Activate Sponsorships, Don't Settle

You did it! You decided to sponsor a team, arena or player in a sport that supports your company’s goals, indexes highly in your target market or is simply your CEO’s favorite past time. Now what? Most companies fail because they did not think beyond ticket sales, stadium signage, the logos on the jerseys, or the few times a year you get to interact with the player. These are the basics of sponsorship deals. It is the “ticket” to entry. 

So how do you make the most of your sponsorship? 

It varies in an infinite number of ways and permutations depending on the sport, the goals of the company, what or who you are sponsoring, your target audience, etc. Let me break down a few things to think about before you get started:

Activation Costs: As I said before, signage and logos are just the tip of the iceberg for sponsorship deals. They’ll get you visibility, but they won’t make a fan feel any differently about your brand. Brand activations have the level of influence you’re looking for. They’re going to cost you, but you’ll get out the checkbook if you really want to make a difference. As a starting point, assume you will spend at least 1:1 between sponsorship and activation costs.

A healthier approximation is probably 1:2 or 1:3. If you don’t have that kind of funding, don’t bother sponsoring. If you’re sponsoring a venue, plan to activate every day the venue allows. For arenas, that could mean activating at every hockey and basketball game as well as any concerts or other special events. If you don’t, you are simply throwing away opportunities and not fully maximizing your investment.

Athletes + Sports: Not everyone needs a superstar like Michael Jordan or Tom Brady. Sometimes non-traditional athletes or sports can better serve your needs. Do an honest assessment of what your business goals are, then start thinking strategically about which sport you would be best served to activate in. Further, the bigger the sports, the more restrictions and competition you face for consumer interest. Why be a logo on a wall when you can own an entire sport!

Personally, I have spent the better part of a decade working in endurance sports such as triathlon, cycling and running. The results I have seen from sponsoring these so-called “fringe” sports would make you do a double- or triple-take. When brands fully invest in these “fringe” sports, they can engage more deeply and become a pivotal part of the sport itself. It all shows in their bottom line.

Push Them to Do More: Whether you’re sponsoring a venue or athlete, you need to be constantly pushing them. The good ones work hard to activate on your behalf, but most of them struggle to find the time between their multiple partnerships. It’s your job to make it simple and turnkey for them. They will be happy to engage and be a part of things, you just need to help them along the way.

If you sponsor an athlete, spend a few days creating content with them that they can use throughout the year. When doing this, work collaboratively with the athlete and make sure you’re not trying to shoe-horn your marketing “speak” into their content. This reflects as much on them as it does on you. As you work, build out a library of photos, messaging points, promotional ideas and videos.

Make sure it’s in the athlete's voice and don't try to tell or sell anything. Just be there. Become a part of the athlete’s identity and, in turn, your target consumer’s life. Lastly, create a calendar for your athlete to post their content and make them stick to it. They are busy people so if you make it as easy as clicking send, they’ll have no reason not to cooperate.

Don’t forget, it’s your money, so make it work for you. Just don’t trick yourself into believing your job is done once you’ve signed the sponsorship agreement. You get out of your sponsorship what you put in, so make every dollar count. Oh, and if you have any tickets to Patriots games, let me know.

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