Sunday, May 19, 2024

Liquid I.V. Sponsors A Formula 1 Race As DTC Brands Compete For Sports Fans | AdExchanger

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Digital-native brands are racing to break free of their social media roots to reach a broader base of US customers.

For many brands, this means betting big on sports. Not sports gambling, mind you, but tapping into the power of US sports fandom to boost business growth.

And, in keeping with their data-driven ethos (and relatively small budgets), these direct-to-consumer brands are being very tactical in terms of which leagues or events they choose to sponsor.

Manscaped, for instance, announced a major global sponsorship package with the UFC in 2022, a year after picking up a sponsorship of the Professional Darts Corporation’s world championship. Startup soda brands Poppi and Sanzo, meanwhile, have been jockeying for pickleball sponsorships while they can still afford to sponsor the sport.

The latest example is Liquid I.V., an electrolyte-rich drink mix, which is a sponsor of Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix this weekend.

A sporting chance

Liquid I.V. selected the this race because it offers the brand an opportunity to make a name for itself at the intersection of sports, hospitality and entertainment, said Stacey Andrade-Wells, VP of marketing.

Ironically, beer and alcohol brands, a mainstay of the most expensive US sports sponsorships, target their placements for the same reason.

But the Formula One event in Miami is also a fruitful collision of what Andrade-Wells referred to as “dehydration occasions.” There’s the race itself, the Florida heat, fans traveling to the city and Miami nightlife (which is to say, there will be a need to alleviate hangovers).

Sports sponsorships also have the capacity to cement a brand with thousands, if not millions, of potential new customers, Andrade-Wells said.

And sports is part of Liquid I.V.’s DNA, she added. The company was founded to produce a superior sports drink when founder Brandin Cohen worked as an account executive for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a Major League Baseball team.


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“A big priority for us is building out and continuing to scale our athlete program,” Andrade-Wells said. Adding NCAA athletes as sponsors – now that it’s legal – is a big growth opportunity, for example, she said?

Breaking through

For relatively smaller brands, compared to national legacy CPG companies, sporting events are a chance to take their business up a notch  – if the sponsorship sticks in people’s minds, that is, and, most importantly, if that sport pops in viewership at the right time.

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, for instance, was a regional jerky manufacturer roughly 15 years ago, when it first took out a multi-year sponsorship of the World Series of Poker. Then poker boomed in popularity and the world series become one of ESPN’s most popular programs of the summer.

On the back of that sponsorship, Jack Link’s became a major national and now global brand leader in its category.

But brands can’t plan to strike gold.

And so Liquid I.V. is integrating itself into the Formula One race in a playful way. For example, it’s referring to itself as a “dehydration reduction system,” which is a jokey reference to the Drag Reduction System. (DRS is a term for the technology cars use to enhance aerodynamics and allow for more passing during races.)

Start your engines

Still, for DTC brands accustomed to spending heavily on Instagram and Facebook, sports sponsorships are a new muscle.

But it’s an important one to flex, because there are vanishingly few opportunities to reach people while they’re really engaged.

Savvy digital marketers know how to find pockets of attention and identify viral topics or trends before they take off. They’re bringing the same sensibilities to sports.

Social media and web ads, assuming they get through the ad blockers, don’t necessarily sink with customers the way they once did, Andrade-Wells said. Viewers know where the ads are, aren’t interested and unconsciously tune them out.

So if you’re a brand that’s thirsty for attention, sports sponsorships are one of the only ways to break through that malaise.

“We’re gearing up for our major hydration season for 2024,” Andrade-Wells said.

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