SPORTS MARKETING

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ISBN: 978-1-905685-08-0
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Activation & Case Studies

Executive Summary

This report focuses on the activation techniques used to maximise the effectiveness of sponsorship programmes.

The sponsorship industry in Europe has matured sufficiently for the majority of exponents to understand that sponsorship is about more than the acquisition of rights and consequential branding. The activation programme is critical to making sponsorship successful and sponsors have been achieving notable results for more than a decade. As a result sponsorship has grown faster than any other marketing discipline. The material presented in the report demonstrates how the industry is now moving into its next phase of development. The traditional activation techniques are, on the whole, still relevant to most programmes, but there are also significant changes evident. These include ownership of the delivery medium through sponsor created web channels, an increase in experiential marketing linked to sport and the growing importance of addressing social issues through sponsorship.

Sponsorship Type

The report analyses sponsorship according to type and discusses the pros and cons of each. The traditional sponsorship categories: team, event, individual, venue and technology are all considered. The focus is on best practice and, in particular, on innovative approaches. Good examples include Anna Kournikova’s endorsement of Shock Absorber sports bras which doubled sales within a year and the Allianz/Munich Arena naming rights case study. Uniquely for a venue, this has been activated in a dramatic, experiential manner around the world and the case study shows that naming rights deals can go far beyond simply attaching a brand name to a stadium and running a public relations campaign to raise awareness.

Similarly, the technology case study features an organisation, Capgemini, which has developed a long-term strategy incorporating the ethos of rugby. Those values were generally understood internally, but its sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup projected them to the outside world.

The team case study is also truly innovative. E.ON’s sponsorship of Ipswich Town F.C had a very specific objective of encouraging fans to understand global warming and commit to reducing their energy consumption. The result was a project in which a large number of organisations worked together to make Ipswich Town the world’s first carbon neutral football club, while simultaneously developing the sponsor’s brand image.

The E.ON case study is also an example of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in sponsorship. A separate section of the report, however, is devoted to grass roots/CSR projects. This is an increasingly important area for the sponsorship industry as the world’s leading corporations, and indeed rights holders, now realise that they cannot simply pay lip service to the subject.

For the majority of companies, CSR is becoming embedded into their business culture. Clear strategies are therefore required to deliver programmes that have a relevance to their core business. Sport offers a wide range of opportunities for CSR programmes because the target audience, whether individuals or communities, already have an empathy, and often a relationship, with the rights holder and the communication channels are in place. Sport can, therefore, facilitate CSR programmes at both local and global level depending on the requirements.

Activation Techniques

Sponsorship activation techniques still fall under the same broad categories of public relations, sales promotion, hospitality, merchandise and signage.

The techniques have, however, developed significantly in recent years, partly through a better understanding of how the disciplines can be applied to sport, but also through the adoption of new technology.

In public relations, for example, the internet and mobile platforms have become a much more valuable resource for sponsors. No longer are they seeking merely to achieve exposure on sites, significant numbers are now creating their own themed websites to deliver content to the target audience. The advent of video file sharing sites has also allowed sponsors a new platform to distribute content.

The internet is also increasingly being used in sponsorship-related sales promotions campaigns as seen in the Coca-Cola English Football League case study. Although the brand used traditional on-pack and point-of-sale techniques to promote its ‘Buy A Player’ promotion, it was through the dedicated website and mobile text registration that the promotional mechanic was activated. Similarly, the brand used viral marketing as a further promotional tool, which culminated in more than one million votes for clubs.  

Online solutions have also been employed to make the ordering and distribution of merchandise more effective. MasterCard’s Euro 2008 merchandise supplier, for example, set up an online ordering facility for the huge number of items requested by the company’s partners around the World.

Technology has also been used to develop sponsorship’s oldest tool, perimeter signage. From static printed boards, through to rotating and finally electronic versions, new technology has been employed to deliver more effective results by increasing the visual impact and complexity of the message.

Despite the plethora of new technology now supporting the sponsorship industry, the key to successful activation remains a clear set of objectives and an understanding of the target audience. The case studies and expert comment in the report demonstrate that technology does have a major role to play in many cases. However sponsors should never fall into the trap of putting the solution before the problem. There are numerous examples of the basic techniques being used with a new creative twist to achieve exceptional results.

The Think! Campaign to improve road safety in the UK successfully utilised human interaction to put across a message to a potentially difficult audience, the motorcycling community. The sponsorship ultimately relied on using a marquee and police officers dressed casually to create a neutral, non-intimidating environment for communication. The campaign demonstrated that fundamentally, we still seek to communicate in a manner that we always have – one-to-one and without complicated distractions.

With sponsorship programmes frequently being run on national or even global scales, it is a challenge to stand and to deliver objectives. Sponsorship is neither an art, nor a science. Like all good marketing it is a mixture of the two. It requires the following of some basic procedures, including thorough research. The<

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