Dear Sam, this is why sponsorship and memberships are a marriage made in heaven

March 14th, 2018 Posted by

In this ongoing series, Sam Irvine, SponServe’s Territory Manager, Australia and New Zealand, ponders his past life as a commercial manager at a rights holder and what he wishes he knew. Then, he pens a letter to his younger self. 


14 March 2018

Re: Why sponsorship and memberships are a marriage made in heaven

Dear Sam,

It’s that fantastic time of the year again in Australia when football clubs (AFL, NRL, and Rugby Union, in particular) send out their membership packs. You will have just received the pack for your family membership for the Sydney Swans and you will be planning which games you could potentially attend.

At the same time, you will notice that QBE (insurance sponsor) play a really big part in this membership program and you’ll wonder why you don’t take out your insurance with them.

This year, instead of just enjoying the token Swans branded items you and the kids receive, I have taken the time to point out five key reasons as to why you should have involved commercial partners more in previous membership programs during your time working at a rights holder.

1. Engaged demographic

A club’s membership group is almost guaranteed to be the most engaged demographic segment; what better group for your partners to want to talk to?

The brand loyalty this group has towards the club should be built on to create a sense of loyalty with the partner’s brand.

This group is going to be open to receiving communication from your partner (as long as it has a connection to your club). They have already opted-in on a number of fronts, so make sure you use this openness and level of engagement without simply spamming them.

2. Cross-promotion of partner’s assets

This is the perfect opportunity for you to play another key role in your partner’s marketing and communications plan and, at the same time, an opportunity to help them distribute some products or services. How can you use a special offer or actual product of a partner in the membership?

This could be a simple way to provide another touch point for a partner’s service or a way to get their product into the member’s hands. Utilise the services or products of a sponsor as rewards for members, using money can’t buy experiences brought to you by a sponsor or, better yet, involve the opportunity for your members to become a customer of the partner e.g. sign up to Qatar Airways Frequent Flyer Program to receive a signed Swans Jersey.

By working with the partner in this space, and tailoring this to a variety of levels (not everyone has an international airline as a sponsor), you are giving your members another reason to connect with your partners.

3. Multiple touch points

The variety of memberships available nowadays are so varied and flexible and they cater for the complex group that make up club members. Club memberships are no longer just for the die-hard fans and are now also for anyone who wants to feel a real connection with their club and a further sense of belonging, and this should be a key demographic your sponsors want to connect with.

By tailoring the different member offerings available (think pet memberships for example) and working with your partners on these different levels of memberships, you can provide a whole new group of consumers for your partners to talk to while, at the same time, opening up the opportunity to work with multiple partners on these new membership levels.

Involving your partners in the membership program creates multiple touch points for them through opening up a wide variety of communication opportunities and broadening your member database.

4. Continual brand recognition

Watching Harvey run around the house with a Swans flag or cape, or using his favourite A-League team drink bottle, really hits home the continual brand recognition available for your sponsors. By providing branded items that are useful, fun, different, or just simply a core part of the sport (think mini football or member card) you and your partners will position yourselves as a key player in the member’s daily routine.

This continual brand recognition and awareness is a priceless opportunity to have a year long (or potentially even longer) involvement with the member rather than just individual interactions. Work directly with your partners to be able to provide a meaningful connection with the member, ensuring they play a role in product decisions where appropriate, but most importantly communicating the key role your partners play in making that membership a special one for the members.

5. Life-long connection

Memberships tend to be life-long commitments and, as such, your sponsors now have an opportunity to create life-long connections with your members. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of a long-term partnership with your sponsors. By providing them a long-term communication channel to a dedicated and committed group that you can help grow together, you are truly providing value for money to the partner and executing a meaningful partnership.

If done right, through mutual desired outcomes and a sense of community engagement, a partner’s involvement with a club membership program allows for a prolonged engagement with your fan base.

Sam, hopefully this letter helps motivate you in engaging your partners more in the membership program and provides a little bit of inspiration for future seasons.

Now it’s time to go and get a quote from QBE.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Irvine, the older one.


Sam Irvine // Territory Manager – Australia & New Zealand

Sam is passionate about helping organisations maximise their sponsorship programs and has worked with brands and rights holders at all levels. Sam is always looking for ways to improve himself and loves working with people who give as much as they take.


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