Working with sponsorships

December 05, 2018

Excerpt from 'How to Wrestle an Octopus: an agency account manager's guide to pretty much everything'. Available now!
Sponsorship provides an interesting spice to throw into the account management mix. If you do have exposure to sponsorship, it will likely be in one of two ways:
  • Your client will be a sponsor for an organisation/individual/event; or
  • Your client will be an organisation/individual/event that relies on sponsorship for funding. 
Most of the time it will be your client who will do all of the sponsorship-related interactions, planning, measuring, and reporting, but every so often you will be required to get involved.
When your client is a sponsor
It helps to understand the reasons why your client would want to become a sponsor in the first place (or to ‘buy’ a sponsorship).
  • As a substitute for advertising. If a significant number of your client’s target audience will see their sponsorship endeavours, and if their audience is a hard-to-reach, elite, elusive, or high-value group, then sponsorship could be the ideal solution.
  • To create positive publicity. Every sponsor wants wide exposure in as many channels as possible. Media coverage helps to create heightened visibility of products or services (PR which may otherwise be unattainable or unavailable for your client).
  • Differentiating from competitors. Sponsorship (especially if it is exclusive) is a significant way to create competitor differentiation. Your client has an opportunity to stand out far above their competition, which can be a great way to combat a competitor with a larger advertising budget.
  • To enhance an image or shape consumer attitudes. Sponsorship can help to improve how your client is perceived by their target audience.
  • To drive sales. A well-chosen sponsorship can allow your client to showcase their products or services and maximise experiential opportunities.
  • To influence an organisation. In a similar way that a big corporation would want to sponsor a political convention, your client may wish to lend their voice to a cause, or advance a business interest. Sponsorship will allow them a level of influence (with the sponsored entity) that may not otherwise be possible.
  • For bragging rights. Does your client want to appear altruistic? Does he (or she) want a recognisable logo to put on his website? Would he like an affiliation that he can mention to others at parties?
  • Your client is a huge fan. What better way to get close to something you are passionate about; or secure the best seats in the stadium; or a table at black-tie events; or be given an opportunity to shake some very important hands? ROI may never be factored in if this is the prime reason for the sponsorship.
  • As a hospitality opportunity. Sponsorship that offers hospitality opportunities can be very attractive to companies. A corporate box at the tennis or big game, golf tournament entry, and VIP receptions are all occasions to invite important clients and suppliers and solidify business relationships.
  • To inspire an internal team. Sponsorship can speak volumes to the ethos of a company, and can inspire staff if they see their company sponsoring a worthy charity or cause, and being a ‘good corporate citizen’. 

Unless your agency is called upon to advise whether or not to take up a sponsorship, it’s highly unlikely that you would be required to justify a sponsorship’s value. What you will be required to do is to work within the parameters of the sponsorship and produce the best sponsorship-related ideation and collateral as possible.

Here are examples of how a client/sponsor relationship can impact your role as an account manager.

Setting the scene

Your client is a passionate football fan. He decides to sign a major sponsorship deal with the national football team. The sponsorship package gives your client logo presence on the team uniform (and various pieces of team and game collateral); game time advertising; game tickets; and preferential access to premium team-related events.

Scenario #1

The sponsorship also includes 20 player hours, per year, to use team players for promotional purposes. One stipulation is that no less than three players are to be featured in promotional material at any time (including TVCs, POS, and in-store appearances). Team management tries to accommodate specific players that you request, but this is never guaranteed (and rarely granted).

Having to use a minimum of three players quickly eats into the number of total hours used. This requirement - in turn - limits the amount of time you have with the players, and the number of occasions when you can use the power of their ‘celebrity’, so you need to be very savvy as to when player inclusion will have the greatest impact.

Scenario #2

Whilst having very well-known sports personalities at your disposal can be a great asset, it becomes evident that sponsoring this particular sporting code is not the ideal fit for your client’s customer demographic. You also realise that the players are not particularly comfortable in front of a TV camera and have few acting skills.

You know you could produce better quality TVCs (that better suit your target market) if you didn’t have to include the players. However, you are required to incorporate the players into your client’s promotional material because he wishes to maximise his sponsorship dollars. The TV and in-store campaigns often return a low ROI, and your client wants answers.

If your client’s sponsorship aligns well with their business goals and brand, then maximising a sponsorship can be highly rewarding. At other times (such as the examples above) it can present both a creative and strategic challenge.

To take full advantage of your client’s sponsorship deal, you need to understand the parameters of what you have to work with. You need to be able to appreciate the brand, values, ethos, and public perceptions of what is being sponsored, and how this will align with - and affect - your client and his brand.  

Some sponsors are happy to give their money and their logo to sponsorship, and that’s where their involvement ends. Other sponsors choose to dive in deep and explore every possible opportunity, often getting themselves and their agency personally involved. You need to be guided by your client as to the level of involvement they expect you to have in their sponsorship endeavours.

When your client is the one being sponsored

Does your client depend on sponsors for funding? Are they a charity/not-for-profit organisation; start-up; sporting body/team/individual; political campaign; trade show; or event? If so, they will probably have at least one sponsor (if not many sponsors) that need to be nurtured in accordance with the amount of investment that has been made.

Organisations and individuals that rely on sponsorship are very mindful of giving their sponsor-partners as much value, exposure, and support as possible (within the sponsorship agreement). As an account manager you will get very used to:
  • Incorporating sponsor logos, colours, and other imagery into your creative work, collateral, branded merchandise, uniforms, and signage.
  • Creating logo ‘lock-ups’ (joining two or more logos together into one logo).
  • Making sure the size and positioning of sponsor logos (the visual hierarchy) is correct.
  • Including sponsor logos/people/products into TVCs and campaigns.

All sponsors will want as much mileage and value as possible in exchange for their money, time, support, and products. Your client will be the one to manage sponsor relationships and expectations, but you may be called upon to think up ways to incorporate sponsors into your agency-specific activities.

If, at any stage, you feel as though a piece of sponsor-related work may be off-brand, low quality, or not in the best interest of your client and his business, then you should say something as part of your ‘brand guardian’ responsibility.




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