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Presented by, Jones for Senate!

by Stephanie Lochmiller
25 10 2012

How many of us even knew that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) actually had so called “sponsors?”  I don’t recall seeing activation by a sponsor promoting their official status of the CPD, have you?

So, what sponsorship benefits are derived as an official sponsor of the Commission on Presidential Debates? I’m not sure, but I did read that Anheuser-Busch sends young street teams backstage to provide information to staffers on the detriment of alcohol taxes.  But, other than that and a listing on the Commission on Presidential Debate website, I’m not sure benefits stretch much beyond.  They don’t even get a TV billboard at the start of the debate: “Election 2012 – presented by Southwest Airlines, Anheuser-Busch In-Bev and the International Bottled Water Association.”

But, at the heart of the matter should be whether or not you can even call this a sponsorship.  Yes, they support the debates in exchange for some political group benefit – probably worth it in some circles.  But, don’t call it a sponsorship.  A donation, political contribution – yes – but not a sponsorship.

Yet, maybe there is room for politics in sponsorships.

Considering there are billions of dollars spent on local TV, radio and newspaper surrounding political advertising, why would sponsorship marketing provide less?  In fact, wouldn’t politicians who supported a local community program, or non-profit event garner a stronger position among attendees or organizational members than their counterpart?  

Festivals, concerts music tours and other opportunities offer a demographically targeted group of qualified voters.  I would argue that political campaigns could use sponsorships to better target their audience focus than a TV buy, and the relationship would create a stronger connection with the candidate than negative ad.   The “Morgan County Fair presented by Jones for Senate” would be a stronger connection with qualified voters in Morgan County.

I realize the ramifications of doing this, of course.  Possibly half the people in Morgan County that are voting for Mr. Williams would not be fan of Mr. Jones, but would that really preclude them from going to the fair?   And, think about all those Jones supporters that would attend BECAUSE he was sponsoring the fair.   Perhaps the Williams campaign would be able to sponsor the carnival rides too – after all the fair would be happy to provide “equal time.”

So, while this may not be a common tactic today – I believe that it’s use could eventually become as common as the negative TV ad. And, in the meantime, if you’re a brand, thinking about a presidential debate sponsorship – find a way to activate it for the benefit of the people, by the people and for the people.

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