Ask a marketer their thoughts on branding without a name or a logo and you’re likely to get a quizzical look. But Argentine bank Banco Hipotecario took that idea and ran with it when they unveiled their sponsorship of Argentine soccer… err, excuse me, futbol… club Racing’s jersey. Actually, there wasn’t much to unveil because Banco Hipotecario took the peculiar approach of not including a logo or their name anywhere on the jersey. Instead, when the public got their first glimpse of the jersey during a match against Independiente, all they saw was Racing’s team colors and logo – with no sponsorship of any kind. According to a study done by market research firm Yankelovich (and reported on here by the New York Times), people who live in urban areas see upwards of 5,000 ad impressions per day. That’s slightly more than 5 per minute, assuming the average person is awake for 16 hours. Of course, we’re all in some way contributing to that – I’m currently wearing a shirt branded with a familiar horse and player wielding a mallet (do I even need to say the name?), and my sneakers sport a Converse logo. Did you know jean designers brand themselves based on unique back pocket stitching? I certainly didn’t until I spent some time in retail. Even on my desk I see Dell, Post-It, ChapStick, Toshiba, Hard Rock (my favorite mug that can seemingly contain gallons of coffee at a time), Staples… and I don’t even have to turn my head.
We’ve become so accustomed to brands and logos and billboards and taglines and commercials that we automatically tune most of it out. They’ve become so ingrained in our daily lives that we hardly notice it anymore and just accept for the way things are. I remember a really cool internet meme which circulated several years back that took a photo of your average street and photoshopped out any indication of brand names, logos, or advertisements. The resulting image felt eerily empty. So as expected, Racing’s clutter-free jersey stood out next to Independiente’s sponsor infused one. But naturally, fans and players loved it.
Banco Hipotecario built their approach to sponsorship based on their motto: “Creator of Owners.” Instead of contributing to the copious amounts of branding in sports, they wanted to give the jersey back to its true owners – the fans and the players. But therein lies the question of how exactly does a brand find value in spending the sponsor money to not advertise themselves? Well Hipotecario banked (see what I did there??) on the word of mouth power of Racing fans, and the fact that this type of sponsorship had never been attempted before in professional futbol. When the players first hit the field, fans immediately wondered why no sponsors appeared on the jersey. Pretty soon word got out on Hipotecario’s approach to sponsorship (thanks to the internet and social media) and fans were overjoyed to have their jersey in its natural state. Hipotecario even released this video to help fans understand the reasons behind their decision. “After all,” they said, “isn’t it the goal of every brand to be loved by its people?” That’s certainly a question several brands should be asking themselves.
According to Banco Hipotecario, the resulting “sponsorship” led to the creation of three Facebook fan pages started by Racing fans and wide-ranging press coverage. Not bad for a brand looking to stand out by not standing out.