Three fundamental keys to success in the world of sponsorship

By The Earnie Team

Lessons learned from the third Earnie activation breakfast

Why invest in sponsorship activation without putting the effort in afterwards? Too often brands are guilty of thinking once the deal is signed, the ROI will simply materialise. But that’s just not the case. We’ve found that despite the clear threats to sponsorship, when brands get their activation right the benefits can be huge. But it’s getting it right that’s the tricky part.

So once again, we invited brands from the world of sponsorship to meet with some of the biggest names in sport and entertainment marketing to discuss the day-to-day issues that they’ve faced, and how they’ve managed to overcome these challenges.

So what have they learned?

1. Build a partnership, not just a sponsorship

More and more, brands are realising the need for change on a bigger scale than ever before. It’s one thing joining up sponsorship with other marketing goals and departments internally, but brands need to take this further. To successfully activate sponsorship, there needs to be integrated activity and ideally a shared budget. Otherwise sponsorship’s full potential will never be unlocked.

But how can this be done?

It’s all about transparency. Involving a sponsor in marketing plans early on helps to get them on board and facilitates early buy-in. By presenting a well-thought-out and long-term marketing strategy, you can collaborate early, maximise joint ROI and benefit from the synergy that follows. It’s much harder to just try and retrofit partner activity at the last minute.

It also helps when longer-term sponsorship deals are kept flexible from both sides. A draconian approach to a sponsor’s specific rights will not help anyone if a sudden technological advance renders the originally agreed parameters of sponsorship redundant. And it won’t do much for relationship building either.

2. Move on from advertising equivalency

Sponsorship should be viewed as a completely separate entity to advertising. After all, simply buying airtime or advertising space would be a much cheaper way to maximise ROI if brand awareness was the only objective. Not to mention the fact that a 30 second television ad would give significantly more creative freedom than some perimeter signage at an event.

But that’s where offering unique experiences can set sponsorship apart – to the right audience, a behind-the-scenes, one-off experience that surprises and delights can be of immeasurable value – these moments can truly matter.

While there’s a need to understand target markets and be realistic, a brand should never be afraid to challenge the norm. If you’re seeking sponsorship, but your property isn’t as glamorous as rival offerings, then you need to go above and beyond to demonstrate value. But the opportunity to use this to your advantage and differentiate your offering is there, and this is where it’s important to think outside the box.

3. Tailor your strategy – one size does not fit all

BP funds carbon offset scheme for London 2012 Olympics

One example that really resonated at the activation breakfast was from BP, a key sponsor of the Olympics. As a corporation in a predominantly B2C environment you might think mass awareness from perimeter signage and advertising would be more than enough – that sticking to the norm would be fine. But then a key point was raised – it’s vital that you understand your market and really analyse what targets are achievable, and therefore what strategies are worthwhile.

BP recognised early on that they needed to consider price elasticity of demand within their activation strategy. Given that oil is a necessity, they recognised that sales are only marginally going to be influenced by simply increasing brand awareness or focusing on a value based message. This price inelasticity of demand meant that BP had to work harder and think differently – their Olympic sponsorship needed to influence key decision makers to really have an impact. BP also realised that their brand perception and loyalty was at an all-time low since 2010’s oil disaster. They had to change perceptions on a wider scale, that’s what would really matter.

So what did BP do?

They used their sponsorship as an opportunity to reposition themselves as the environmentally aware oil company, with not-for-profit ‘carbon offset’ schemes and events at the heart of their sponsorship activation. A smart move from BP, and a lesson in thinking differently for all prospective sponsors out there.