I suspect that some Irish sponsors are stuck in the 1990s. This suspicion was backed up by some of the speakers at this year’s Irish Sponsorship Summit where we were treated to such Golden Hour insights as “the sponsorship needs to be a good fit for the brand” and that old crowd pleaser “it’s about more than just logo placement”… Indeed.
Great sponsorship strategy is where it’s at these days. Having a brilliant, insight-led strategic idea supporting your sponsorship should be at the core of every brand’s reasoning for entering a partnership in the first place. It goes beyond “shared values” or jumping on a particular bandwagon as has been proven by the most successful partnerships in recent times.
What’s surprising is that so few brands have followed the likes of O2, Guinness and others in seeking out some strategic depth to their sponsorship. A well thought out, cleverly activated sponsorship can be a fast track to a genuine emotional connection with your consumer – fact. It’s these emotional anchors that drive brand affinity and loyalty and, more often than not, sales revenue.
P&G has it sussed and provided one of the highlights of ISS 2012 with a slick and to the point presentation from Nathan Homer, P&G Olympic Projects Director, UK and Ireland. P&G invests heavily in elite level sport as Olympic partners but it’s not athletes that you find at the heart of their campaigns, its Mums. P&G puts the spotlight on their core target group of Mums the world over by reminding them that when it comes to life’s greatest challenges and defining moments Mums play the pivotal role – a winning strategy in my view. Their campaigns also benefit from being fully integrated which helps them drive home the consumer message more effectively.
Apart from examining effective strategy there are a number of topics affecting sponsorship in Ireland which it would appear we are not taking seriously enough. For instance, the impact of digital media on sponsorship was only a side bar at this year’s summit which is surprising when you consider how much it is impacting on how we consume sport and entertainment.
Sponsorship and Digital
According to Pat Coyle, president of Coyle Media, an Indianapolis-based consulting company that works with sports teams to maximise revenue from digital channels, “Fans want three things: camaraderie, recognition and access. Camaraderie comes from interacting with other fans. They want recognition from the team for their passion and loyalty. And access means they want to feel close to the team or the athlete. Social (media) relates to all of that.” What Coyle is pointing to is that fans are multitasking. They don’t view social media or other online channels as an alternative to attending or watching the event on TV, they’re using those channels to enhance the overall experience. This opens up a world of opportunity for sponsors to interact with their consumers.
Could sponsorship potentially challenge advertising for a bigger share of the marketing mix? The global trends would suggest it’s possible. A recent study by PwC on the global sports market stated that sponsorship revenue is estimated to generate $45.3bn (€34.3bn) in revenue in 2015 and become the largest segment in sport, compared to $44.7bn (€33.9bn) for gate revenues, the second biggest slice of the market.
The state of the global sports market
The same report predicts that the global sports market is set to grow 3.7% in revenues to $145.3bn (€110.3bn). PwC says the market will be boosted by a “rebound in TV advertising” and the migration of sports to pay per view TV, as well as the rise in sponsorship revenue. It’s all really positive news for sponsorship practitioners and means that here in Ireland we need to be on our toes, executing a world class, best practice approach to sponsorship leverage so that we can benefit from the global increase in spend.
The elephant in the room which got some lip service but no real debate at this year’s ISS is the alcohol and sponsorship question. The premise for the prohibition of alcohol sponsorship is that it will help to change alcohol consumption behaviour and reduce the misuse of alcohol. If that is the case then we need definitive research that shows what impact, if any, the prohibition of alcohol sponsorship will have on the misuse of alcohol. Also, the debate should reach beyond the brewing companies and politicians to all those involved in marketing and sponsorship. My concern from a funding perspective for sport and entertainment is that it won’t just stop at alcohol; other sectors are in danger of being prohibited along the way.
I suspect that to find the answers to many of the questions posed above we need to look beyond these shores, which is why my hope would be that ISS 2013 will have more of an international flavour.
James Wynne is Slattery Communications’ Head of Sport.