Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch foods and household products giant, will in June issue a set of worldwide guidelines on sponsorship best practice.

The move aims to ensure that the group’s growing investment in sponsorship benefits from “the same level of consumer insight, creativity and strategic rigor” that applies to the creation of its ads.

Unilever currently spends some $200 million (€227.0m; £141.0m) on sponsorship across the globe – a fraction of its total $5.9 billion marketing budget. However, the group’s decision three years ago to reduce TV spend [WAMN: 01-Feb-99] has led to growing reliance on sponsorship marketing.

But Unilever vp brand communication Michael Brockbank admitted Wednesday to a Chicago sponsorship conference that the company’s five thousand marketers and their agencies “are suspicious of sponsorship and don’t trust it”.

Explained Brockbank: “In our experience, the sponsorship industry has focused too much on getting the highest possible price for rights, at the expense of developing a true understanding of the brand and its long-term strategy.”

Brand teams now need to reconsider sponsorship as a key, strategic tool, rather than a secondary or tactical one, he added. “Everything will be brand and consumer-led; a list of `Big Ideas' will be identified and tested with consumers, leverage will be planned upfront and it will all be judged in terms of outcome – its effect on consumers – rather than output (the visibility it achieves),” Brockbank continued.

“Once all this has been done and the process analyzed, and only then, will a deal be struck. The right sponsorship for us does not have to be good – it has to be great,” he insisted. “It has to fulfill our criteria for effective communication. We won’t escape advertising clutter just to find ourselves in sponsorship clutter. Less will be more for us and we will look for partners who share that vision.”

Data sourced from: AdAgeGlobal.com; additional content by WARC staff