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Sponsorship: Not such a Cinch!

Whilst a day doesn’t seem to go by without seeing or hearing about Cazoo or Cinch at some sports event or festival, I do question the sponsorship heavy strategy of these two new kids in the very competitive used car sector.

If you’re not familiar with their investments in sponsorship here’s a quick summary of the last few weeks, we’ve had:

  • The Cazoo Derby festival at Epsom (horse racing) in early June

  • The Cinch Championships at Queen’s Club (tennis) & Isle of Wight Festival (music)

  • More Cinch with the England v NZ test series & England v Indian test match (cricket)

  • Then Cazoo with Wales v South Africa (rugby)

For the rest of July there are multiple music festivals, golf, more cricket, more rugby and even fishing.

As far as I can ascertain these two new brands are sponsoring at least 20 teams, events or championships and I’d estimate they must be spending in excess of $100m combined on rights fees.

On top of this they’re amplifying their investments and spending heavily on broadcast, print, OOH and digital advertising.

When I consider the capabilities of sponsorship (i.e. what it can achieve) against the business challenges faced by these two new brands, with their entirely new propositions, I keep asking myself:

How on earth can this level of investment in sponsorship be an effective and efficient use of marketing $’s?

Sure they’ve got deep pockets and just maybe their sponsorship investments helped to support their recent funding rounds. But beyond this?

It’s my view that their scatter gun approach, where they’ve labelled multiple disconnected assets with no obvious connection to their category, is more wishful thinking than strategic.

Sponsorship will not deliver the scope of messaging required to catch attention, increase understanding of what they do, how they do it and why theirs is a better alternative to your local car dealer or one of the established used car retail groups.

The sheer volume of brand exposure they’ve achieved through their sponsorship investments may have made us more aware of their names when we’re prompted to recall them by a market researcher. This though is not enough. Because this level of expenditure requires significantly more than some prompted recall.

Have these investments made us any more familiar with their proposition? Or made the brands more likeable? Or made us feel closer to them? Or more likely to consider them compared to the established market?

Whilst I can’t answer all of these questions, as I’ve not run a category focussed tracker, I can report, using You Gov’s most popular brand data for Q1 ’22 data that it appears to be a bit of a mixed picture:

In isolation this looks positive. More people have heard of them, as expected, and their likeability, which is a gateway measure for sponsorship, has increased.

However, let’s not forget that this is a very competitive market. As such we must consider the competition.

Here are two of the established brands whose marketing budgets combined are a fraction of those of either of the new kids on the block.

Based on these numbers it seems that the new kids have achieved a higher level of promoted recall and it’s growing at a faster rate.

They’re not there with likeability and worryingly likeability is not increasing any faster than the competition. Which suggests the sponsorship is doing little beyond providing visibility.

Worse still - the established brands have net likeability scores (people who like v people who dislike the brand) of 14% & 16% - which are significantly higher numbers than the new kids of +5% & -3%!

Not a great return from $100,000,000’s of investment!

Of course you could argue that I’m being overly harsh. They’re new brands. They’re disruptors. They’ve got to invest big. They need time. Blah blah blah

Well yes, I agree. But they have to invest smart and this is where their strategy for sponsorship and therefore marketing appears flawed. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that these two brands realise that this level of sponsorship investment is not the answer to their particular problems at the moment.

More emphasis on sponsorship might be right further down the line – but for these two it might be too late!

Ian Thompson Independent Sponsorship Auditor and Strategist

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