Sponsorship risks and environmental responsibility: A critical balance for brands

Sponsorship risks and environmental responsibility: A critical balance for brands

In a world increasingly attuned to environmental concerns and societal values, the landscape of corporate sponsorships has evolved dramatically. Brands, particularly those associated with industries that bear environmental concerns, find themselves at a critical crossroads when contemplating sponsorship commitments. The pivotal question they face is whether the advantages of sponsorship outweigh the potential risks posed by environmentally conscious consumers and advocacy groups, especially those who are scrutinising the environmental reputation of the sponsoring brand.

Recent events, such as Greenpeace's campaign targeting TotalEnergies' sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup, spotlight this shifting landscape. Brands are under increasing scrutiny, not just from traditional stakeholders but from a global audience that is deeply concerned about the planet's well-being.

Sponsoring events, sports teams, or cultural festivals has historically been a potent tool for brand exposure and recognition. However, the days of indiscriminate sponsorships are rapidly fading into the past. In this new era, comprehensive risk assessment and diligent due diligence have emerged as essential prerequisites for any responsible and forward-thinking company considering sponsorship.

Let's delve deeper into why this shift is taking place:

  1. Consumer Power:

    Modern consumers are not only better informed but also environmentally conscious. They pay close attention to the alignment of their favorite brands, holding them accountable for their affiliations. A sponsorship that contradicts environmental values can lead to backlash and adversely affect a brand's reputation.

  2. Advocacy Influence:

    Environmental advocacy groups have grown in prominence and influence. They possess the ability to bring into focus sponsorships that they perceive as conflicting with their mission. Utilising social media and multimedia campaigns, they can draw attention to inconsistencies between a brand's values and its sponsorship choices.

  3. Long-Term Brand Health:

    Sponsors must assess the long-term health of their brand. A sponsorship may yield short-term benefits, but if it compromises the brand's reputation or long-term sustainability, it may not be a prudent investment.

In this context, due diligence and risk assessment are not just recommended; they are fundamental steps in the sponsorship decision-making process. It's about ensuring that sponsorship choices align with a brand's core values, mitigating potential risks, and ensuring the sponsorship resonates positively with the target audience.

Environmental due diligence involves:

  • Evaluating Environmental Responsibility:

    Sponsors must evaluate their own environmental practices and the environmental impact of the event or entity they intend to sponsor. Are there practices that could be seen as harmful to the environment? Are there opportunities for improvement?

  • Anticipating Activist Responses:

    Sponsors should consider potential reactions from consumers, advocacy groups, and environmentally conscious individuals. Identifying potential sources of protest and engaging with stakeholders prior to sponsorship enables brands to devise strategies to address concerns proactively.

  • Supporting Climate Solutions:

    Brands that bear responsibility for environmental harm cannot simply sponsor events to divert attention from their impact. They must tackle the issue head-on by supporting initiatives that strive to address environmental challenges and contribute to the global effort to combat climate change.

In conclusion, sponsorship in the modern era necessitates meticulous consideration of environmental factors, especially how they relate to the reputation of the sponsoring brand. Brands that fail to undertake due diligence and risk assessment before sponsoring events or entities potentially engaged in environmentally harmful activities may find themselves facing reputational damage and disconnect with their environmentally conscious audience. In this age of accountability, responsible sponsorship practices are not just ethically sound but also vital for the long-term success and sustainability of brands in an ever-changing world.