“Is category exclusivity more about ego or does it really add value?”

Category Exclusivity refers to the right of the sponsor to be the only company within its product or service category that has a sponsorship relationship with a property or event.

Category Exclusivity – Then & Now

It used to be that category exclusivity was a given in pretty much every sponsorship partnership discussion.

When I worked in pro-sport in the early ‘90’s it was certainly a huge consideration, particularly in certain categories. It tended to be one of the first things up for discussion in the initial meeting and wordsmithing the description of the category in the sponsorship agreement required careful deliberation.

These days, I am seeing sponsorable properties less willing to offer category exclusivity to sponsors, and fewer sponsor prospects are even naming this right as one of their sought after features and benefits. Over the last month alone, I’ve had 5 sponsor discovery calls on behalf of a client and not one of the sponsor prospects mentioned category exclusivity.

When the Event Attendees Dislike the Beer

I can recall a networking event that iSPARK produced for a sport client in 2018 that featured a local craft beer as a major sponsor (category exclusivity was part of the deal and the event was open bar). To my surprise, I witnessed many of the event guests leaving the room and buying their preferred brand of beer at the hotel bar and then returning to the social event.

The same thing happened at a client entertainment event in a corporate box at a hockey game. The event hosts were offering free beer coupons for the beer sponsor’s product that was being served in the suite, yet many of the guests selected a different type of beer and actually paid for it because they preferred something different.

Is this typical behaviour or are we Canadians just uber particular about our beer?

The Value of Category Exclusivity

Is category exclusivity more about ego – a case of the sponsor seeking an uncluttered spotlight just because they can? Does it really add value? Can four competing brands all sponsor the same event and live to tell the tale?

Here’s my take …. And it’s a potentially biased one because I LIVE for the activation part of sponsorship marketing.

Competing sponsors can co-exist in the same place – it simply becomes a game of who can out-activate the other. The activations bring more value to event attendees, make the event or sponsorable property more memorable, and create more revenue potential for the sponsee. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Cheers to beers!