The use of sponsorships in sports is a great marketing strategy for brands, for many reasons. The audience reach, fan affinity, engagement opportunities, target market demographics, and business development are some of the many reasons brands are looking to sports to provide great marketing tactics. Because the sports industry has become so saturated and expensive, especially in the last few years, it is imperative that brands invest wisely when it comes to sponsorship dollars.
Below are 5 key components a brand should consider to ensure a successful sport’s sponsorship:
CLEAR MARKETING OBJECTIVES THAT ALIGN WITH BRAND’S GROWTH & BUSINESS STRATEGY
Clearly defining marketing objectives and/or marketing objectives that are not aligned with the brand’s overall growth strategy is important to the success of a sports sponsorship.
For example, a tool company launches a proprietary line of power tools sold exclusively in their retail locations as part of their growth strategy. Two possible marketing objectives might be: a) to build awareness among the consumer market for the new products, and/or b) to increase commercial account business using the product. A historically successful strategy brands have used in sports marketing in past is through endorsements and event sponsorships. Utilizing, for example a Motorsports driver, to endorse the new product line the tool company’s brand can generate huge awareness among their target demographic. In addition, they may also sponsor a race providing them the opportunity to showcase their product being used at tracks, by drivers, and by pit crews to top-level commercial customers experiencing both the sport and the brand in a new way. Both marketing objectives are satisfied and support the brand’s goal of expanding their proprietary product market.
In contrast, if the tool company maintained a marketing objective to simply increase brand awareness, the endorsement would not have been as effective in helping to launch the proprietary product. It may have improved overall store sales by driving traffic, but in the long run the brand would have seen little to no success in the sale/popularity of their proprietary tool products.
FIT OR RELEVANCE
Crucial to determining what marketing elements of the sponsorship the brand needs to develop is considering the brand’s relevant fit to the sport or the sport’s audience.
A great example of this: a golf apparel manufacturer becoming a sponsor of the PGA. It is an obvious fit for the consumer/fans who attend and watch PGA events. However, golf would be a bad fit for the tool manufacturing company previously mentioned, since home power tools have nothing to do with the sport of golf nor do they have similar target markets when it comes to customers versus golf fans.
The golf audience is 65% male, 63% are 55 yrs old+, 43% have a household income over $75,000. So, a luxury brand whose target customer market matches that demographic might consider a sponsorship in golf to provide advertising, hospitality or other elements that a sponsorship offers to appeal to their core customer that watches and attends golf events. This is effective even if the luxury brand does not have a direct tie to the sport of golf itself.
How you activate on a sponsorship can be the difference between success and failure in a sponsorship. The cost of sponsorship does not stop at the rights fees, they just provide you opportunity and access to promote your brand’s name. In order to activate on the elements in the sponsorship the sponsor has to pay for their efforts out of their marketing budget. Determining the combination of activation elements that will generate the best results you need in order to meet the brand’s marketing objectives and how much those elements cost to produce is extremely important.
The college sports market is the worst offender of this point, because it is so saturated with sponsors. It is very difficult to create any brand differentiation without pouring more money into additional activation elements that aren’t included in the cost of the sponsorship.
One business maxim says: what gets measured, gets focused on. Measurement determines the return on the sponsorship investment (ROSI) and ultimately the way that marketing department justifies spending to the organization. Following the first three points makes determining your measurement fairly easy. Whether your marketing objectives involve driving store traffic, product sales, awareness, employee relations, customer retention, or business development, the activation strategy within the sponsorship that you put together must be measurable. This is where third party firms can be extremely helpful to the brand’s ability to track, analyze, organize, and evaluate the data compiled by the property and the brand during the activation and life of the sponsorship.
The key to making a good sponsorship great is activating in a way that sets your brand apart from all of the rest. Engagement is critical to ensuring fans/consumers notice your brand. The category exclusivity and limited sponsor space that the NFL provides is the reason they can command such high prices for their sponsorship rights; the result is a built in level of differentiation. The Master’s Championship is another great example of limited sponsorship opportunities that can be an excellent way brands differentiate themselves from their competitor.
Understandably, not all brands can afford to buy differentiation at sponsorship level. Brands should look toward activation elements for opportunities and build out creative engagement and experiential marketing platforms in order to set themselves apart from all the noise. This is another area where engaging a third party firm with experience in sports marketing can be extremely valuable. Creating and producing unique strategies has a strong impact on a brand’s core customer base.
This Ford truck concourse ad is a great example: