Sponsoring a prominent event or sports team is often seen as a quick and easy way of getting your brand seen by a mass audience, but there are pitfalls to look out for. Done correctly it can help you stand out from your competitors and make you instantly recognisable. Done badly it can mean a huge spend with little return.
First and foremost, sponsorship is a targeted way of increasing brand ambassadors and FAST. However, achieving this is more than just signing on the dotted line. Understanding the small print that sets out what your contract gets you access to is critical to developing a successful sponsorship activation programme, but there are some basics to remember first.
1. Be part of the contract process
Don’t leave this to the company legal team. Ensure that someone from your PR/marketing team has visibility of the contract before it is signed. This way you will be able to leverage access rights that you can use to your advantage later down the line.
2. Question the relevance
Does the event/sports team you are thinking of sponsoring allow you to discuss your company messaging? There may be a tenuous link but it needs to be there from the start and you need to ensure the connection does not jar when you begin your PR. It can be as simple as sponsoring F1 if your company ethos is all about delivering something rapidly or more in depth looking at ‘connecting’ fans if you work in the digital/mobile sector.
3. Access rights
There is more to sponsorship than just getting your logo on a shirt or ringside banner. There are a number of elements that can help drive media interest and they should form part of your checklist when sealing a deal: celebrity & player interviews, tickets, VIP boxes, mascot access, player & talent appearances (away from event), presence on event/club website, mentions in the programme, use of facilities for brand activity.
This is particularly relevant when looking at sport sponsorship. Your activation plan should not just focus on the first game of the season or the big calendar moments. Instead, you should be planning a regular drumbeat of activity throughout the season so fans begin to engage with your brand.
5. Share and share alike
One of the key sponsorship success secrets is to make sure that at almost every stage you are seen to be giving your access (see tip 3) back to the fans. For example, if you get exclusive tickets don’t keep them all for stakeholders, run media competitions for fans to win the chance to use them. The competition winners can then write up their experience for your blog of social networking feeds. This will demonstrate that your brand has a real interest behind the sponsorship, helping you to grow your base of brand advocates.
6. Shout the loudest
Remember you won’t be the only brand sponsoring an event or sports team, so make the most of the access you have. You need to become the ‘go to’ sponsor for media so show off the assets you have available early enough to ensure the top media are being hosted by you.
7. Understand the media
Sponsoring an event or sports team may mean that you have to interact with media that aren’t traditionally on your hit list. Rather than seeing this as a hurdle, embrace the opportunity it offers to open up a whole new audience for you. For example, if you are the new shirt sponsor for a football club the fans will love you! You are injecting cash into their beloved team, so make the most of this instant appreciation. You could also connect with the fanzine editors to announce your plans for the year or your reasons for getting involved.
8. Use social media
Make sure you are following the event and posting updates in real time on your company pages. Fans will interact with you to get closer to the action, but once they have ‘liked’ or ‘followed’ you then it is your opportunity to engage with them on your wider brand messages.
9. Crisis plan
There is always a niggling concern that one of the ‘talent’ involved in the event or match might put a foot out of line. Don’t be left panicking about how this would impact your brand if it did happen. Make sure you have a robust set of messaging pre-agreed that deals with exactly this scenario.
10. Enjoy it!
If you as a brand are seen to be enjoying and engaging with your sponsorship you will encourage others to, simply by the power of enthusiasm. If you hide in the background your activation plan will lose momentum, so be as enthusiastic as you can and enjoy the rewards it can bring!
Photo credit: B3C22 on Flickr