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Sponsorships can be extremely effective for brands. But selecting and executing them properly isn't easy.

Sometimes brands sponsor things that are truly baffling. Such is the case with Sprint's sponsorship of MSNBC.com's breaking news.

The screenshot above, taken earlier, shows a breaking news headline on the MSNBC.com website. The news was not good: a car bomb in Iraq had killed at least 15 people. But bad news was good news for Sprint and its Now Network, which received prominent placement as the sponsor of the news alert.

I've seen some pretty bad sponsorships in my day but as far as digital sponsorships go, this is up there.

To be sure, it's all but certain that Sprint didn't intend to associate its brand with such tragic news. But you'd assume that somebody at Sprint would have exercised common sense and realized that a sponsorship of breaking news on MSNBC.com might lead to a situation in which the Sprint brand was displayed prominently alongside the worst of news. After all, as disappointing as it is, breaking news is usually bad news these days.

The lesson: be careful what you sponsor. If you make a faux pas like this, you may not end up looking callous but you may end up looking a bit dumb. When you're paying for the privilege, neither is a good thing.

Of course, I suppose it's possible that I'm completely wrong. It's possible Sprint is rebranding from "America's Most Dependable 3G Network" to "America's Most Dependable Bad News Delivery Network". If that turns out to be the case, I apologize in advance for this post.

Patricio Robles

Published 10 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)

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Dax Hamman

Patricio - I agree with the sentiment that you are trying to convey, sponsorships of this type fall into the same bucket as blind network buying from a risk/reward perspective.

And whilst research tells us that consumers do tend to build their own association between the content and brand, I think this is not such a bad choice for Sprint.

In the US at the moment their TV ads are all about speed, which can be interpreted as having access to the information you want faster than with any other network. Breaking news is one of the best examples of speed of delivery.

I agree that the risk is high for the brand, but I also think Sprint will have taken a balanced view on this and I agree with their assessment that the reward is likely to outweigh that risk.

Only time (and a few expensive branding surveys) will tell.

about 7 years ago

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Sponsorshipportal-kevar

The risk is high for the brand but the reward will out weigh the risk.

about 7 years ago

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