I saw an article online over the weekend where the marketing department of a rights holder was being criticised by a journalist for tweeting about fans having access to a free cup of water (provided by a sponsor). Their criticism was that the water is free anyway, so where is the value?
For me, this was clearly a sponsor activation tweet on match day with the rights holder tweeting a pre-agreed message. The criticism from the journalist did get me thinking though, “How do you go about keeping your ethics and morals in check when managing sponsors?”
For me there are 3 simple filters – Personal, Political and Commercial
Sponsorship Ethics and Morals Filters
This is a bit of a morale check for yourself as odds are if you feel uncomfortable with it personally then the other filters might not be necessary. When applying the personal filter, ask yourself three questions:
- Will this offend anyone personally?
- Is it attacking in nature?
- Does this support what the partnership is trying to achieve?
This filter is about checking if the proposed activation or partnership adheres to the political environment you operate in or will it cause you problems? When applying the political filter, ask yourself three questions:
- Is it legal?
- Does it have any large ramifications with other partners, stakeholders or governing bodies?
- Could this active any potential sanction or loss against your organisation or the sponsor?
This filter is more pointedly concerned with any financial ramifications of the activation or partnership. When applying the commercial filter, ask yourself three questions:
- Will this impact other revenue generating opportunities or current partnerships?
- Does it pass the newspaper test? i.e. Would you be comfortable with this activation or partnership being written about on the front page of the newspaper?
- Does it pass the social media test? i.e. How can this activation or idea be made fun of and criticised on social media?
What to do next?
Once you have been through these filters, either with your partner, amongst your team, in your head or on paper, you need to ask yourself some final, but vital, questions.
1 – Are you prepared for the unavoidable negative commentary?
This will happen in today’s day and age and just because it may not pass the social media tests, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it just means you need to be aware and prepared for social media commentary.
2 – Do you care?
At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone but do the negatives have enough of a potential impact to really affect your position as to if the activation or partnership proceeds? In the case of the criticism levelled at rights holder criticism I saw over the weekend, I would think not! Even after running it through the filters, they should still have executed the tweet.
As a rights holder, your role in situations like this is not to simply throw barriers in front of your partners. That means that if one of the filters flags an issue, don’t simply tell them you don’t think you should, or will, execute the activation or partnership. Instead, it is your job to help them be aware of the environment you are operating and then position solutions to any problems flagged.
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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