Particularly in sport, there seems to be an endless stream of news stories which shine a negative light upon rights holders and especially their players and the management. Mostly, these are individual actions which are out of anyone’s control (other than the individual). There is, however, always a domino effect and fall-out at these times and management of that can fall squarely on the shoulder of the partnerships team.
I have personally been involved in the process of managing crises at rights holders. Once, a much-loved coach was sacked and another in the aftermath of the death of a player whilst on team duty. There are many other crises that do emerge though. One of those is the current illicit drugs issue in the press here in Australia and we are all familiar with the recent corruption issues seen at the world’s governing body of Football.
A crisis can arise anywhere, at any time and in many forms. There are, however, a few key things I learned in my time, and also that I have observed others doing, which will help you plan for and manage the worst of situations.
When a crisis occurs, the worst thing you can do is to go silent and let the mainstream and social media be the informant for your sponsors. Instead, you need to communicate quickly and prioritise those who you need to call versus those you can email.
With a priority list, you can determine what and how you communicate with your sponsors through this time and can make the calls.
When communicating with your sponsors, you don’t want to be too brief OR too detailed. However, some things you must tell them include:
- what happened; and
- what will the process will be.
3. What the plan is
Let your sponsors know what the management plan of this crisis is. Let them know this with honestly, expediency i.e on your initial communication, and transparency. Sometimes you may not be sure yourself. That’s OK, it could be as simple as saying that the Board will be meeting at 1:00pm and a decision will be made then and that you will update them as soon as you can with what the next steps are.
See the crisis through with your sponsors because nothing is worse than showing them the professionalism to inform them and then not letting them know how it is being handled. How a crisis is handled, and the outcomes of management’s decisions, will show your sponsors your integrity as an organisation and will play a massive role in the brand’s decisions off the back of the crisis.
You should then regularly update any major shifts, or decisions, once they are concrete, and show leadership right across the process.
5. Understand the Brand’s Decision Process
It is always good to know the brand’s corporate position on the crisis. This will allow you to communicate any potential fall-out to those making the decisions on the action to be taken. It would be very harsh if a brand, who is being constantly communicated with through a crisis, to make any final decisions until a resolution is reached and is done so in light of all the facts. That said, some brands will make premature and somewhat uninformed decisions, before a resolution is reached, and such decisions will be based on the following:
Brand Positioning: Is the position of the brand in the market affected by the crisis in question AND would the brand get more out of taking an early stance (as opposed to seeing out the process)?
Impact: Has the brand been impacted, directly or indirectly, through the crisis and will there be commercial implications on the brand because of it?
Alignment – Since the crisis broke, does the brand’s values still align with the rights holder’s values OR is there an opportunity for greater alignment if the process is managed correctly?
Morals: Does the brand have a moral stance against the crisis? If so, retention will be difficult or immediate cancellation may even occur.
Create a Plan
One thing is for sure – when a crisis happens, things move at a million miles per minute and things get lost, forgotten or rash decisions are made.
Those who have been through a crisis will tell you that you can never plan enough for when they do strike. They will also tell you that the processes within the crisis management plan are what will impact the effectiveness of how the crisis is managed from a sponsorship management point of view.
Mark Thompson // Managing Director
Mark specialises in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.
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