Sports teams are built and developed – crafted over years of training, coaching, and trading. Ironically the same strategic perspective is not invested off the pitch. Although sport sponsorship is responsible for over 70% of the total industry, it still lacks the necessary expertise to execute a sustainable and robust rights holder commercial strategy. With so much sponsor churn, the sport sponsorship industry reflects a transactional method of sales with the highest bidder taking ownership of sponsorship rights that are often not fully utilised, supporting marketing strategies that are often never realised. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been an issue for most rights holders with sponsorship rights fees on the whole increasing. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Why undersell rights when you can oversell them? And why, if money is all that you are after, not align yourself to a brand that has no relation or even tenuous link to the sport.
The answer is that now you have to.
It’s not only more imperative for sports sponsorship sales teams to start thinking more creatively about how a sponsorship activation will support an overall sponsor’s strategy, it’s also becoming crucial for fan engagement. If sport supports brand messaging by harnessing people’s passions, then brands who aren’t contributing to the fan experience or advocacy fail to gain the cut-through they once had through logo badging. Brands have needed to become more creative with how sponsorship is utilised; however, the sports rights still fail to recognise this shift in value. Sports teams and organisers tend to complain about the lack of activation on behalf of a brand. However, if the sponsorship rights package is skewed towards how many impressions they will get on broadcast then it’s impossible to deliver an activation that will resonate.
It starts with creating the right assets.
By strategically understanding the value in a sports sponsorship package beyond that of perimeter boards and logos on kits, rights holders will begin to build the foundation for a partnership that truly works for everyone – including the fans. By offering the same sponsor benefits as everyone else, sports rights holders not only run the risk of relying on team performance to generate ROI for their sponsors, but also fail to differentiate from every other team. The assumption that the way things have always been will work in today’s fragmented media landscape is naïve. However, this ever shifting environment can create unique opportunities for rights holders to develop their assets and audience (social media) – making it a new playing field.
From a sport sponsorship sales perspective, the pace of change is extraordinary – and sponsor gains are being made everywhere. Be a rights holder who recognises the brand requirement to be part of the experience by creating assets that brands can use. Be relevant by understanding what assets drive your partnership opportunities – rather than where you can put a logo.