I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they commented, “Things in sponsorship are really bloody hard right now. We are finding it really tough to attract and land new investment. Is that what you are seeing?”
My response was somewhat vague because the answer really is “Yes” and “No” because I am seeing some people really struggle but I am also seeing some people really thrive and drive their sponsorship programs forwards in leaps and bounds.
In my mind, there are three key contributors that set those who are currently successful apart from those who are struggling in the current ebb and flow of the sponsorship world.
1. Sponsorship Innovation
Those organisations who are willing to innovate, change the way they do things and focus on organisational improvement really are winning the battle right now. Those that aren’t remind me of Albert Einstein’s quote, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
What we have seen at SponServe is that there are two types of innovators (both of which are going strong in this space). The first are the market leaders who are always striving to evolve and do things better and, second, those who innovate and change out of necessity because they are staring death’s door in the face. Interestingly, why can’t people evolve without needing to be market leaders or waiting until it is a case of change or die? I won’t ever know the answer to that but I suspect it has something to do with fear.
So what areas are people innovating in that are helping lead this change? The answer is technology and business practice and they lead me the other two contributors of success.
2. Relationship Focus
Now, this has always been the core focus of a successful sponsorship management program and that hasn’t changed, however, how this occurs is now more important than ever.
The most common barrier to sponsorship professionals being able to really forge good relationships with sponsors has always been time. Budgets are always tight within rights holders and no one is flush with resources. That means there is always a focus and a lot of time spent on delivering promised benefits and the result is that real relationship management and selling, during peak times, is often not possible. Plug: That’s one of the reasons we built SponServe!
When you remove the time barrier, and create a priority to focus on your relationships with sponsors, on aligning your offering with their corporate objectives and use your brand and assets to help them achieve that then the promised benefits become a side issue. Subsequently, retention becomes a question of you being embedded within their corporate plan and a much harder thing to break away from. Additionally, you have the added bonus of having a closer relationship with those decision makers and, if they like you, it is always harder for them to walk away when combined with aligned objectives.
An example of this is a leading insurance agency who sponsor one of Australia’s leading sporting teams. Their corporate objectives are to generate more leads from their marketing practices. Therefore, the rights holder focuses their activation and benefit offerings on lead generation and NOT on ROI. The understanding is that if the leads are provided then it is the sales team’s responsibility to sell. If they can’t then it’s the sponsor’s problem.
This understanding totally removes the conversation around not generating enough business out of the partnership because it is 100% known how the rights holder can help achieve a corporate objective and that is the sole purpose. So long as they keep meeting that objective, and keep a strong relationship, that partnership will continue to be a long-term one.
3. Moving With The Times (Digital)
Forever, in sponsorship, we have seen branding, signage, hospitality and ticketing as the backbone of any campaign. Now, that world has now changed and those who are adapting to that change are by far and away kicking goals at the moment.
My conversation the other day was centred on people not being interested in sponsorship. For me, the real issue is actually that people may not be interested in what that organisation is offering.
This is the main area, that those who are successful, are focusing on and killing it right now.
I am seeing AFL clubs offer joint major sponsor rights to sponsors because the value no longer lies within the branding and exclusivity of naming rights but rather the extension of how social media and digital offerings provide that value. We are seeing European Soccer clubs charging seven-figure sums for tweets to be sent advertising their product – no other benefits, but tweets. The results, however, are enormous!
The added benefit of these changing times are that those more valuable assets are also the cheapest to deliver. That means profit margins are now larger and driving more success for those focusing on them.
So, in tough times those organisations who are winning are willing to:
- follow best practice trends; and
- take calculated risks and invest in technology.
So, if “Things are really bloody hard right now. We are finding it really tough to attract and land new investment” sounds like something you’d say then maybe you now know why you aren’t winning.
Mark Thompson // 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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