4 Lessons For Brands When Negotiating Sport Sponsorships

August 29th, 2018 Posted by

Thinking about dipping your toe in the water of a sports-based sponsorship? Or maybe your entire leg? Or perhaps you’re already so up to your neck in a sponsorship that you’re almost part of the rights holder!

Whatever position you’re in, there has never been a better time to review your strategy and approach, to new or renewing sponsorship deals, than right now. Few brands are able to do this well; even less can absolutely nail it.

Now, that’s not meant to sound abrupt but genuinely ask yourself if you know every benefit included in your deal, the objective(s) aligned to it, what it costs you, and the outcomes attached to its delivery.

How’d you go?

Depending on where you are in the world, sporting codes are either about to start or finish their seasons. That means rights holders are going to want to sign new sponsorship deals or perhaps renew/extend existing deals.

That’s why your time is now.

This time of year gives you great power in negotiations due to the fact that research and insights reports can provide you a pretty good snapshot of the audience you are exploring or wanting to reach.

But there’s an art to getting this time of year right.

This might sound like a challenge so here are a few things to think about going into negotiations.

Go beyond what gets on TV

Despite audience numbers staying relatively high for most sports and events, brands need to reconsider their approach to the traditional signage, ticketing, or advertising piece during broadcast coverage.

Your starting point should be the plethora of ad-break opportunities across most codes and events; the rise in dual-screen usage is just ridiculous! You might be getting great QI media value on an asset but can you be confident in exactly how many of those eyeballs are actively engaged at the time of your ad?

Fans, or your audience, are now increasingly likely to be looking at social media, other websites, and/or apps, during coverage, to discuss key moments, see opinions & reactions, or even look at key stats.

Get creative around this. Ask your rights holder about their OTT engagement strategy and delve deeper into the opportunities you see. For example, ask them how you might be able to leverage your existing ad with naming rights of the stats page on their app or potentially offer a cool prize for the in-game/event competition?

Tell stories

This is going to sound recycled because it is and that’s because it is true and important. This point is everywhere.

In the sponsorship game, there are winners and losers. The winners are brands who understand that sponsorship is not just a one-way street. They understand the power of stories and act on that knowledge to create something meaningful. They don’t simply pay a fee and expect the world to fall at their feet or opportunities to suddenly appear out of nowhere (please don’t fall into this trap).

A brand that has absolutely nailed this is Steggles. They are a Major Sponsor of the Sydney Roosters in the Australia National Rugby League competition. If you follow the code in Australia, cast your mind back to the NRL Women in League round in 2017 to see a move that has to be applauded. In the same position and font as the Steggles front of jersey branding, players were able to showcase the names of the most important female in their life. Staff, members, and fans were then able to do the same. End result – amazing content creation, lots of powerful stories, and one very big tick towards brand recognition and consideration.

Involve fans

Whether it’s their sporting team or an event they attend every year, fans are fanatical. Brands who can connect with fans off the back of this win BIG TIME. If you’re not connecting with your audience through broadcast, you need to explore other ad-free avenues. For example, as a tragic Brisbane Broncos supporter, I can’t help myself but read the Ladbrokes 5 Things to Know content on Facebook that is shared 24 hours before a game.

Don’t get too crazy though; remember to always stick to your objectives. There is so much more to sponsorship than logo placement.

McDonalds recently used the World Cup to launch its McDelivery service via UberEats in France, Korea, and Germany. It also added over 200 additional stores so that fans could eat at any godly hour. Executive and finance teams love when sponsorship equals additional revenue streams.

In Australia, electronics giant Samsung launched TIMVITE, an interactive digital campaign that encouraged fans to invite their friends over for the big matches via a personalised video invitation from Socceroos legend, Tim Cahill (created via a chatbot).

Think beyond share of voice

I saw a great point from Misha Sher at Mediacom Worldwide – share of voice doesn’t translate into share of mind; especially when consumers are seeking closer relationships with brands.

The smartest brands recognise that their sponsorship deal with a rights holder is only the first step. Brands who seem to get this right are the ones you see and hear the most; whether it’s through signage, activations, OTT sponsored content, or linkages to cause marketing. It’s not just the one avenue.

One of the best ways to truly know if your sponsorship is working is to ask yourself this, “‘If I stopped sponsoring X, who would notice?” Or maybe, “If I changed where our brand appears, would I still reach the same audience?” This is where your share of voice questions should start.

Are you doing the same thing that every other brand, or your own, has done in sponsorship before? If so, why would you expect different results if you’re doing the same thing? Einstein said that that is the definition of insanity!

What separates brands getting a great deal versus an average deal, at this time of year, is their willingness to dig deeper. Lift the lid of a proposal and ask questions. It’s also worth considering taking 5-10% of your sponsorship spend and reallocating/increasing it to try something that sounds a little risky and new.

You might just surprise yourself!


Daniel Ferguson-Hill // Commercial Manager – AU/NZ

Daniel is a big believer in being genuine and authentic and brings those traits to each relationship. He has experience in national partnerships and business development across the sporting and not-for-profit landscape. He’s led national commercial teams and developed commercial, engagement, and membership strategies with concrete outcomes.


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