How does a brand find their clear space or sweet spot in an increasingly cluttered sponsorship market. And how do they create an effective narrative to underpin the partnership, asks Daragh Persse?
When a brand is considering allocating budget to sponsorship and they have successfully avoided the Chairman’s whim, the task of finding clear space is just beginning. For us sponsorship professionals, the clean sheet approach where the client has an objective or challenge to hit but no pre-determined properties to consider is an ideal situation. Finding the territory and narrative for the brand is a strategic process with all steps necessary to give the brand a fighting chance to cut through.
These steps are outlined below but it is worth identifying the one most effective ingredient to ensure clear space for sponsors.
Sponsorship is about deeper connections and the most powerful attribute of any sponsorship and the key to delivering impactful campaigns is relevance. Relevance is the critical ingredient and differentiator in a cluttered market when a brand is looking to deliver an authentic and genuine voice to consumers. Relevance will also bring with it permission to engage an increasingly savy and hard to reach audience and a much greater opportunity to create a clear narrative to underpin the partnership.
Virgin Media is a perfect example of a brand that took the time to go through the process, emerging from it with a relevant and impactful partnership. Virgin’s mission is to deliver awesome entertainment. As we navigated through the process outlined below we identified Film as a rich territory. Ireland has the highest cinema admissions per capita in EU with 86% of 25-34 year olds identifying as regular cinema goers. We recognised the opportunity to connect our audience to their passions through immersive and exclusive cinema experiences.
We then identified the Dublin International Film Festival as an opportunity to cut through and engage with the movie mad audience. The space was relatively uncluttered and Virgin were in a position to bring a new level of activation for the programme including significant promotion through their owned channels. This is a partnership in every sense with an innovative and integrated campaign that has not only delivered for Virgin Media but has also resulted in a new, contemporary and vibrant brand for the festival. In every sense, truly awesome!
The road to relevance and the unearthing of the sponsorship sweet spot has a number of steps:
It’s obvious but we start at the top. What is the big picture in the organisation? What challenges exist and what is the focus for the company?
Effective sponsorship should drive the brand’s vision and purpose forward. What does the brand stand for? What is the vision for the brand and what parts of the brand’s equity will be most impacted by sponsorship.
Role (objective) of Sponsorship
What is the role of sponsorship in the organisation? Is it to engage a particular audience, change perception of the brand, launch a product, drive awareness or consideration? Whatever the job to be done, it is vital to clearly articulate the why, backed up with a SMART objective.
Who are we trying to engage? Where are they? What are their passion points, lifestyle, consumption habits etc. Without a clear articulation of the target audience, how can we effectively evaluate the potential to engage through prospective sponsorships?
This is the essence of what we need from a sponsorship. What are the critical factors that will be required from the sponsorship in order for it to be considered. These are big picture items that the sponsorship must deliver. For example a sponsorship might need to have be in sport or music, have high levels of engagement on social media, have the opportunity to meaningfully integrate a product or might need to be low risk with guaranteed audience delivery. These will be under pinned by some mandatories. These are the areas we can’t do without. We might need access to content, tickets to engage customers, category exclusivity, multi-territory rights or VIP access for example.
The steps above will set us up for a balanced and proactive approach to searching for and evaluating sponsorship opportunities in the market based on brand fit and ROI.
Finding the Perfect Partner
This proactive approach to selection not only clarifies the sponsorship mission but also gives a very clear brief for rights holders. The ideal scenario for any rights holder is a clearly articulated brief, objectives and outline of the job to be done. This gives the rights holder the best possible chance to put forward a bespoke, powerful and relevant partnership proposal instead of presenting a generic opportunity in the blind.
Rights you Need not the Rights You are Offered
All good sponsorship proposals will have a comprehensive set of rights. The job at this stage is to start over. Work with the rightsholder to build a relevant and valuable set of rights based on the objectives and audience. This step is not a land grab. Finding an effective set of rights with no wastage is beneficial for both the sponsor and the rights holder.
Another crucial part of the process is to secure buy in from all relevant internal stakeholders before the deal is done. The best sponsorship campaigns rely on fully integrated support and execution through all channels. You will need their support later so take the time to understand the rights and access they are going to need to deliver on the ambition.
Activate, activate, activate. It’s nothing new or revolutionary – the best sponsorships are sweated with all assets through all relevant channels. Ideally if the brand can also sprinkle a little bit of magic with some disruptive creativity then the chance of success will be greatly improved.
Evaluate and Go Again
Sponsorship agreements are often long term for a reason. Lofty goals and hard to reach audiences are just part of reason we commit to partnerships that make a difference in the long term. Continuous evaluation and course correction, truly working in partner-ship with the rights holder will help the brand find that sweet spot and ultimately cut through in a cluttered market.
Daragh Persse is Founder at The Brand Fans, Sponsorship & Cause Marketing. The Brand Fans are leading independent sponsorship and cause marketing specialists delivering strategies, evaluations, negotiations and activation.
First published in Irish Marketing Journal (IMJ March / April 2019)© to order back issues please call 016611660