Last week, I was listening to the Inside Sponsorship episode with Stuart Ramsay, from Southampton FC. Stuart really hit the nail on the head of something that I am a massive advocate of – storytelling and how important it is within sponsorship.
Stuart talked about how stories are what drives our lives and how important integrated and consistent messaging is in attracting a new age audience. Storytelling is now a core feature in every-day technology applications (see most social media platforms) and those brands and rights holders who want to win in the sponsorship space need to start approaching their programs with this point in mind.
If you didn’t catch Stuart on the podcast then you can listen to a snippet of him talking about storytelling here.
Subsequently, I was talking this through with someone in the sponsorship space at a local football match over the weekend, to which they asked “Why is story-telling important to sponsorship? How can it be used to drive value in our partnership?”
The answer could be a long-winded one, however, put simply, if you want to create partnerships which are an important part of a brand’s marketing activity, the only way is to entrench yourself as a vital cog in that wheel through full integration of their storytelling to your audience as a rights holder.
Key Features of a Good Story
So how do you tell those stories within sponsorship?
Firstly, it is important to keep in mind that storytelling relies heavily on how the story is told, who it is told to and when it is told. As such, for me, when utilising sponsorship to tell a story, there are three key features to be considered:
1. Authenticity and Alignment
You are dealing with an audience which is emotionally engaged with the organisation who owns the audience and the brand is simply ‘renting’ that audience i.e they don’t own it themselves. It isn’t their database or social media followers. The best stories, therefore, will show some authentic alignment through the commonly supported cause in order to grab the attention of those you are trying to speak to.
2. Draws Emotional Interaction
The story, tag line or execution creates imagery and allows the person consuming it to ‘imagine’ themselves taking the story further. This could be someone remembering a time when they have personally been in a situation, like the one being portrayed, or the excitement and anticipation of what’s coming which moves the audience to a place of developing the story further themselves. This emotional interaction is vital to moving an engaged audience to a transactional one and this can be done through establishing a need or want for more or by the story showing how they could solve a need, want or problem.
3. Drives Action/Change
A good story will start with an outcome in mind and, through the campaign, tagline, execution or lifetime, will drive the audience to some form of action/change.
The desired outcome should be strongly linked to the objectives of the partner and may be as simple as brand recognition and awareness or as complex as loyalty and attributable sales. Either way, the key to this change can be linked to the effectiveness of the story.
Considerations When Sharing
There are some key things which must be considered when working through the creation or integration of a brand story. They include:
- what you want to achieve;
- the resources available to share it;
- the appetite of the desired audience; and
- how it will be measured.
Only once these factors are known can the story then be refined for the appropriate platform(s).
Working Together to Drive Value
The effectiveness of the story will rely on how well the brand and rights holder work together to execute and adapt throughout the process.
With the knowledge of the key considerations at hand, I have always found it best to start with a long-form version of the story and work together with my partners to generate usable and effective excerpts which tick the key features.
Depending on the resources and execution methods available, you may be able to tell your story over time or you may need to jump straight to a static tag-line which attempts to achieve the storytelling itself. However you do it, a knowledge of the desired outcome, ongoing measurement of its success and the ability to pivot to meet successful outcomes is vital.
As Stuart mentions on the podcast, attention spans are getting shorter and opportunities to engage with audiences are always moving. As such, for me, consistency is the key. Telling the same story, even if the content changes, is what makes a brand memorable and drives loyalty with audiences.
Stories hold a big and valuable piece of the sponsorship puzzle and are the key behind brand value, sentiment and overall consideration. Stories are what drive good sponsorship results through data, analytics and above the line support.
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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