Globalizing A Brand Through Sport Sponsorships

Authored by: Cem Tinaz

Routledge Handbook of International Sport Business

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138891548
eBook ISBN: 9781315709635
Adobe ISBN:




Recently sponsorship has become an integral part of marketing communications. A significant number of not only international but also national companies have chosen to use sport sponsorships to reach their various marketing objectives, including increasing brand awareness and brand loyalty and creating or, in some cases, changing brand image. Sports sponsorship can create a unique emotional connection between the products and the consumers.

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Globalizing A Brand Through Sport Sponsorships


The case of Turkish Airlines and its sport marketing efforts

Recently sponsorship has become an integral part of marketing communications. A significant number of not only international but also national companies have chosen to use sport sponsorships to reach their various marketing objectives, including increasing brand awareness and brand loyalty and creating or, in some cases, changing brand image. Sport sponsorship can create a unique emotional connection between the products and the consumers.

Globalization in sport, business and broadcasting/telecommunications require the sponsor brands to engage themselves in more integrated and sophisticated arrangements. Although significant research exists within the sponsorship sector that focuses on the effectiveness of sponsorships and the image fit between sport entities and sponsors, this chapter aims to analyse and conceptualize the strategic management of sport sponsorships. In order to do this, it uses the overall marketing strategy of Turkish Airlines, the national flag carrier airline of Turkey, as a good example.

The objectives of this study include: (1) defining sport sponsorship and explaining its unique features; (2) conceptualizing the strategic steps of sport sponsorship management; (3) examining the motives for sponsorship initiatives using the example of Turkish Airlines; (4) gaining an understanding of the decision-making process related to selection of sports properties; and (5) articulating the key insights of successful sponsorship management.

A definition of sponsorship

With its widely accepted definition, we can define sponsorship as an investment, in cash or in kind, in an activity, in return for access to the exploitable commercial potential associated with that activity (Meenaghan, 1991). Shank (1999) defined sports sponsorship as “investing in a sports entity (athlete, league, team or event) to support overall organizational objectives, marketing goals and/or promotional strategies”. As Crompton (2004) has suggested, the sponsor can provide cash, goods or services and, in return, receives the opportunity to exploit the brand. Sponsorship could be considered as a mutual relationship between “the sponsored or sponsee” and “the sponsor”. The sponsored entity is the owner of the rights and benefits, and it passes these on to the sponsor. It is widely accepted that to maintain a long-term relationship and deliver the expected results, sponsorship must deliver benefits to both parties. Sponsorship is described as an “activity that puts buyers and sellers together” (Sleight, 1989). As a result, both parties can benefit. Masterman defines sponsorship as:

a mutually beneficial arrangement that consists of the provision of resources of funds, goods and/or services by an individual or body (the sponsor) to an individual or body (rights owner) in return for a set of rights that can be used in communications activity, for the achievement of objectives for commercial gain.

Masterman, 2007, p. 30

Wang et al. (2011) stated that the credibility of the sponsor is influenced by the perceived congruence between the sponsored entity and the sponsor. Wang et al. continued that the credibility depends upon the sponsor’s brand equity. There is a strong connection between high credibility and stronger brand equity. A sponsor has a high degree of credibility if it is considered believable and trustworthy by the consumers, whereas brand equity is defined as the combination of the image and the reputation of a brand (Wang et al., 2011). Most sponsors are looking to create an emotional connection between their brand and the sport entity (sponsee). Through the sponsorship, the sponsor aims to reach its potential customers, often sport fans. As Madrigal (2001) has outlined, brands are using sponsorship as a part of their differentiation strategy.

Sponsorship is a combination of different communications tools. There are clear differences between advertising and sponsorships in terms of functions and effects. Consumers generally believe that the primary goal of advertising is to generate revenue for the brand; on the other hand, sponsorship places more emphasis on the benefits to society (Meenaghan, 2001). Indirectness is considered to be another distinguishing characteristic of sponsorship from other promotional methods. It means that the sponsorship is a secondary concern for the consumer, after the sport itself (Gwinner, 1997). The indirect objectives of sport sponsorships could be increasing sales, generating awareness or creating a desired image for the brand. Shank (2005) outlined that the indirect objectives of sponsorship can happen over the long term and can lead to increased sales. As Madrigal (2001) suggested, sponsorship acquisition mostly occurs in the relaxed environment of a social or sporting event. This environment allows the consumers to scan the communication message. On the other hand, the message communicated by advertising occurs in a persuasive environment where the consumer is pushed to purchase. Advertising effects can be seen within a short period, whereas sponsorship might need a much longer time to become effective. Research indicates that sponsorship should be considered as a long-term investment. Amis, Slack and Berrett (1999) suggested that sponsorship can provide a brand with a competitive advantage over its rivals over a long period of time.

Emergence of sponsorship as a strategic marketing tool

Although the ancient roots of sponsorship began almost 2000 years ago, the commercial history of sponsorship is quite short. In this chapter, we do not go back to the ancient and philanthropic beginnings of sponsorship. Our aim is to examine the modern usage of sponsorship, particularly its strategic management and implementation. Masterman (2007) indicated that the advent of television and television commercials offered new opportunities for advertisers to reach wider and larger audiences. Since sport was popular programming on television, advertisers saw sport as an attractive tool for brand promotions, and this, Masterman suggested, formed the roots of today’s sponsorship industry. During the 1960s and 1970s, athlete endorsements were getting attention due to the increased popularity of athletes and, at the same time, televised events started to offer opportunities for brands to gain exposure without having to pay television advertising rates.

Sponsorship constitutes a marketing tool for brands that they can use to connect themselves with their potential customers through entertainment, arts or sport entities. Sponsorship is an integral and strategic investment for many industries that are seeking to reach sport consumers (Dees, 2004). Research indicates that, as of 30 years ago, sport continued to command the lion’s share of the sponsorship market (IEG, 2008). No doubt the popularity of sport sponsorship depends not only on the reach of global sport events like the Olympic Games or World Cup but also on the popularity of sport stars such as Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi. Madrigal (2001) suggested that the brands expect to transfer the positive feelings of sport consumers toward sport, and to its goods and/or services.

Despite the long history of sponsorship, until the 1980s sport sponsorship’s primary aim was to place signage around the stadium or venue and to receive free tickets and/or hospitality services in return for the payment made to the sport entity (Masterman, 2007). The 1984 Summer Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles, USA, changed the perspective of the sponsors and the sport organizations. As Gratton and Taylor (2000) have outlined, the 1984 Summer Olympics were funded completely by the private sector. As such, this event is considered a milestone in event management and sponsorship implementation. After the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced the concept of categories of sponsorship (Meenaghan, 1998). Both the sponsors and the right holders saw the commercial potential of sport sponsorship, and they started to develop new ideas. As a result of these initiatives, sport sponsorship made a remarkable improvement and became one of the most effective marketing communication tools for brands as well as a valuable income source for right holders. In addition, new technological developments (the Internet, mobile communications, digital and high definition broadcasting and broadband) enabled both sides to expand their scope and reach a broader community of potential customers (Masterman, 2007). Compared to the cost of direct television advertising, sport sponsorships are mostly considered cost-effective because of high television coverage, which attracts millions of people across all ages, areas and lifestyles (Brassington & Pettit, 2000). Earlier perceptions of sponsorship arrangements, which were often regarded as donations, have radically changed into economic-based partnerships between mutually dependent organizations (Meenaghan 1998). Meenaghan (1998) also added that the clutter-free environment of sponsorship provides quality access to consumers at a reasonable cost and consequently has driven the initial development of the medium even further.

When we talk about sport sponsorships in the contemporary marketing world, we are not only talking about the relationship between the sponsors and right holders. Today’s sport marketing operations occur in a system that involves different stakeholders such as the media, public opinion leaders, politicians and the community (Ferrand, Torrigiani & Povill, 2007). The globalization of sport has changed the media landscape and, specifically, how sport is broadcast. There is an increased acceptance of the commercialization of sport and the emergence of distinctive communication through sport. Lagae (2005) listed these as reasons for the increased interest in sport sponsorship. However, the increased popularity of sport sponsorships has created a highly cluttered communication environment in which attracting potential consumers is becoming more difficult. On the one hand, more brands are trying to exploit themselves through sponsorships and, on the other hand, sponsors are reporting declining recall rates from their sponsorship investments (Kraak & Olivier, 1997). The costs of sponsorship property rights are increasing because the sponsorship environment is becoming crowded. The result is reduced efficiency.

The number of marketing, public relations and sponsorship agencies has also increased during the last 30 years due to the popularity of using sponsorships as a communication tool. These agencies are offering sponsorship recruitment, management and consultancy services to rights owners (Masterman, 2007).

Without a doubt, sport sponsorship has become one of the most effective and popular marketing communication tools. According to IEG’s annual year-end industry review (IEG, 2014), global sponsorship investments in sport have been showing steady growth. In 2014, sponsors from all parts of the world, excluding North America, spent US$34.7 billion on sponsorship. The share of sport sponsorship in the North American sponsorship market, where the American companies spent over US$14.7 billion on sport, is around 70 per cent. Some American professional sport leagues are receiving a tremendous amount of sponsorship income. According to another IEG study (2015), sponsorship spending on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its 30 teams totalled US$739 million in the 2014–2015 season, showing a growth of 8.9 per cent on the previous year. These numbers are proof of brands’ positive perception of sport sponsorship. Sponsorship is likely to continue to be one of the most popular marketing communications tools on a global scale.

Unique features of sponsorship

Today’s companies are dealing with marketing-savvy consumers. Sport sponsorship constitutes an effective way to create product differentiation and is also a powerful way to create an emotional connection with the consumers. The emotional connection that sponsorship creates between the brand and the sport consumer leads to an increase in brand loyalty. This potential makes sport sponsorships valuable among the other elements of marketing. There is a consensus as sponsorship objectives are connected to the achievement of competitive advantage. As Rosen and Minsky (2011) outlined, “sponsorship can play a starring role in activating consumer behavior and motivating an entire system to do the same”. But sponsorship is not a replacement for advertising, sales promotion or public relations (IEG, 2008). A sponsorship acquisition works best if it is used as part of integrated marketing communications, which include the use of all marketing methods. There are a variety of reasons that brands use sponsorship, each of which offers quite different benefits. As Masterman (2007) has indicated, these reasons could be corporate or product/brand related. There is another perspective where corporate, marketing or media-related objectives are listed. Research shows that brands are looking beyond the traditionally accepted benefits of sponsorship; they want to create partnerships that could provide a broader range of opportunities. One important aspect is that sponsorships enable brands to co-create their values. According to the conventional value creation perspective, the producer creates value. Valued products and services are exchanged between the producers and the consumers. However, according to the co-creation perspective, value is not only defined but also created both by the producers and consumers (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004). Co-creation, which occurs during the sponsorship acquisition, can enable different parties like companies and customers to come together and jointly produce a mutually valued outcome.

Alexandris, Tsaousi and James (2007) suggested that an important objective of sponsorship is to create a better and more positive image for brands. Sponsorship can also constitute an effective platform for internal engagement. This feature allows brands to offer benefits for their staff and employees, and hence has a growing importance for brands. Building internal relations is widely regarded as a key corporate objective by many brands. According to Irwin, Sutton and McCarthy (2002) a sponsorship can lead to increased pride and loyalty in the employees of the company and this can lead to increased motivation and ultimately productivity. Brands can also use the assets of their sponsorships to drive retail traffic and build sales.

Brands communicate through sponsorship, through the perceived attributes in the sponsored object (Meenaghan & Shipley, 1999). The messages and experiences created through the sponsorships can lead to an enrichment of the consumers’ own interpretation of the brand. Meenaghan and Shipley (1999) suggested that “a sponsor is buying in to the ready-made image of the rights owner’s activity”. Meenaghan (2001) has also outlined that “the communication effects of sponsorship vary according to the degree to which the individual consumer is involved with the sponsored activity”. He concluded that the fans’ awareness of the sponsor is higher if they are involved with the sport event (Meenaghan, 2001). Awareness is defined as the recall or recognition ability of the consumer about the sponsor communications input. He or she can recall or recognize the brand either only from memory, or with verbal or written cues (du Plessis, 1994). Another important factor that affects the attractiveness of the sponsorship is the fit between the sponsor and sponsored entity. Speed and Thompson (2000) concluded that the higher the fit, the higher the attractiveness will be. Achievement of a high level of fit between the sponsor and the sponsored entity can positively influence consumer attitudes towards the brand (Mazodier & Merunka, 2011).

Strategic sponsorship management

Gaining exposure and awareness through logo displays and branded signage was the original aim of the sponsor brand. However, while this approach could still be dominant for many sponsor brands, many brands aim to improve or maintain their relations with customers, suppliers and employees. Through this integrated approach, they can achieve multiple objectives. Dees (2004) has suggested that “a sponsorship activation must inform consumers what brand, product, or service is being promoted, create a positive emotion within the consumer, and then persuade them to display a specific behavior, such as intent to purchase” (p. 5).

The contemporary business world enables companies to use a variety of marketing tools. To produce effective results, the companies need to decide wisely which tool to use and which not to use. Meenaghan (1998) indicated that experience has increased management’s understanding of sponsorship management and has led to increased sophistication in all aspects. This sophistication has enabled many brands to clearly state their objectives and select the most suitable avenue of sponsorship through personalized selection models. Additionally, brands have made the integration and exploitation of sponsorship essential components of their overall marketing plans. A return on investment evaluation also becomes a necessary process of successful sponsorship management.

The integrated structure of sport sponsorships provides a variety of competitive advantages, but it is still a complex choice, with important questions to consider. First, the brands should consider whether sport sponsorship is the most effective and efficient way of achieving their communications objectives. The second question about sponsorship is much more complex because the sport business involves different sport branches, organizations and events. What should be sponsored? Each decision involves both opportunities and risks. The third question determines how the sponsorship will be implemented. When developing a variety of communications, advertising, public relations, sponsorship and direct marketing should be seen as core components and used in synchronization. Sponsorship should be utilized with careful attention to public relations and advertising. Integrated communications management is critically important to achieving the desired goals. The sponsorship industry acknowledges that a figure at least equal to the direct costs of securing the property rights of a sponsorship is necessary for exploitation. However, many sponsors spend several times the property rights fee in order to maximize their return on investment (ROI) (Meenaghan, 1998).

According to Pitts and Stotlar (2007), the execution of sponsorship consists of four stages. The first stage is the decision to sponsor and the integration of the sponsorship into the companies’ communication strategy. The second stage is the selection of the most suitable sponsorship vehicle. Sport offers a great variety of options for the brands, including sport competitions, athletes or teams, individual sport events or major multi-sport events. The third stage is the implementation and activation of the sponsorship, and the fourth stage is the evaluation of the sponsorship’s effectiveness.

In their research, Rosen and Minsky outlined six strategic steps for successful sponsorship management (Rosen & Minsky, 2011). They suggested that the first step is to define objectives clearly. A brand should determine the objectives that could be achieved through sponsorships. The second step is to identify equity opportunities. Exclusivity is an important aspect of sponsorship acquisition as it is key to maximizing ROI. The brand should find a space, which it can actually “own”, to maximize its marketing effects. In some regions and sport branches, the sponsorship market is very crowded; therefore, it is important to find a space where the brand can exhibit itself most prominently. The third step is to assess the fit between the brand and sport entity. As Crimmins and Horn (1996) also outlined, ensuring the fit between the marketing objectives of the brand and the sponsored asset is very important. The brand must know if the fans are in the company’s target market and how many of the target members are in fact fans of the sport entity before finalizing their sponsorship decision. According to Rosen and Minsky, a brand should highlight its own value when negotiating the cost of sponsorship rights. The activation process of the sponsor could be very useful for the sport entity, in terms of creating public awareness and selling more tickets and/or merchandising products. To create value, meaning developing intimate relationships with potential customers and driving key behaviours in terms of sales, a sponsor should empower and utilize all relevant communication channels. The last step is measuring the sponsorship’s effectiveness.

The case of Turkish Airlines

This part of the chapter aims to conceptualize the strategic steps of Turkish Airlines by explaining how it aimed to create a global brand using effective marketing communications, especially sport sponsorships. For conceptualization, official annual reports of Turkish Airlines published during the last decade, two in-depth interviews made with high-profile marketing officials and sponsorship literature were used simultaneously.

Turkish Airlines is the flag carrier of Turkey. Skytrax selected Turkish Airlines as Europe’s Best Airline for five consecutive years between 2011 and 2015. Turkish Airlines has also been awarded the titles of World’s Best Business Class Airline Lounge, and World’s Best Business Class Lounge Dining at the 2015 Skytrax World Airline Awards. As of 2014, Turkish Airlines flew to 275 destinations worldwide, and this large number of destinations made them the fourth largest carrier in the world. Turkish Airlines has become a truly global brand over the last decade, thanks to its successful marketing efforts. Although it also uses traditional marketing tools, the success of Turkish Airlines, in terms of awareness and media coverage, depends significantly on its sport sponsorships. For Turkish Airlines, sports sponsorship is a vital component of any national or international marketing campaign. Currently Turkish Airlines has sponsoring partnerships in ten distinct sport branches, and these partnerships cover more than 35 countries. Before moving forward with the sponsorship-related communication strategies of Turkish Airlines and their effects, the overall tourism policy in Turkey during the last decade should be examined and understood. This is essential, since the success of Turkish Airlines is closely connected with the national tourism policy.

Turkey prepared a detailed master plan for tourism in 2008, aiming to achieve successful management and implementation of tourism efforts and boost the cooperation of the public and private sectors. The main objective of the plan was to ensure the healthy and sustainable development of the tourism sector, focusing on alternative tourism: coastal tourism, health and thermal tourism, winter sport, mountain climbing, adventure trips, plateau tourism and eco-tourism, conference and expo tourism, cruise ship and yacht tourism, and golf tourism. The master plan involved a planning approach that supported economic growth and was physically applicable and socially oriented. The planning reflected the principle of sustainable tourism, which aims to reach economic feasibility and viability. In regards to domestic tourism, the focus became to provide alternative tourism products with acceptable quality and affordable prices to various groups in society. The master plan involved a route map to eliminate the transportation and infrastructure problems of densely populated and fast-growing cities. Another important aspect of the plan was to activate Total Quality Management in every aspect of the travel industry, developing a sense and awareness of quality and making quality measurable. The objectives to be achieved before 2023 are as follows:

  • Increase the total accommodation capacity up to 1.5 million (from 850,000 in 2008)
  • Increase the total number of golf courses by 50 (from 25 in 2008), marinas by 70 (from 40 in 2008)
  • Double the number of congresses (159 congresses held in Turkey in 2011 (globally 23rd) – 114 of them in Istanbul (globally 9th))
  • Increase the number of planes to 500 (from 317 in 2011)

The last of the above objectives is related to the growth strategy of Turkish Airlines. This strategy is still in progress, and Turkish Airlines is developing not only its products and services but also its distribution channels.

Competition in the aviation industry is very intense, and differentiation is crucial to gain an advantage. Turkish Airlines’ differentiation strategy is based on sport sponsorship. A marketing executive from Turkish Airlines explains the meaning of sponsorships for Turkish Airlines as follows:

Movie sponsorship as we did in Batman & Superman or sport sponsorships can be more effective and Turkish Airlines is well aware of that. These sponsorships support our brand in our new destinations. The movie trailer of Superman and Batman that was showed in halftime of Super Bowl is a good example to see how two things can be accomplished at once. You get coverage and create emotions. Of course, you may act as a standard advertiser who wants to promote his products but this is a very old fashioned way that every brand make use of.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

He continued:

I think that we can put advertising and sport sponsorships at the centre with regard to Turkish Airlines. For example, we manage our individual contracts through our advertising department. They are our brand ambassador. Messi, Drogba, Kobe Bryant, Caroline Wozniacki, Kevin Costner, Tiger Woods. In fact, they are all special contracts realized by our advertising department. We can say that sport sponsorship is the most important element together with advertising department.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

Turkish Airlines began its professional sport sponsorship initiatives in 2006 when it became the official sponsor of the Turkish National Basketball Team (Annual Report, 2006). In 2006, as a result of a public offering, the share of the government’s ownership in Turkish Airlines fell below 50 per cent. After this, the legal status of Turkish Airlines as a state corporation ended (Annual Report, 2006). As a result of the increased quality of various products and services (developed web-based services, partnerships with other airlines, new routes, technical improvements, quality certifications, focus on customer satisfaction, significantly upgraded in-flight catering, new and innovative in-flight offerings) and marketing efforts, Turkish Airlines grew by 20 per cent in just one year. The company increased its passenger numbers from 14 million to 17 million through both new aircraft additions and new routes. Net profit rose 28 per cent to US$132 million and operating income more than doubled to over US$404 million (Annual Report, 2007). In 2008, Turkish Airlines grew by 15.1 per cent and brought the total number of passengers to 22.6 million. The launch of Anadolu Jet, a partner brand for domestic flights, also triggered an expansion of the domestic flight network: the number of domestic passengers increased by 10.8 per cent from 2007 and reached 11.1 million (Annual Report, 2008). In the same year, Turkish Airlines started to put more emphasis on sponsorships and celebrity endorsements. For its endorsement choices, instead of featuring one-time appearances of stars on Turkish Airlines’ advertisements, it positioned the stars to be its brand ambassadors. The marketing executive of Turkish Airlines explains the strategy as follows:

What is intended to do is to create an image. Turkish Airlines was in a difficult situation in 2007 in terms of global awareness. First move to change this impression was using Kevin Costner as an ambassador. Kevin Costner was a milestone that allows us to qualify Turkish Airlines as a world brand. Barcelona and Manchester United make part of this too. The most effective factors that give support to the image are brand names and sport sponsorships. Extending the flight network between the years 2007–2008 and recognition of the brand anywhere in Europe and sponsorships activities have served to increase our recognition level and strengthen our brand image.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

During 2009 and 2010, Turkish Airlines was the transportation sponsor of the leading soccer clubs of Turkey (Beşiktaş JK, Fenerbahçe SK, Trabzonspor, Galatasaray SK and Bursaspor) as well as for the Turkish national football team. In 2009, Turkish Airlines continued its growth in terms of economic indicators, but in 2010, it made huge attempts to become a global brand. First, it determined the sectors in which brand awareness needed to be raised. Then it started to use more appropriate forms of sports to better capture the attention of the chosen target groups. To reach the designated targets in selected locations, testimonials were solicited from the most prestigious individuals and teams (Annual Report, 2010). In 2010, Turkish Airlines became the third international sponsor of globally known FC Barcelona. In the same year, Turkish Airlines made a three-and-a-half-year sponsorship agreement with Manchester United. As the official airline sponsor of these teams, Turkish Airlines earned the exclusive rights to transport the teams to and from games and training camps. In the same year, Turkish Airlines also became the naming sponsor of Euroleague Basketball, the most important professional club basketball competition in Europe. In addition to the Euroleague naming rights, the Euroleague Final Four playoffs were conducted under the name “Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four”. This partnership was one of the most effective as there was a perfect fit between the league participants’ locations and Turkish Airlines’ destinations. Turkish Airlines also secured the rights for the prime sponsor of the Turkish Basketball Federation for two and a half years. Through this deal, the brand successfully added the team members to its television advertisements. This “golden year of sponsorships” continued with other deals in basketball, tennis, golf, sailing and marathons. The marketing executive of Turkish Airlines explains the selection process as follows:

We ask the amount of the budget that we are requested and the value of the advertisements that we can get for one year in exchange. Also, we ask ourselves that if we had not assumed this sponsorship but used the billboard that the club had allocated us in anywhere in the city, which amount would have the budget. We consider these issues and make an analysis to know the extent of the advantages that the club provides us. So the sponsorships have an important role at the moment of evaluating. For example, Marseille is very important for us by the history of the city and of the club so it is the most logical decision to compete with Emirates, which is the main sponsor of Paris, and to affirm our presence in France. For the flights headed to Los Angeles, it was contracted with Kobe and for those headed to Denmark, with Wozniacki. Rwanda is our new destination. By the moment we are challenging Air France and even we overtake it. For the flights headed to Rwanda we contracted a sponsorship agreement with bicycle team of Rwanda.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

The strategies of the competitors are also a dominant factor for the selection process. The marketing executive of Turkish Airlines continues:

If we want to make an agreement with a football team in France, we choose Marseille which is nine-time champion. Marseille is a unique French team that was champion of Champions League. Marseille is a very important city and has a great brand value and also is a football team with a very long-standing history. When they make a match, the Turkish Airlines’ logo appears at the right upper corner of the shirts of the players at Le’Quipe. Turkish Airlines is actually a sponsor of Borussia Dortmund which is the second important team of Germany after Bayern. Bayern Munich has agreement with Lufthansa, which is logical because it is the airline company of that area. So, it is more reasonable for us to choose Borussia Dortmund. At the moment of making choice we take into account the most logical options in the market and the factors like image, reputation, feedback and yield which will serve us to accomplish our objectives.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

Turkish Airlines’ goal of becoming a global brand has a direct impact on the company’s general strategies in the form of worldwide sponsorship activities. The success of Turkish Airlines’ sport sponsorships as a marketing communication strategy depends on the following aspects:

  • Strong image fit
  • Correct customer segmentation
  • Effective use of leveraging methods simultaneously – athlete endorsement, outdoor adverts, press releases, TV advertisements, stadium appearances, product placement, etc.
  • High levels of media coverage and awareness through prominent and successful sport identities

Turkish Airlines seeks the balance between team, organization and brand ambassador to avoid reactions. It prefers global organizations like the Euro 2016, rugby, golf and basketball. Market research is a central element for strategic decisions.

In a highly competitive environment like sport sponsorships, making the right decision is critical for maximizing ROI. The marketing executive of Turkish Airlines explains the decision-making process as follows:

Market prospections are based on the most popular cultural and sportive elements of a country. The preferences of the people in their daily life are very important for us. We realize studies according to the abundance ratio. For example, if we see a lack in Romania we conduct there a study. We ask whether that destination is attractive for the passengers or is a source that generates passengers. In fact, sport sponsorships and advertising department intervene as far as we receive requests from a determined destination and also when we are informed that that destination requires visibility. Market prospection is important but the most important things to do are to expand flight network or to increase the occupancy rate.

Cevizcioglu, 2016

Since 2010, the Turkish Airlines marketing communication strategy has used various types of sport sponsorships. The Euroleague Basketball naming sponsorship was renewed in 2013 and, as a result, the company will hold the naming rights until 2020. In 2014, Turkish Airlines signed a three-year agreement to be one of the main sponsors of the European Rugby Champions Cup and the European Rugby Challenge Cup. Partnerships with various sport teams, events and professional athletes continue to grow and serve their corporate objectives. At the same time, the company recently announced a contract with Boeing for the largest purchase in aviation history by the end of 2021. In 2014, Turkish Airlines became the largest carrier worldwide with regard to the number of destinations, flying to 108 countries. Sport sponsorship provides good opportunities for a company striving to become a global brand and expand their reach. Turkish Airlines constitutes a good example for successful sport sponsorship management. The company seeks potential options in target markets, runs comprehensive research to select the most suitable alternative, activates the partnerships through different mediums and finally measures its ROI using a variety of methods.


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