It’s a daunting task to be a marketer seeking partnership opportunities for products and brands, as the list of potential partners seemingly grows longer every day—from the traditional sectors of sports and entertainment events, venues and causes, to influencers, apps, virtual experiences and beyond.
The first challenge for brand marketers lies in narrowing the field and identifying the partnership prospects most likely to resonate with their customers.
There are many ways to do that—examining overlap between the brand’s customer base and an organization’s audience, gathering data on consumer lifestyles and behavior, identifying geographic fit, etc.—and they are all regularly employed by marketers in their assessments of future sponsorships. However, one simple and straightforward factor is often overlooked in this process: how well the potential partner is liked.
The reason likability, or favorability, is important was well documented by Rohit Bhargava in his 2012 book, Likeonomics, the premise of which is, essentially, that success for brands and organizations is based on being likable. He makes a strong case that being liked makes a significant difference, particularly because consumers routinely act on emotion, especially when believability and trust are in short supply.
With likability in mind, America’s zoos are well positioned to be outstanding partners for a wide range of companies and brands. A 2020 study conducted for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums by opinion research firm Prime Group documented 59 percent net favorability (those with a favorable view minus those with an unfavorable opinion) for zoos. Favorable views were held by 70 percent of respondents, while only 11 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
Compare that figure to 2020 data shared by the NFL that showed net favorability among its fans (not the general public) stood at just 44 percent for the league and 41 percent for its players.
Consider also that last year sports overall suffered a huge favorability decline in the annual results of Gallup’s 20-year tracking study of Americans’ views of U.S. business sectors. Only 30 percent of respondents viewed the sports industry positively and 40 percent negatively for a -10 net positive score compared to 2019 numbers of 45 percent positive and 25 percent negative for a +20 net.
Zoo and aquarium favorability is also supported by data highlighting that 79% of consumers feel better about companies that support wildlife conservation at zoos and aquarium and 66% are more likely to buy products and services from those companies.
No doubt every sector has its peaks and valleys, but the volatility illustrated in the Gallup report is most certainly a concern for those in the business of marketing through sports. It is also a reminder that just because sports consistently captures about 70 percent of all sponsorship dollars does not mean there are not viable—and in many cases—better alternatives.
In addition to the four key factors that make zoos and aquariums the most efficient way to reach parents and kids, brands seeking national reach with local relevance; the ability to activate on-site, at retail and through digital channels; and an association with purpose-driven organizations that are consistently well-liked would be wise not to overlook this important segment of the partnership marketplace.