The changing face of sponsorship

By: Jackie Fast

Date: 4 April 2012

Dictionary entry sponsorship{{}}Sponsorship is a unique industry, one that is growing as well as dramatically shifting.  At the moment, there seems to be an inertia amongst sponsorship agencies and brands at one end of the scale, while at the other end there is an active driving force pushing the industry into a more grown-up and sustainable form of marketing.

Put simply, sponsorship is a form of marketing. And just like good old-fashioned direct marketing campaigns, sponsorship needs to be measured, creative and deliver results for the client. Somewhere along the line, sponsorship campaigns have stagnated, which has created an industry that bases success on logo views making it no different to advertising — except lacking the creativity.  This was caused by the reasons sponsorship was signed off initially — typically the CEO who was boosting his own ego and basing brand positioning on access to hospitality boxes and exclusive tickets, rather than marketing ROI.

However, sponsorship is so much more than that and for the brands and sponsorship agencies out there who are willing to work a bit smarter, the returns can be significant.

My favourite example of smarter thinking is with the Direct Marketing Association who dramatically shifted their involvement with sponsorship enabling them to provide more value to their members at no additional cost.  Rather than just being an add-on, this membership organisation now counts sponsorship revenue as core to their business processes and integral to their overall income.

Another smarter thinking client we have is the What Car? Awards, which saw an increase of 1032% on sponsorship revenue this year simply by shifting some of their current activities in order to create value for their sponsors.  For example, instead of just having sponsors involved with the presentation ball itself, What Car? created new promotional channels including promotion of the shortlist through media sponsor The Metro; providing sponsors a significant amount of national exposure.  Neither additional resource nor expense was needed as the shortlist was always part of their programme, but by changing the promotion and involving partners, this dramatically changed the value derived for the What Car? Awards sponsors.

Jackie Fast is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and managing director of Slingshot, a specialist sponsorship agency.