With Rugby World Cup 2015 on the horizon and UEFA Euro 2016 and Rio 2016 just around the corner, we are busy responding to brand activation briefs.
Very simply, sponsorship is an investment, and investments are made in the aspiration that returns will be delivered forthwith. The nature of those desired returns varies massively dependent on the brand in question and their target audience. In banking they used to call this rather crudely ‘the bang for buck’.
So what are the different types of bang for buck that large brands seek when their CMO signs off on the, almost certainly, enormous cheque to become an official sponsor or partner of the world’s largest sporting events?
1 / Pure and simple, brand awareness. Did any of us, 20 years ago, really know of Emirates airline? Emirates have probably been the pre-eminent sponsor of major sporting events in the last 15 years and doesn’t it show; we all know their brand, quality and service now.
2 / Business to Business (B2B) Did Castrol’s sponsorship of football make us all dash out and buy Castrol oil? Only for the real petrol heads maybe. In my experience, Castrol largely used their sponsorship campaign to bring their most valued clients and producers together to educate them on the performance benefits of their oil and to offer them some light entertainment too. Business guests here would be large OEMs, VW and the like, who put Castrol oil in every car they manufacture.
3 / Business to Consumer (B2C) Think beer! Heineken have the UEFA Champions League, Carlsberg the UEFA European Championships and AB InBev the FIFA World Cup. Clearly football hits their absolute sweet spot when it comes to a target market of consumers; men in their 20s and 30s. The event marketing hit here is many fold: the monopoly on in stadia beer product, the constant reinforcement of their brand messaging on TV screens, and the association the sponsorship delivers i.e. Castle Lager is inextricably linked to South African rugby.
4 / It’s your brand versus your competitors warfare! You will notice brands that produce comparable goods often sponsor similar events. Continental tyres have UEFA Euros, MDF took the cricket, Bridgestone the Golf and Olympics. I tend to feel there’s an element of ‘We’ll take it so they can’t” in corporate sponsorship.
5 / Brand alignment with mutual values of the sport. Take Vitality Health Insurance here as an example. When you think of Vitality Health, the clue is in the brand name. They seek to support and promote health and vitality and what better way to do that than aligning themselves to sport, encapsulated by their outstanding choices of Mr Wilkinson and Mrs Ennis-Hill as brand ambassadors.
With the diversity of reasons for electing to sponsor an event comes a need for diversity in sponsorship activation execution. Understanding the brand goals by delivering sponsorship campaigns against objectives is key for event management agencies so we can define, design and deliver a truly immersive brand experience that meets all strategic goals and, ultimately, brings the bang for buck that was sought from the investment.
Lastly, coming back to the bang for buck theory, it is critical that all sponsorship programmes can be effectively measured for their true return on investment. There are several ways to measure sponsorship ROI, both quantitative and qualitative. The goals of a programme must be clear from the inception in order that returns can be clearly identified via a strict evaluation process where true success can be determined, with results then being channelled back into the strategic planning for the next sponsorship cycle.