OK, so let’s kick off by defining sponsorships…
Sponsorship is the support of an event, activity, person, or organisation through financial means or the provision of products or services. Support is given in exchange for the rights of the property that can be leveraged.
In the good old days, sponsorships were often initiated for corporate prestige, and selected based on key stakeholders’ interests, but sponsorship today has evolved to a strategic marketing activity used to build brands.
While short-term sponsorship can be used effectively – for instance, a car launch being associated with a new TV programme launch – in this article I’ve concentrated on long-term commitment sponsorships, where the brand has committed to the tactic integral to their greater marketing efforts.
What is its role?
Sure, awareness is always a key objective. But if the objective is to only build awareness, sponsorship would be an expensive road to take.
When more than just awareness is needed, sponsorship will make the investment work harder than plain advertising. Why? Because it has many facets that a marketer can exploit!
It can play a key role in establishing a brand identity or repositioning a brand by associating with a property. Sponsorship can also provide a brand the opportunity to move away from passive communication broadcast to the target audience to a far more active and engaging communication. It can ‘connect’ with the consumer. And remember, with the right property selection, trust can be established as sponsorship is not as one dimensional as straight advertising.
Sponsorship should never be seen as a flash-in-the-pan revenue generator. It needs to be viewed as a long-term partnership that a brand is willing to commit to and invest in. With this in mind, it is critical to highlight that sponsorship can be difficult to measure, particularly because the goal should not be an instant lift in sales, but rather about building brand equity over time, through the associations that are established.
But if we don’t necessarily get immediate return in terms of sales, the softer issues and ROI areas such as perceptual shifts, brand association, positive pre-disposition and so on, should be measured. To this end, when large investments are being made through sponsorship deals, the brand should consider a research partner to ensure equity is being tracked against the elements of the sponsorship.
But how do you choose the right sponsorship property?
Once sponsorship has been identified as the right route to market, it is critical to ensure the right property is selected for the long-term partnership.
The starting point should be to find a property that is aligned to a passion point of the target audience. If the target audience has an emotional investment in the property, whether it is an event, a TV show, an activity or person, the opportunity to engage and connect increases for the advertiser.
The next step is to ensure that brand equity is built through the property association. So it is essential that the passion point that links the target audience to the property, is also closely associated to the brand.
The model below shows the three elements that need to overlap for a sponsorship property to make business sense for a brand.
When an appropriate property has been sourced, an evaluation across different criteria should be carried out. These should include:
•Investment versus assets received, How much value, at what cost?
•Strategic fit against objectives, target audience fit, brand identity fit.
•The ability to leverage the property and the ability to execute the sponsorship.
Leveraging the sponsorship…
Absolutely key to success is the ability to leverage the property. This element is critical because often the footprint of the event, activity or person is limited. As sponsorship involves considerable investment, it is not enough to reach a limited footprint.
To ensure success of a sponsorship, scale needs to be factored in. The sponsorship has to be promoted for maximum awareness and return!
So it is important that a brand does not commit its entire budget to the cost of the sponsorship property alone. Over the years, there has been debate as to what is the magic number for leveraging the property and different sources range from 100% to 300% of the cost of the property. So the REAL cost for a property that costs R1M is really R2 or R3M to ensure success!
Whatever number a brand may decide on, the critical thing to remember is to invest in the two phases of leveraging a property. The first of the phases is before the event or activity and invites the target audience to join. The second phase is the amplification. This phase may take place during or after the property and allows those that might not be able attend to still be engaged and involved.
The most successful sponsorships are when the sponsored property becomes the core of the communication plan and all other activity is aimed at leveraging it. Other elements should include paid advertising, owned properties and earned conversation in order to ensure that the sponsorship investment is really optimised.
Sponsorship is a very powerful marketing tool. But only when used for the right reasons. As it inevitably involves a sizeable investment into a long-term partnership, a brand must consider the route of sponsorship carefully. Really, 100% commitment is a pre-requisite!
Isla Stringer is group head: The MediaShop
This post was originally published by The MediaShop.