The global marketing community applauded a significant breakthrough in late November when emerging Asian search engine operator Boogaloogaloo announced a wide-ranging deal with the government of Lapland to become title sponsor of Santa and his portfolio of elves, reindeer and other helpers.
A key element of the agreement is an initial five-year naming rights deal for Santa’s Grotto which will become known as TheGrotto @ boogaloogaloo.com.
All lead reindeer, including the world-famous Donner and Blitzen are included in the multi million Dollar agreement, although Rudolph, who remains under contract to the Red Nose Organisation, is excluded.
"This is an excellent deal for Boogaloogaloo," said its CEO. "It is the result of painstaking market research which revealed that to compete in a global marketplace we had to take steps to gain brand recognition and real traction among the key 5-12 years age group. After all, children are our future."
"The deal covers all territories where the Festival of Christmas is celebrated or where Santa is recognised. And that represents most of the world.
"This is a true partnership. Boogaloogaloo Santa will become far more efficient as a result of the deal. Our technology will enable kids to enter an on-line examination to determine whether they have been Good or Bad in the previous 12 months. The results of these will determine what types of presents they will be allowed to select from the offerings of the specially chosen and quality controlled suppliers chosen by and accessed via Boogaloogaloo.com
"Once verified by Boogaloogaloo chief Elf, their gifts choices will be delivered by a sleigh guided by our specially developed SantaNav. This eliminates the possibility of children being disappointed by receiving the wrong presents."
A spokesman for the Lapland government, Mr S. Kimo, described the deal as "a truly mould-breaking partnership which will change the face of Christmas."
Asked by journalists to comment on the moral stability of Santa – who has previously been caught Kissing Mummies under the Mistletoe and drinking Sherry – Mr Kimo said.
"We have no concerns. This is dealt with by a part of the agreement known as the Santa clause. This provides strict guidelines for Santa’s behaviour 365 days a year. We want him to be a proud ambassador for Lapland and Boogaloogaloo and to share and exemplify our brand values…whatever those may be."
The Boogaloogaloo deal is widely seen as pushing the sponsorship envelop in new directions and has been described in some quarters as ‘simply unbelievable.’
In fact, that scenario may be slightly more believable than an earlier deal which saw Mike Ashley, owner of English second tier football club Newcastle United announcing that the club’s historic stadium was to be named for his company, Sports direct.
In an attempt at a compromise, the ground is now known as sportsdirect.com@StJames’Park, a move which flies in the face of common sense, respect for fans/customers and more or less every chapter in the Sponsorship text book.
It is not our job to lecture Mike Ashley on making money. He’s proved extremely good at that in the past. But there appears to be some sort of disconnect between his ability to understand what his customers wants as a retailer, and what they want as fans of Newcastle United.
While accepting that there may be some clever accountancy reasons for the Sports Direct naming rights deal, it appears to fall down in more or less every other respect. Let’s start with the fans…who hate it.
Newcastle is a one club city and the passion for everything Black and white runs deep. Despite relegation from the Premier League, average home gates are over 35,000 and, despite not having won a trophy for three decades or so, the club is in the blood of the city. In fact, the club is a key element of Brand Newcastle.
For the fans, St James’ Park means something special and the addition of an ugly commercial moniker is seen as desecration.
Second, if the fans aren’t going to embrace the new name you can be sure that the media won’t. It’s difficult to imagine a single broadcaster referring to the ground by its new name. You can lead media horses to water but not make them drink.
Legend has it that when Fosters first sponsored The Oval cricket ground, the BBC taped a notice to the commentary box wall reminding its staff that ‘This Is The Oval -Not The Fosters Oval’.
Attitudes have, of course, relaxed significantly over the years and the media is now far more comfortable with the use of commercial names. But the fact remains that they really only seem natural when the facility in question has absolutely no history (see feature on pages 30-32 of SportBusiness International Magazine December 2009). At a new facility, fans can embrace the sponsors, maybe even feel a little grateful that their cash has helped in some way with the creation of the stadium of arena. But to impose a name – particularly such a clumsy one – on a much loved and revered venue is simply asking for trouble. In many ways it’s the equivalent of sticking two fingers up at your customers.
But looking on the bright side, even Newcastle United doesn’t have to deal with the same issues as the Colorado Rapids who play in Major league Soccer. Their impressive, purpose-built stadium is considered something of a masterpiece but it rejoices in the name of its sponsor….Dick’s Sporting Goods Field.
Naturally, Fans know it simply as The Dick. Quite what that does for the sponsor brand is anybody’s guess. You couldn’t make it up!
Photo credit: Wanted: Santa Claus by kevindooley via Flickr