In ‘Media in Focus‘ (page 43 if you’re interested) Les Binet and Peter Field identified sponsorship as the media with the highest potential for long-term brand building. We asked Sophie Morris, Board Director of the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) and consultant at Millharbour Marketing, if it was fulfilling its potential.
Sponsorship is an incredibly powerful tool to engage with audiences in a way that advertising alone can’t. It has the power to change lives and, on the more humble scale, improve experiences and increase access to events.
Sophie presented at #EffWeek 2017 with Matt Stevenson from EE. Read her round up of the event.
It has excellent potential as an effective marketing tool, integrating right across the promotional mix, employee engagement and CSR activities. It can harness engagement from audiences that couldn’t otherwise be reached, as effectively by any other single means.
However, problems occur when it isn’t managed properly as part of the promotional mix and therefore with the same scrutiny in selection, planning, implementation and measurement as other marketing activities. Brands need to make sure that the sponsorship is selected based on its ability to contribute to marketing objectives, that the assets selected are aligned to achieving those objectives, that those assets are activated in the most relevant, appropriate and innovative way. And of course the measurement of effectiveness must be built into the planning from the outset.
There are many companies that use sponsorship very successfully to meet their marketing objectives and contribute to the bottom line. But there are also many more that don’t use it well at all. This results in poor opinions of its ability to be effective and makes them unlikely to keep investing in it.
“I’ve seen too many companies doing sponsorship as a vanity play”
In my opinion sponsorship still lacks the necessary marketing discipline needed to make it an essential element of the marketing mix.
I’ve seen too many companies doing sponsorship for the wrong reasons, either as a vanity play or because the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO) is loudest and a company ends up sponsoring an event of that person’s preference, usually to show off or get VIP treatment. This results in the wrong assets being selected for the wrong reasons and a missed opportunity for engaging with both customers and employees.
In the worst cases, some sponsors don’t activate at all beyond handing their logo over at the start of the agreement, they don’t utilise all assets, they don’t integrate with the rest of their marketing and don’t measure any aspect of impact. Often this is because they lack the expertise to know how to best use sponsorship or even what they could expect from it.
Even larger companies can be easily distracted by a great creative idea behind a campaign or, getting the best celebrity ambassador without tying that back to the objectives. Measurement then often relies on getting YouTube Views and social media impressions, measuring the effectiveness of one particular activation but not the whole sponsorship and what affect that had on the objectives in the first place.
Some companies choose to sponsor a particular team or event as a blocking tool to prevent a competitor acquiring that property. Some in this situation then also choose not to invest any more money in activating any of the associated assets. This not only devalues the relationship with the rights holder and their audience, it is also missing out on the opportunity to leverage the initial investment.
“The most important thing to ensure effectiveness is to get the right capability behind it, whether in-house or external.”
Rights holders have a role to play in this too. It is in their interest that sponsors have the most appropriate assets for their objectives, that they activate their assets well, are able to measure impact and receive the expected level of service to want to renew their agreements.
I really do believe that all organisations should consider sponsorship as part of their promotional mix. It might not be right for all, of course, but the most important thing to ensure effectiveness is to get the right capability behind it, whether in-house or external. It is critical to select the right sponsorship property, agree the most appropriate assets, plan the most effective activation of those assets and implement the relevant measurement frameworks in order to best assess impact and inform future planning.
Sponsorship runs a real risk of not being able to prove its effectiveness, if it is not linked to objectives and not measured appropriately. With the very big numbers we see in the press about commercial deals, we have a duty to use that spend wisely and prove the impact it makes to the business.
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David Wheldon, Chief Marketing Officer, RBS
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