What is Sports Sponsorship Activation & Co-Branding?
Our team at Go4word has decided to put this article together to highlight and explain what exactly sports sponsorship activation is and how it is a way of leveraging corporate sponsors’ investments in sports properties. These days corporate sponsors form strategic alliances with sports properties primarily for the purpose of marketing goods and services. The goodwill value of these properties and the ability of sponsors to leverage this value for commercial gain are what drive corporate sponsorship’s in general.
The sponsorship arrangement must be mutually beneficial in order to be sustainable. Unlike charitable contributions, sponsors expect returns on their investments. Sponsorship’s are generally considered to be marketing expenses, not corporate philanthropy. In exchange for their support, sponsors expect to realize tangible and intangible returns.
Corporate sponsors may contribute financial resources, in-kind products and services, knowledge, expertise, and a variety of other benefits to sports facilities, events, teams, star athletes, and other sports properties. In exchange for rights fees from corporate sponsors, sports properties typically grant category exclusivity and the limited right to use certain sport marks to publicly promote their association with the sponsor.
The perceived value of a sports property and the license to use its sport marks in connection with marketing communications has a direct impact on the negotiated value of the sponsorship package. Defining the scope and exclusivity of the rights to use intellectual property plays heavily into the negotiations. Successfully negotiating a sponsorship agreement is only the beginning. For rights-holders, sponsorship activation is key to successful marketing partnerships.
Rights-holders use sports marketing to realize a wide range of business goals and marketing objectives. They can accomplish these goals and objectives by creating innovative tactics using a variety of activation techniques. Successful execution could result in increased brand awareness, sales leads, behavioral changes, gains in traffic to websites and retail stores, incremental sales revenue, social good, and goodwill value. These are only a few of the possible benefits that can be realized by corporate sponsors.
Almost anything can be co-branded as long as it meets business objectives and does not create a conflict of interest. Specific objectives range from enhancing brand image, extending the consumer experience and generating sales leads, to providing sampling and offering corporate hospitality and entertainment opportunities.
The range of possibilities will depend on the negotiated package of rights. Key to a successful sponsorship relationship is the ability to align brand values, strengthen brand image, propagate brand loyalty, leverage marketing strengths, and pool available resources. The intent is to change consumer perception and behavior in ways that favor both parties. With co-banding, the sponsor and sports property come together as marketing partners to jointly promote their products and services. The following are 20 examples of on-site and off-site activation techniques:
- Conventional advertising
- Signage in and around the field of play
- Giant Inflatables
- Consumer promotions on and off the field
- Cause-marketing campaigns
- Product sampling
- Product placement & packaging
- Merchandising & point-of-purchase displays
- Sponsor exhibits and interactive showcases
- Corporate hospitality & client entertainment
- Celebrity appearances & endorsements
- Websites, blogs and social media
- Stationary & moving community events
- Grassroots programs
- Branding on team uniforms, vehicles and sports equipment
- Most Valuable Player awards
- Branding on television monitors and scoring systems
- Branding on stadium seats, beverage cups, etc.
- Sports celebrity appearances and speaking engagements
Tactics used for activation are driven by the brand development and marketing communications plan. An integrated communications strategy is recommended. Take into consideration all available touch points when developing your marketing communications strategy to leverage the sports sponsorship. This includes integrating conventional advertising, sales promotion, merchandising and public relations with social media networking opportunities.
Extending the Sponsor Relationship into Cyberspace
Sponsorship activation extends well beyond the sports arena. Outside the field of play the activation possibilities are virtually limitless. Since the advent of gaming and social media, sponsors have leveraged technology to communicate in the digital world. Sponsors and sports properties alike are moving with greater frequency into cyberspace to network with customers and build their fan bases. The digital age brought new opportunities to engage fans and build social networks around sports properties. Social media is used to share information, reward those who pass it along, make use of sports data, and encourage online voting.
Social networking platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr and other online communication channels are used to influence followers and encourage word of mouth advertising. Whether it’s to listen, start a conversation, generate news feeds, offer incentives, create a buzz, or establish a following; social media has become an integral part of sports sponsorship’s one that should be integrated into your marketing communications.
Grassroots Programs & Community Events
Sponsor activation also includes grassroots programming through community events. Sponsorship of local events like triathlons, bike races, trail runs, canoe races, relays and a wide range of other activities may include a cause-marketing overlay. Cause-related campaigns connect companies and their brands with charitable organizations and the communities they serve. This provides network opportunities at the grassroots level. Supporting sports and community are ways of building social capital for corporate sponsors.
Effective Use of Sponsorship Activation
To gain from the sponsorship arrangement, corporate marketing partners should try to maximize co-branding opportunities. Being clever and getting the sponsor’s name out there is simply not enough. Sponsors need to measure the impact of their sports marketing campaigns in terms of cause and effect.
Doing good, affecting behavior, driving change, generating sales, and building social capital are all realistic expectations that can be met through effective use of sponsorship activation.
If you would like to know more about how Go4word and their in house team of specialists can help your firm with sponsorship activation. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our consultants today!