Sponsorship marketers are almost always required to take on multiple roles when managing sponsorships. At any given time they’re playing deal maker strategist and activation quarterback.
The evolution of the sponsorship game has brought long-term prowess to sponsorship departments that were once short-term focused. Not only are today’s sponsors getting more of what they want and less of what they don’t but they’re also learning the fine art of keeping properties in check.
But a sponsorship property is a little like your lawn in the summertime: Keep an eye on it and everything is fine. Forget about it and the crabgrass takes over. Keeping an eye on what properties are up to—and who else they are selling to—is critical. Marketers need to be in constant contact with teams and leagues to ensure other sponsors aren’t getting too close for comfort to their own marketing rights and activation plans.
An example dear reader: When Rollerblade found exposure at its title-sponsored in-line skating marathon diluted by new competitors it took a stand. The brand had helped launch the property a decade earlier and initially was proud to see it grow and take on new sponsors.
But new sponsors turned into too many nearby competitors. “It looked like it was their event ” says Nick Skally the company’s marketing manager.
Skally scheduled an intervention with the property to explain Rollerblade’s position calmly rather than threaten or push the other side around.
“We told them we were the first to the party yet we didn’t feel like we’re getting what we should ” he says. As a result Rollerblade got back what it thought it had lost including additional branding opps and signage on 500 feet of fencing around the marathon’s finish line.
“This year ” says Skally “it was a totally Rollerblade event again.”
Four tips for getting what you want from properties that might not always have your marketing objectives in mind:
1. Make It Happen. Who works for whom? If property owners tell Apple that the way the computer company wants to leverage an event won’t work Apple marketers find a way to go over under around or through the situation. “We work through the details ” says Kathy Kellett the company’s director-worldwide corporate events.
At one event the company was determined to use its own stage but the property denied the request because it said there was not enough time to strike the existing podium.
Undaunted Apple contacted the other parties involved in the event and got everyone to agree to use its stage.
2. Be Understanding. Understanding can be more powerful than anger. In the event of a dicey discussion with the property leverage empathy by showing that you understand the property’s position but make sure they understand yours. That tack helped Rollerblade. “When [the event manager] understood our perspective he was almost apologetic ” Skally says.
3. Provide Value. If you’re contractually barred from amping up activation find a creative way to get it done. In advance of last year’s FIFA World Cup tournament soccer’s governing body was selling newly customized packages. Determined to get greater value from its participation 35-year sponsor Gillette came up with a proposal for something new: the Gillette Best Young Player Award.
“We appealed to their best interest because we believed it was something that was good for FIFA and fans ” says Jim Lamie director-global sports marketing at Procter & Gamble.
4. Demonstrate Commitment. If a property raises questions about its concerns or requests Rollerblade takes action. In some instances Rollerblade has agreed to sign a longer commitment with the event or committed to larger space for the next year in exchange for more activation opps. Says Skally: “The approach is: We’ll help you grow if you help us grow.”