Seize The Advantage In This Brave New World

A new era in sports marketing has dawned, and we have today's brutal economy to thank. Big bowls of jumbo prawns have been replaced with something more savory in these hungry times: Value.

For decades, sports properties have rightfully been pressed to quantify the values they have been delivering. Squirming to protect the stout premiums for TV commercials, videoboard ads, and all the other vague stuff, account executives just shrugged and asked about the taste of those big shrimp. But in this new frugal environment, entertainment and sports properties are starting to understand that they must sell sponsorship programs that actually perform.

To be fair, properties have their own issues with measurement. The powerful emotions, community pride, and association with a positive experience have had their value virtually ignored by the majority of buyers, especially agencies. The fact is those kinds of things have tremendous value, and it's up to the sponsor to first appreciate then incorporate them into the mix.

Now is an ideal environment for both sides to come together. With red ink flowing on corporate ledgers more freely than cocktail sauce at the Super Bowl, properties have started becoming much more attentive to sponsors' concerns. That aura of smugness enveloping almost every sports and entertainment property has started to dissipate, and properties are trying to figure out ways to retain business. This is the perfect time for sponsors and agencies to start forging improved business relationships. For their part, agencies and companies should adopt the following as standard operating procedure:

1. Storytelling. Communicate to the sports/entertainment property exactly what challenges the potential sponsor is facing in the marketplace. Clearly explain who the primary, secondary and tertiary targets are. Help properties to understand what needs must be satisfied, and don't stop at sales. Employee retention, recruiting, team building all can be supported by sports marketing.

2. Establish Goals. Nothing is more frustrating than investing significant dollars and having nothing specific to show for it at the end of the year. Make specific goals for every component of the sponsorship. And make certain that the property clearly understands and embraces them.

3. Measure Progress. Ask properties how they will evaluate the effectiveness of their sponsorship packages. Be prepared to make suggestions and share with them how you plan to assist them in this area. If these mechanisms are put in place and everybody understands them from the outset, it will make for a much more productive, and honest, relationship.

4. Be Prepared. In the sports space, sponsors who submit materials on time often are the ones who end up with added value. Properties appreciate sponsors who are on top of things and quite often place them at the head of the line to receive additional value. When you are consummating your deal, insist that your rep give you a detailed step-by-step timetable of how things will unfold. This way you can make certain that your team is prepared for success.

5. Professional Courtesy. Generally speaking, properties are fairly lean organizations. If you are not keeping up with your part of the communication flow, it is much more difficult for them to service you properly.

6. Explain Your World. Team sales personnel often don't have a grasp of how agencies operate. Take the time to teach them about your shop and, invariably, your sale rep will be able to do a better job of serving you.

It's a brave new marketplace out there and the opportunity to make substantive changes that benefit the client has never been this ripe. Commit yourself to improving the sponsorship process and you will be reaping additional value for the long term.

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