Posted: Thu, 09 October 2014


SPONSORED PARTNERSHIPS provide brands with permission to participate in conversations that they might not otherwise naturally have a place.

Historically, that dialogue was largely one-way - and brands simply relied on traditional platforms like 60” and 30” TV spots to neatly position their partnerships - articulating shared values and common traits to drive transferred affinity – or at very least high exposure in confirmed target segments.

It could be said that, sponsors relied more simplistically on “endorsed association” and “segment reach” over “relevant activation” and “consistent engagement”. But these days - thanks to the immediacy of social platforms and real-time marketing; and the omnipresence of competitors - positioning is only the starting point.

While paying sponsorship premiums secures brands the first seat at the table, it is what they do next that determines success or failure. And now more than ever, consumers expect relevance, currency and value-add from sponsors.

There is no doubt that there will always be a role for overarching advertising that crystallises and gives meaning to partnerships. In fact this type of content is increasingly getting longer and longer thanks to digital platforms removing the 30 and 60” time limits previously imposed by traditional media buying. But alongside these powerful narratives sits a far greater opportunity (and consumer expectation) for brands to “show” not “say”, “document” rather than “distil” to earn and then maintain the genuine support of audiences - and to be accepted as a partner who adds value beyond sponsorship investment.


1) Invest in activation - The sponsorship is only the beginning

  • Allocate sufficient budget to ensure that you can maximise your sponsored assets and leverage the brand association – beyond films and TVC’s. You don’t have to be the largest sponsor – you simply have to get the most out of your assets to drive the strongest ROMI. Invest in developing unique initiatives that; re-imagine the boundaries of your partnership, provide strong narratives that the media and social communities will want to talk about - and that capitalise on the strength of your and your partner’s brands.
    Clubs, teams and federations are usually supportive of these programs - provided that you are delivering value to their supporters and that you don’t place additional strain on their resources. Where possible – look for opportunities that will have a positive impact on society – or provide a service to the community.

2) Be present, relevant and shareable

  • Be active wherever your partner is: Competitors will quickly ambush real-time marketing opportunities missed by sponsors – and social media provides a quick and efficient platform for them to pounce.
  • Evaluate all of the channels available to you and define opportunities for brand messaging versus tactical product messaging. There is plenty of room for conversion if you choose your channels carefully – but there is no need to shoehorn a sales message into a brand conversation or waste a 1:1 communication with a brushstroke brand message.
  • Create relevant content and news that others will want to share on your behalf

3) Consider the power of individuals

4) Shared Values – Align with the right properties, not simply the most famous

5) Ambush

6) Focus on value over reach

You need to be clear from the outset, what impact your partnership should have on your key metrics for success. Frequently, clients see success purely as a measure of reach and engagement – but if this has little impact on intention and conversion then it isn’t ultimately helping your bottom line. Choose initiatives that will have a strong measurable impact on your brand and your sales funnel.

7) Future proofing

If you’d like to know about how to make BRAVE brand choices, please get in touch with BRAVE Director and co-founder Gina Petersen.

  • Striking an individual relationship can allow you permission into conversations and markets where your competitors may already have the edge. Adidas is the official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup, however, through powerful individual partnership agreements; Nike was able to create one of the most widely viewed spots of the 2014 tournament.
  • Expand the scope and reach of your main sponsorship by supplementing it with additional individual relationships. These ambassadors will not only provide you with incremental (and often more flexible) opportunities for activation, widening the reach and impact of your main partnership - but will also encourage greater participation in your main partnership activations also. Turkish Airlines for many years held a limited “Official Airline” partnership with FC Barcelona – but through the negotiation of an individual partnership with Leo Messi it was able to leverage the power of Messi’s brand in a way their club sponsorship would not have afforded – making their linked relationship with FC Barcelona seem greater – garnering them greater overall impact. The two elements worked together to create broader reach - as well as a stronger link for Turkish Airlines with FC Barcelona by tapping into the power of Messi’s association with the brand.
    • Bigger is not always better. Emerging clubs, events and sponsorship platforms can often offer greater flexibility and more willingness to accommodate additional requests – which can translate to better value for money.
    • In addition, the key to success is aligning with properties or individuals whose stories have genuine synergies with your own - which will in-turn ensure audiences accept your partnership (and related activations) as relevant and meaningful.
    • If you are in the unfortunate position that your competitors have tied up all of the key properties – it is not over. In fact, deliver the right initiative and you will earn yourself valuable media coverage for “out-marketing” the sponsorship owner. There’s always an opportunity to push your way into a conversation – you will just need to seek out the right entry point. Nike famously did a powerhouse job of this in the 2012 London Olympics by developing a spot which featured everyday athletes from around the world in places called “London”. The spot skirted the IOC’s rigid ambush regulations and gave Nike a voice in a conversation adidas had paid a huge premium to own.
    • “Beats by Dre” are constantly muscling their way into environments that are either owned by key competitors (or where there is no sponsored agreement at all) through the recruitment of individual ambassadors who are proud to sport their fashionable earphones. They famously issued “Team GB, union jack branded headphones during the London 2012 Olympic Games – but the IOC were quick to stop athletes from promoting them – but only after the matter had already received widespread publicity and exposure.
      Interestingly, the NFL recently banned players for wearing “Beats by Dre” headphones at specific times in protection of its official electronics partner “Bose”. This is where “Beats by Dre” will need to rely on individual relationships (such as that which it already has with San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick) and ambush tactics to stay present in NFL conversations. Although, it could be argued that positioning the product as contraband will likely make it all the more appealing.
    • We invest in sponsorships to capitalise on the positive feelings consumers feel towards clubs, sponsored properties and individuals but it is important to be prepared in the event that things change. The best way to do this is to anticipate any future best abd worse case scenarios that your partner/ambassador might encounter and verify that the impact to your brand would be manageable. And logistically, ensure that your contract clearly protects you in the event that things change.
    • While no one could have predicted the actions of Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorious or Tiger Woods, it provided a good lesson in being aware of and protecting your brand from the associated risks.

Written by Gina Petersen

Posted by Florence Janin