Just yesterday at Synergy towers, there was some collective musing going on around how the face of sponsorship could change in the next few decades. And that got me thinking about that ever-elusive demographic – the 16-24 year olds – to see how they might be running businesses and consuming media in 25 years’ time.
One area of interest is how immune (or not) youth of today have become to brand presence in their everyday lives. Do they reject it (oft-quoted myth)? Do they embrace it (when it suits them)? Do they challenge it to give them added value before giving it their valuable attention (‘what’s in it for me’)? Or do they ignore it altogether?
Or, have they come to expect it as par for the course of being entertained? I wondered if the ‘such and such, brought to you by…’ had become such a ubiquitous tag to music concerts / sporting fixtures / televised events, that people in 10 or 20 years might actually notice an absence of brand more than its presence. After all, I was hearing this mandatory credit line before I could even read, from the loveable muppets of Sesame Street (‘Sesame Street was brought to you by the number 8 and letters D and M…’ etc.)
But one interesting application of the sponsorship concept was brought to me today by Britain’s favourite University Outfitter, Jack Wills.
Having just returned from a summer of fun in New England, the brand’s bright young marketing things are about to embark on another grand tour of the UK’s trendiest universities. JW will be at a Freshers’ Week near you in the next few weeks, combining their fabulously British fashion with cutting edge, fresh new music – via the brand’s evolving unofficial music label, JWUnsigned.
But what caught my eye in the creative flyer for the Tour, was the sponsorship line. Bearing in mind that this is a Jack-Wills event, delivered as a music tour produced by a Jack Wills sub-brand, it is ‘sponsored by’ – wait for it – a Jack Wills denim range. This year’s JWUnsigned Freshers Tour is brought to you by No.350-4-842 – the brand’s denim clothing line.
This I feel points to some interesting signs about the presence that sponsorship has in the lives of youth culture today. Sponsorship in its basic sense – brand-pays-rights-holder – cannot apply here given that both the sponsor and property are from the same stable. So one assumes that JW is using the Tour platform to leverage awareness of its 350-4-842 denim as almost a stand-alone brand, instantly recognizable in and of itself but crucially as part of the Jack Wills family.
But I sense that there must be an implicit acceptance here by the Tour’s marketeers that their target consumers are so expectant of a live event being sponsored, it has become a necessary element of the Tour name. ‘Sponsored by…’ acts in this case as a ready-made stamp of officialdom: all big music events are sponsored so the JWUnsigned Tour needs to be too, in order to gain stature and acceptance within the youth marketplace.
St. Andrew’s, Leeds, Edinburgh, London, Bristol, Nottingham, Guildford and Brighton all appear to be on the list of host cities for the Tour events, and I’m intrigued to see what these will look like. How will JW use the opportunity to engage with their fans? Will they be actively spreading the word of their ‘Worn in but not Worn Out’ denim range to a captive audience of indie music fans? Will the bands be wearing the jeans during all their sets? Or is that ‘sponsored by…’ tag ultimately just that – a tagline?
And most interesting of all – will the legions of JW-loving Freshers either notice or, perhaps more importantly, care?