Landing the moonshot: When going big has astronomical returns

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In every corner of the marketing world, practitioners plug away at the day-to-day responsibilities and opportunities that keep them fully engaged in their role.

But many of those same individuals spend at least a few moments a day dreaming about the big, high-profile campaigns they hope to be part of – the ones that will stand out and fill them with a sense of accomplishment long after they’re complete.

These are the moonshots. They’re high-stakes moves that are big, bold and can make or define a brand. But when the stakes are high, many in decision-making seats think first about the “what if it fails” possibilities instead of “what if it succeeds.” And you can’t necessarily blame them.

Moonshot costs are high, and bring with them lower margin for error. More eyes are on the campaign (at more senior levels, as well), which in the best-case scenario means more expectations – and in the worst, more cooks in the kitchen and more hoops to jump through.

One of the biggest challenges is that it can be tough to measure exactly what the impact of the moonshot is – and how to show its return on investment (ROI). This has always been a challenge for communications pros trying to effectively communicate the value of earned media coverage. But it’s a challenge that extends beyond many other branches of the marketing tree.

Sports sponsorships often struggle to show concrete ROI. Associating a brand with a major sports facility, team or player carries with it exceptionally high costs, along with potential risk (see: exhibit A). Success is anything but guaranteed, and there is uncertainty at every stage. A high-profile sports sponsorship is, by definition, a moonshot.

An audacious Scotiabank moonshot

Take Scotiabank and Tangerine. In late 2017, Scotiabank committed nearly a billion dollars over 20 years for naming rights to the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Raptors, bringing Tangerine along with it as the official bank of Canada’s basketball team shortly thereafter (taking over for Air Canada and BMO, respectively). At the time, some experts from across North America went as far as to say that Scotiabank “would get better bang for their buck from literally any other sort of ad campaign, or just saving their money,” while others saw it as an opportunity to build greater brand goodwill and differentiate in a crowded marketplace.

For Scotiabank, the naming rights were first and foremost a hockey play. Their standing experience with hockey sponsorship already provided metrics that showed consumers who knew of their support for Canada’s national pastime were more likely to choose them over the other Big 5 banks.

Now, less than a year after the branding inside and outside the arena switched from old sponsors to new, Scotiabank and Tangerine have attracted eyes from across Canada and around the world – thanks not to the Leafs, but to the Raptors. And it’s not just the eyes of the fans that are opening, but their wallets as well.

According to reports, Tangerine saw a 50 per cent jump in website traffic and a 20 per cent spike in the number of customers who signed up for an account. On top of that, while less than 10 per cent of Raptors fans were even familiar with Tangerine at the start of the NBA season, that grew to 40 per cent by the start of the playoffs and is well over 50 per cent today. Those numbers would be nearly impossible to reach without the confidence to go big and bold over the past few years. That’s quite the moonshot.

Scotiabank may have envisioned and sold its moonshot as an investment in hockey. But as the dust settles from one of the most storied runs in Toronto professional sports history, culminating in the first major championship for “The Six” in 26 years, it’s Kawhi and the gang who have illustrated the value in taking the moonshot – and likely paid off with a near billion-dollar, 20-year program in Year One.