YETI Proves Good Partnership Prospects Are Not Always the Shiny New Things

February 1, 2023 YETI Proves Good Partnership Prospects Are Not Always the Shiny New Things

Properties seeking new sources of sponsorship revenue spend a great deal of time focused on emerging categories and brands. The idea, of course, is that fishing in the same pond—continually going back to companies and industries already spending on sports and entertainment marketing—will yield only incremental growth.

This prospecting strategy has often been fruitful. Consider all the new dollars that have flowed to rightsholders in recent years from “hot” categories such as fintech, betting, and, yes, crypto.

Emerging categories are most often disruptors, defined by start-up companies and brands that need to establish themselves and/or educate consumers about unfamiliar products. They make excellent sponsorship candidates because they typically don’t have the budgets to afford large traditional media campaigns, and can benefit not only from cost-effective exposure, but also platforms for experiential marketing that allow consumers to get to know their products and services.

But sponsorship sellers shouldn’t take their eyes off of established brands as potential partners, as the recent example of YETI makes clear.

The 16-year-old wildly successful manufacturer of drinkware, coolers and other outdoor products built its business and reputation on word-of-mouth, content and influencer marketing. Now a publicly traded company with $1.6 billion in revenue last year and a market cap nearing $4 billion, some might assume that the brand has outgrown a need for sponsorship.

Instead, the brand has ramped up its partnership efforts, most recently signing a three-year global agreement to be the official drinkware and cooler of the World Surf League. (Interestingly, WSL announced a partnership with another well-established brand not known for sponsorship—Apple Watch—at the same time as the YETI deal.)

Apart from its jersey sponsorship of hometown MLS team Austin FC, YETI’s partnerships are predicated on going where its customers and communities are, as CMO Paulie Dery explained to Forbes: ““When we started, the product was adopted by the fishing community, so we joined the fishing community. The product then found other communities—ranching, rodeo, the backcountry snow world, the alpine world, equining and then it found, strangely, the culinary world, and then it found surf and skate.”

As participants in those sports and activities adopted the brand, sponsorships followed, including Pro Bull Riders, snowboard competition series Natural Selection Tour, and the freeskier and snowboard freeriders series Freeride World Tour. Most of YETI’s partnerships provide content for the company’s YETI Presents online video channel.

And in what could be a hint at what’s next for YETI partnerships, Dery noted that new user communities for the brand include downhill skiing, equestrian, and Australian rugby.