There’s no arguing about the fact that there’s huge value in sponsoring sports. Whether it’s the estimated $10 million average annual sales uplift endorsements contribute or the 4.7 billion sets of eyeballs glued to the television coverage of the Barclays Premier League*, the numbers are huge.
But throwing money at sports isn’t a universal panacea for all your marketing challenges, nor can a premium package form your tactical silver bullet if it’s not paired with sound strategy. For every success story, there are a sizeable handful of budget busting failures and missed opportunities.
To help make sure your brand sits firmly in the first group, we’ve prepared our top five tips to help you drive the most value from your sports sponsorships:
CREATE VALUE FOR THE RIGHTS HOLDER
This may seem counterintuitive, after all you’re fronting the cash right? Surely it’s all about them creating value for you? Not so. Sponsorship should generate value for both parties. Why? Because if you as the sponsor can generate value for the rights holder, you’ll be in a stronger negotiating position and can drive down the overall cost of your sponsorship, making it more likely that your involvement will return a measure of success and value.
Looking at sponsorship as a partnership where you give as well as take opens up opportunities to do more interesting things than just have your logo everywhere. You can look at things like co-creating and promoting exclusive content, or promoting the event with a competition offer. These reflect far more favourably on your brand than a simple stickering exercise, as well as creating value for the rights holder and its accompanying benefit outlined above.
TAKE A FAN-CENTRIC APPROACH
Paying for placement is only a small part of the sports sponsorship battle. Fan engagement should be top of your list before the ink is even dry on your contact. You need to put the fans at the heart of your sponsorship, get them involved and give them a reason to care.
In 2013 MLS fans were given the opportunity to vote one player into that year’s All-Star game by scoring goals with him in sponsor EA Sports’ FIFA 2013 video game. Each goal scored with someone from a 26-player shortlist was counted as one vote in his favour. The campaign not only encouraged fans to engage with an EA Sports product directly, it also generated significant buzz online.
To do this successfully for your brand, you’ll need accurate and detailed insights and that means data. Collecting, measuring and analysing fan data using the smartest technology and strategy you can find.
MAKE YOUR VENUE WORK HARDER
Look beyond your traditional branding placements and suggest innovative ways to incorporate your product or brand experience into the venue. A simple example of this is Heineken, who had pouring rights at the Rugby World Cup so everyone who wanted a pint of lager had to try their product.
That might seem like an easy example to apply, but every brand can evolve innovative ways of immersing fans in the experience at their venues. Don’t see how? Challenge us to come up with some ideas for you.
USE SPONSORSHIP AS A CHANCE TO TELL A STORY
Guinness are the absolute masters of this tactic, linking their brand values to rugby through the stories of individual players. They do more than just get a former player to appear in an ad, they tell a diverse range of stories from legends of the game, from Johnny Wilkinson going to France a stranger and returning a hero there to Gareth Thomas finding the courage to come out to his team mates.
INVEST LONG TERM FOR INCREMENTAL GAINS
The most creative and rewarding sponsorship partnerships are found in long term relationships for the majority of the time. Long term deals allow brands to build proper partnerships with the event or league, as well as relationships with the fans themselves. It takes time for fans to really learn your brand identity and for it to be so fully absorbed that it has longevity beyond the life of the sponsorship.
Sport is in its nature an area that values loyalty and allegiance over time. The positive feeling that engenders for sponsors who stick around (like Heineken and Guinness), though tricky to measure is undeniable.