Sponsor as a kindred soul

Sponsor as a kindred soul

Liam Gaskin

A marketer buys media to be seen by the target market, he buys a sponsorship to interact with them. How does a sponsorship help increase awareness, loyalty and sales in a recession? First off, let me make it clear: sponsorships are undervalued, under estimated and underutilised by most marketers, mainly because they do not understand their inherent value and potential.

Many years ago I was made aware of the boss of a ladies’ underwear brand who wanted to sponsor his local rugby club, not for sound business reasons but because his club needed a sponsor. The club politely declined and no one was embarrassed. I assume he did not think through the effect on the club and his brand. Thankfully, those days are gone but not a lot of thought goes into the sponsorship buying still.

The rights holders are intent on getting the best value for their property but they do not always understand what the client wants from it. The standard stuff is seen in all contracts: the right to associate the brand, the use of the logo in ads, free tickets for promotions and so on. It is all standard stuff but most of this is of no real use to a company who wants to interact with their target market on an emotional level to generate loyalty and subsequent sales. Consumers see a proactive sponsor of a team, sports event, TV show or charitable cause as a kindred soul and potentially relate to the brand on a different level. If the brand fails to execute the sponsorship in a meaningful way then there is a sense of just jumping on the band wagon which may seriously damage the brand at worst, or just be ignored at best.

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Robbie Keane was one of the Republic of Ireland team players that Beiersdorf used in promotions as part of its long-running Nivea for Men sponsorship with the FAI.

To really get close to the consumer the individual negotiating the rights must delve beyond the contract to discover or create assets that will give the brand real leverage with their audience. The brand must also be prepared to invest in additional spend in support of the property. Beiersdorf’s Nivea for Men, a veteran FAI sponsor, could use the imagery of three international footballers together in ads and in-store.

They negotiated exclusive image rights which ordinarily you would not be able to buy particularly around Euro and World Cup tournaments. Beiersdorf can offer parents the possibility of their child being a flag bearer before international games. They can extend the rights to radio and press promotions. The big benefit is that Nivea for Men consumers are offered something money cannot buy. They get tickets for sold out games and can use the footballer images on pack, in store, on Facebook and in national print media. So they can reward their consumers with something their competitors cannot hope to provide.

It is worth noting that these and other benefits were not in the original contract negotiated between the FAI and Beiersdorf’s Nivea for Men. Always remember that a rights holder does not want a passive sponsor because the more proactive you are the more the exposure is for the event, cause or whatever. I have seen sponsors being squeezed out at renewal negotiations because rights holders felt there was no benefit to them other than financial.

The ability to negotiate real assets is not exclusive to sports, events or charities; it also applies to TV, radio and print. I negotiated the rights to a UK soap being broadcast in Ireland and ensured that the TV company delivered four stars for a press conference and a meet-and-greet for consumers and trade. They also agreed to run a week-long promotion across the station for viewers to attend a reception at which the stars showed up. Having exploited these assets in a TV and a print promotion on a radio show and with the trade, we delivered measurable value to the client before the sponsorship went on air. It was the equivalent of 45 per cent of the sponsorship cost and an increase in sales through consumer and trade activity.

So what’s the benefit of a sponsorship in a recession? Do not tell your financial controller this, but when you are under pressure to slash your advertising budget and marketing support programme half way through the year, a well-negotiated sponsorship, which is paid for up front, comes into its own. These are the points to take on board…

  1. Your brand still has a live presence by association.
  2. You will have assets to use in store to support and drive sales.
  3. Media will give you free exposure if you give them something consumers can’t buy.
  4. Your Facebook and website will attract consumers because of your unique offerings.
  5. You will create positive PR opportunities.
  6. You can build better trade relations.

The above is the minimum you can achieve but it all starts with planning, an understanding of what you want and how you leverage the sponsorship but, most of all, a negotiation with vision. My advice is to employ an experienced negotiator; they will be worth their weight in gold if, as they should, deliver more than you expected.


Liam Gaskin is a director of The Concept Partnership

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