Business Essentials: Slam-dunk sponsors: tall guy seeks tall guys to give his brand reach

A new firm selling clothes to men over six foot three wants to know how to link up with a basketball team
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The Independent Online

If there's one strange-sounding theory that Justin Edison hopes is true, it's that tall men do better in business and earn more than shorter ones. Research by London Guildhall University is among studies across all professions that have reached this conclusion - in which case, Mr Edison should get the punters rolling in with their disposable income. His company, Alto Clothing, supplies fashionable clothes exclusively to men over six foot three.

The idea for the company, launched last October in south- west London, was born of personal experience: Mr Edison himself is tall and thin.

"In a world where 'big' seems always to go with 'tall', finding clothes I look good in has been so difficult," he explains. "With Alto Clothing, I want to make it easy to find fashion that doesn't make 17 or 27 look like 57."

As with all new businesses, publicity is vital and Mr Edison's next step in raising the profile of Alto is sponsorship. Partly because of the link between basketball and tall men - and partly because he is an ex-player himself - he would like the firm to sponsor a team. But he wants to ensure he gets the maximum return on his investment.

"I'm convinced that the fit is right with Alto and basketball," he says. "After all, the case studies I've been reading about sports sponsorship seem to point to the benefits of the exposure it offers, particularly if the sport is complementary to what the business does. But I don't know how to go about choosing a team."

Mr Edison wants to know if there are certain guidelines he should be working with in making this decision, as well as if there is a "right" way of approaching a club.

"There are some obvious criteria: the team needs to have a high profile and their finances should be in check, so I can be sure they will be in existence tomorrow. But what else do I need to think about or be asking?"

He also wants to know what level of sponsorship he should seek and how this should be agreed. "I'm not sure how much I can expect to get back from a deal," he explains. "Say I launched a new range of clothing - could I get the team to do some kind of promotional event? And in the normal course of events for a sports team, are there opportunities on which I could 'piggy-back' so that my company gets maximum exposure?"

Finally, Mr Edison is seeking advice on what he can do to publicise the tie-up. "Obviously, if I go ahead with this, I want people to know about it."

It's early days for Alto, he concludes. "So I want to make sure I get this right."

www.altoclothing.com

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY

Paul Gostick, International Chairman, The Chartered Institute of Marketing

"Some 80 per cent of sponsorship money is found in sport. But just because tall men play basketball, it doesn't mean tall men watch it. Rather than sponsoring shirts or perimeter boards, for example - which may not give the Alto brand much exposure - he could use selected team members as models as part of a wider marketing campaign. This would enable him to have better control of the audience.

"A sponsorship deal is worth what the sponsor is prepared to pay. But Mr Edison will need to define very precisely what he expects for that money in terms of personal appearances, tickets or photo opportunities. What he doesn't ask for, he won't get."

Nigel Currie, Director of The 'Brandrapport' Sports Sponsorship Agency and Chairman of The European Sponsorship Association (ESA)

"The link with a leading basketball team would provide an outstanding opportunity. Sponsorship is one of the most effective marketing tools for raising a brand's profile.

"The name Alto needs to be incorporated into the team's name - 'The Alto Jets', for example. This will ensure essential mentions in the media, particularly radio and television, to add to the visual branding on players.

"There also need to be contractual rights. These would involve individual players wearing Alto clothing in advertising, PR and promotional campaigns. Some of the top players should be signed up as ambassadors for Alto.

"A grass-roots/community link would provide good PR opportunities - such as support for youth basketball in south-west London."

Stewart Masterton, Business Adviser, Business Link For London

"Mr Edison must choose a basketball team whose ethics and sportsmanship are not called into question, ensuring the reputation of his own brand isn't tarnished. Sponsorship is simply an indirect sales pitch, and the team must be worthy of this.

"Once decided, he must consider how his brand should appear alongside the team. One point is whether he wants to link the entire brand image or just a selection of seasonal or style items.

"For publicity, consider hiring a PR agency with the specific brief of creating a solid link between brand value and the team. Ideas include a press release, photo opportunity and free shopping spree for a loyal fan.

"The Alto website must reflect the sponsorship deal while remaining an information and sales platform for a wider market. Business Link has factsheets on using PR, free to download ( www.businesslink4london.com)."

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