is one of the tools most commonly used by brands to increase their presence or notoriety, by associating their image with that of the sponsored company or activity. It is a very mature activity that, in times of crisis, has suffered a notable decrease, both in the number of sponsorships and in the amounts allocated for this purpose by companies.

But the fact that it is a very proven activity does not mean that it has been successful in all cases. On many occasions, because sponsorships have not been built on the solid foundations they should have: the affinity between brands, the coincidence in values, complementarity… In short, the sense or the purpose. Not to mention that, in many cases, there has not been an adequate return – in the terms in which one would like to quantify – for the sponsoring company (perhaps, even, such an expectation was not quantified). This, without taking into account that in many sponsorship implementations, no other benefit is identified for the sponsored brand than the money obtained for the project, as the only compensation.

As we said, the crisis forced us to fine-tune the definition and implementation of these sponsorship campaigns. Only a few brands continued to make a firm commitment to partnering with others to achieve their goals. And this forced a closer look at the nature of the brands to be associated with. In this context, we find the case of two paradigmatic companies, one on each side of the equation. Starting with the second, the sponsored brand, Real Madrid. In the first, CaixaBank.

Real Madrid has shown over the years that it is a powerful, solid brand, with a global presence from a geographical point of view, and a transversal one from a sociological point of view. And with a foundation of indisputable success. In short, a distinctly aspirational brand.

For its part, CaixaBank has established itself as a solvent and profitable, efficient and innovative institution. In short, a appreciated brand, within a sector – the financial sector – that does not exactly enjoy the best valuation by society.

Over the years, Real Madrid has been sponsored by prestigious brands from a wide range of sectors; but it had never been associated with a financial institution (apart from some agreements signed, limited in time or partial in scope). Perhaps the debate to sign a global agreement was weighed down by the difficulty of finding a suitable financial brand: because of the extent of its implementation, because of the risk that mergers and integrations would end up distorting the project halfway through; or perhaps because of the social reputation of financial institutions. Without knowing it, I would dare to say that CaixaBank was always the candidate brand with the best qualification to become one. But – it is also an assumption – the alert about the convenience of associating a Madrid club with a Catalan brand would always hover over the decision.

For its part, CaixaBank decided some time ago – as part of its ambitious sponsorship plan – to associate its image with football clubs. Other brands decided to do it to the competition as a whole (at the time, BBVA; and, now, Santander sponsor the league), but at CaixaBank they bet on the clubs. In fact, until the agreement with Real Madrid, the bank already sponsored twelve teams in the first division and as many in the second division. Among those who have been for quite some time Atletico Madrid, so I imagine that the discussion on the convenience of the Madrid-Barcelona partnership had already been settled.

Therefore, what must have weighed for the adoption of the agreement to sponsor Real Madrid would be the advantage of associating its image with the values and attributes of the club. Apart from supposed fears of possible localistic and myopic reactions, based on emotional criteria.

And what would lead Real Madrid to want to associate their brand with that of the Catalan bank would also be the advantage that such an alliance would bring them. Apart from supposed fears of possible localistic and myopic reactions, based on emotional criteria.

CaixaBank has a network of more than 5,000 branches, with a presence in 93 percent of Spanish municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants. And it has nearly fourteen million customers. This means an exceptional platform to contribute to the capillary projection of the Real Madrid brand. The club, on the other hand, has an equally exceptional level of membership: in addition to having more than ninety thousand members, it has two hundred million people around the world who declare themselves merengue fans. There is no doubt, then, that it has been worthwhile to explore the connections between the two brands, so that common territories or spaces can be found in which to work together to seek benefits for both parties. Because sponsorship is nothing else if it wants to be effective.

With total certainty, both entities will develop and implement an adequate activation of sponsorship in order to achieve the benefits they have identified. And they will do so with differentiated actions, aimed at very different target audiences, since the two brands are projected in the market as transversal.

But what I consider remarkable in this specific case of sponsorship is that both entities have overcome possible fears that some fairly widespread considerations could advise against. And that, above all, they have opted to find common territories that can be used as a platform for the best projection of the two brands.

I am convinced that success will accompany this adventure. And hopefully this experience will encourage other brand managers to make risky decisions, overcoming prejudices, beyond the foreseeable. As the classic said: Audaces fortuna iuvat!


Ignacio Muñoz

Consulting Partner at Branward®

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