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App sponsorships growing on strong results for brands

Sponsoring a mobile application offers brands a more integrated presence than in-app ads, with sponsorships often translating to stronger results. More marketers are eyeing app sponsorships as key part of their mobile marketing strategy, a trend that is likely to continue to grow as consumers increase their use of apps.

Marriott and Subway are just a few of the brands that have sponsored a mobile app so far this year as a way to get in front of a targeted audience. The brands also hope to associate themselves with the positive app experiences consumers are having as a way to drive brand awareness and purchase intent.

?We are absolutely seeing growth [in app sponsorships], particularly as developers begin to see the upside in working with marketers, and marketers begin to understand what works in mobile advertising,? said Ryan Griffin, vice president and group director of media and mobile at Digitas, New York.

?For sponsorships, we generally see lifts in brand impact measures, such as awareness, brand favorability, and purchase intent, that are 1.5-2 times higher than general mobile advertising ? inclusive of mobile Web ? and 30-50 percent higher than standard in-app ads,? he said.

Launch activity
Sponsoring the launch of an app can give brands exclusive access to the app?s audience for a specific period of time. Brands can also benefit from any launch marketing efforts for the app.

For example, the The Marriott Rewards Chase card is promoting its rewards perks to on-the-go business travelers with an exclusive sponsorship of the new Gayot.com mobile application, which offers reviews of restaurants written by professionals (see story).

By sponsoring the app, The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card from Chase is able to reach Gayot?s audience of business travelers and promote the rewards perks that come with the card, such as the ability to earn five points for every dollar spent at Marriott properties.

?As a launch sponsor, there are more benefits since you will benefit from the marketing campaign that will be running to drive downloads of the new mobile application,? said Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile, Toronto.

?At launch, marketing campaigns typically involve a combination of inventory for television and radio spots, print ads, online banners, and social media outlets from which the new mobile app will be promoted to the existing ecosystem of consumers and subscribers,? he said.

?Every time the new app is mentioned, the sponsor would be mentioned as well ? typically as ?brought to you by???

Deeper integrations
The results for app sponsorships can be strong not only because of the excitement built around the launch of an app but also because marketers often get a chance to work more closely with developers to integrate their brand into the app in a more meaningful way.

This gives brands an opportunity to engage app users every time they interact with an app.

?The obvious upside of an app sponsorship is the greater degree of integrated brand presence,? Digitas? Mr. Griffin said. ?Because an end-user downloads and actively engages with an app, the brand can leverage the app's inherent equity.

?For example, in Angry Birds, a brand can leverage the bird and pig characters to deliver its messaging versus merely serving an ad in a rectangular space that could be viewed as disruptive to game play,? he said.

?Sponsorships allow brand opportunities within the natural pauses of app experiences, particularly true for gaming apps. This, in turn, better positions their messaging to be well-received by users.?

The right app
Gaming is a natural choice of app sponsorships because of how popular these apps can be.

For example, earlier this year, Subway sponsored the PrePlay football game application to engage sports fans during the Super Bowl XLVI (see story).

However, the opportunities extend beyond to a wide array of app categories. The key is finding an app that provides content a brand?s targeted audience might be interested in.

?There is definitely growing interest in app sponsorships,? Polar Mobile?s Mr. Gupta said. ?Brands that cater to younger and more affluent audiences are definitely drawn to app sponsorships since they realize that their target market is already fully immersed in mobile and they are most likely to use apps on a daily basis.

?When choosing which app to sponsor, much like any major ad placement, brands should keep in mind the type of consumer they are looking to target and ensure their target market would be interested in the content provided in the app,? he said.

However, it also important for marketers to insure that any integration with an app is organic and authentic or run the risk of users having a negative association with the brand.

A key question marketers should ask themselves when considering an app sponsorship is what is the reason for existing in the app?

?After answering that question, marketers should activate at the intersection of their brand DNA and that of the app, trying to build a true 1+1 =3 within the natural app experience,? Digitas? Mr. Griffin said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York