We have seen the marketplace adapt to many shifts through the last 25 years across our work in different series, sports, brands and partners. Now more than ever, these essential pillars of value are shining through the more mainstream vanities such as views, attendee counts, and impressions.
You will find new and fresh value when your organization limits the inbound noise to focus on these core principles. These principles have been distilled down to their most essential form so you can get right to it.
1. Know where to begin
It is important not to go looking for a solution before you have a problem. Similarly, don’t invest in sponsorship assets until you have an understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish. Sketching out the right mix of assets first will ensure that you have exactly what you need, not what the team you are sponsoring thinks you need.
The how you start is equally as important as the where. Because of the flexibility offered in the performance world, you are able to start small and grow toward the results. This allows you to maintain the ability to closely follow or slightly get ahead of ever-changing consumer behavior. This approach will also limit your risk, and ensure you are constantly extracting value from your activities.
For the where, the actual starting point has been made successful in a variety of different ways depending on your objectives. It is one of those situations that there are so many different options and channels for you to consider, you may feel stuck in a decision-freezing state of not knowing what is best for your objectives. That is not something for you to feel bad about, that is common and in fact, normal.
You'd be surprised at what a solid knowledge base can do for you as you begin your journey or look for fresh opportunities. Starting can be as simple as identifying the business objectives you want to solve for, grow, or promote. From there, you begin to identify what properties are available that match those goals. Sometimes it might be sponsoring an individual driver, and sometimes it means sponsoring an entire series.
All the time, however, it means finding the right mix that suits your needs. By diversifying, you open yourself up to a wider scope of exposure and brand activation opportunities. Once the right mix of assets is dialed in for your brand, you can start putting things into action.
2. Strategy before tactics
Sponsorship gets a bad connotation for not being effective and left just as a brand or ego play. We have seen a lot of that unfortunately, and we are actively working against it.
A common pitfall we have seen out of this is the constant tactic-switching to "keep things fresh" without a strategic foundation. New and exciting is great, but effective is more important. In an ever-evolving marketplace, we are continually assessing and realigning activation strategies as necessary to ensure steady growth with sports marketing programs.
First off, being involved in sponsorship doesn't always require your entire marketing budget. You can treat it as strategic integration to your existing marketing strategy. It can be a vital component, as sponsorship opens the door for your brand to the ever-important world of live entertainment. This is the place where you can engage your audience in a refreshing and exciting way, often times becoming more genuine in the process.
This approach offers great flexibility to fit varying budget levels, and you will find that depending on your objectives as a brand/marketer, you can apply your budget to various assets integrated into a comprehensive program that drives your objectives forward. We encourage our partners to start small to get an understanding of the environment and then grow toward where you start seeing results.
It’s our focus to demonstrate how much engagement you can gain from a sponsorship when you approach it with the right strategic foundation.
3. Think sustainably
It is easy to look at a massive event sponsored by a brand and think that it was put together with one swift development. That is not so common in reality. Often, we are building up to title sponsorships or proprietary events step by step with regular and thoughtful tweaks along the way.
It is refreshing to see brands grow their involvement in a sport from a small promotion all the way to the point where they are owning and operating their own teams and unlocking unique brand building opportunities.
To understand what works exactly right for your brand, we encourage you to start small with your investment, experiment with different activation strategies, analyze results, and continually align investment to where you are seeing the results. This will help prevent expensive and high profile pitfalls that often are seen in sports marketing.
When we first partnered with ITW Global Brands, we tested various platforms with targeted Personal Service Agreements with some key influencers in motorsports. We produced authentic and engaging content leveraging product knowledge and a passion for racing. As we fine-tuned our messaging and added some sponsorship property to our work, we were able to leverage more with our activation efforts.
And then we grew a little more.
And a little more after seeing the success, until we were title sponsors of the Formula Drift series.
4. Always be activating
If you buy something and don't do anything with it, you're missing out on the value.
Think about buying yourself a new Rolex. For now, you can equate this new Rolex to a sponsorship. If you buy that Rolex and just let it sit on your desk, not wound and not keeping time, it doesn't do anything for you. It is nice to have in your possession, but it won't be generating future value for you. It won't even be starting new conversations like it could be doing if you were to wind it up and wear it.
Letting a new Rolex sit on your desk is a bit like buying a sponsorship and not activating it. New rights to access certain things don't do much for you without proper programs strategically designed to take advantage of what you have bought. If you have a set budget you are looking to use most effectively, the activation bucket is what you want to prioritize for the highest ROI possible.
Learn how activation is the key to maximizing your program's ROI