Best of 2014: Sponsorship Highs and Lows

This year saw brands adapting to the times by creating soccer-theme campaigns for the World Cup, pulling sponsorships in the wake of domestic abuse allegations in the N.F.L., and more.

By Beth Kormanik December 15, 2014, 7:00 AM EST

Ryan Seacrest hosted Fashion Rocks, a live special on CBS that mixed fashion and music.

Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Three Lions Entertainment

Event Television
To attract viewers in real time and create buzz on social media, networks are producing “event television” such as Fashion Rocks and Movies Rock on CBS and NBC’s live-action performance of Peter Pan and The Sound of Music. The concept also appeals to brands that want to reach more people in an age of fractionalized audiences. However, the success of the concept has yet to be proven—the Fashion Rocks telecast drew a low 2.28 million viewers, and in October Deadline Hollywood reported that CBS is suing the show’s producer.

Sports Stars
With two major global sporting events—the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and the World Cup at sites across Brazil—brands had important opportunities to reach huge audiences. Stepping up to the challenge were soccer-theme campaigns for Adidas, Nike, and Coca-Cola, as well as Procter & Gamble for its “Thank You Mom” campaign during the Olympics.

Commercial Breaks
Mainstream festivals are facing a bit of an identity crisis as longtime attendees complain about the increased commercialization of the events. Is Burning Man still an off-the-grid, communal experience when well-heeled guests can hire custom yurts and sushi chefs? Is South by Southwest selling out when major brands sponsor concerts by Coldplay, Kanye West, and Iggy Azalea? Ultimately, it’s up to the planners and the fans to decide whether the brand marketing enhances or overshadows the experience.

Speaking Up
Corporate sponsors took note of the public’s outrage over racist comments by former Los Angeles Clippers team owner Donald Sterling and the N.F.L.’s handling of domestic abuse allegations against its players. State Farm pulled its signage from the Clippers’s stadium, CoverGirl cancelled its planned breast-cancer awareness promotions for N.F.L. games, and brands such as Marriott, Pepsi, and Burger King made statements to distance themselves from the scandals and push for change.

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