely with Collingwood. They could have spent the same amount of money putting up red Holden billboards all over the place, but only one brand gets the opportunity to align with the black and white – why not make the most out of it?

Clubs are about belonging. Why sponsor a football club if you’re not going to act like you belong to it? Adorn the facility with a black and white Holden lion and show that you belong rather than simply logo slapping on the building. I would have thought that made more sense, and it would be a pretty compelling story for Holden to tell as well, considering the AFL’s major sponsor is Toyota.

As more and more things become ‘sponsored’ – events, venues, even sportspeople – I think brands need to be more creative with how they go about activating their investments. Logo slapping either looks awkward like I believe this does, or simply fades away into the noise these days. Brand need create a compelling narrative and to do more to engage with the audience they have usually paid very good money to reach.

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