With so much information readily available online to consult about sponsorship strategy, brands sometimes ask us "Why do we need to hire an agency?" They wonder why they cannot just go to a property looking for sponsors and deal with them directly without representation or rather hire internally to manage everything. Both are viable options in the short term and in some cases may feel more cost-efficient. Our experience has shown that over a longer term and with more sophisticated operations, you may want to consider an activation agency to help you excel in what is an increasingly unique environment.
Inc. Magazine has done a feature going into more detail about how this relationship works. To expand, we will look into 6 specific ways an agency can provide immediate value to your sports business program.
If these elements are coming up in your meetings, you may want to consider partnering with an agency.
1. If you want access to diverse platforms, creative, opportunities and strategies
When going directly to a property, you might be offered a portfolio of assets that the particular property wants to provide you and not what you actually might need. This is especially true if it involves assets out of their complete control but still something you may have access to.
It is also unlikely that they will give your brand 100% focus, especially during hectic event weekends. The team or driver is in business to stay successful and perform well, as it should be. Individual properties want to think that they can offer you everything a company would need to be successful, but how would they know what success means to your business?
Negotiating with one property may be difficult if you are new to marketing in sports since you are not sure what a good deal is. It is also challenging to identify which assets are most applicable to what you want to accomplish.
An agency is there to represent your best interests as the sponsor. Often your best interests involving a mix of assets that you get to activate more or less, here or there, depending on broader company goals at play. As consumer behavior shifts to new and upcoming platforms, agencies can pick up ahead of these shifts as they regularly keep track of the industry on your behalf.
2. When you are looking for a business-focused mix of assets with variable budgets
One particular property will want you to spend your entire budget with them. That may seem convenient, but this is where that mix of assets comes into play. An agency can advise your brand on the right combination for your brand's objectives, and then continually optimize that mix as time and learnings go by. Properties also do not focus on the budget you need for proper activation (the real driver of sponsorship ROI).
As a brand, if you know what you are looking to accomplish, then an agency can put together a holistic sponsorship activation program that provides the best mix of available assets to meet your goals. We always recommend starting small and growing where you see results.
3. When you want to shorten your learning curve by months and even years
The ability to tie your sports business program back to business growth is not easy. The dynamics involved with the sponsorship platform vs. more traditional media are intimate and can be very complicated. An experienced agency will know how to navigate this environment, and open doors you would otherwise spend weeks and thousands of dollars in resources to open.
Imagine you are trying to lock in the most coveted reservation in town for dinner, but the public-facing system is telling you the restaurant is "booked out for months in advance." You could put your name on the list, wait, or try to tip your way in. However, if you know the owner, all of a sudden things become easier for you and opportunities to book a table start opening up, even if a little less traditionally.
Having an agency in this world is a bit like knowing the owner of that restaurant. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
4. If you are looking for consistency with one point of contact for numerous initiatives
You do not want to keep your work straight among different events, series, teams, drivers, programs, deliverables, regulations and more. This process will quickly get overwhelming, especially when you have your other campaigns and initiatives outside of sports moving forward.
Let your agency synergize this for you and provide you a comprehensive look at success, making sure metrics are equal across the various platforms. You will then be able to compare apples to apples on an unbiased basis.
With more advanced reporting and regular strategic check-ins a must in today's environment, you will want to align with a partner that is always looking ahead.
5. If you are sick of getting cold sponsorship calls from teams or other properties that are not relevant to your business
Once you show interest and investment in participating in a given sports property, you will soon become the target of other properties looking to get a piece of your marketing budget. Some of those solicitations will be valid, but many will be cash grabs.
That is when you get to pause and say "call my agent" just as you have always dreamed of doing. A sharp agency can sift through a lot of spam-like offers from properties to distill down what is most realistic to your brand and especially your business objectives.
6. If you are seeking higher-level introductions to key B2B relationships
Because an agency is "in the world," good ones will have a host of unique connections that could prove fruitful to your interests. There is a friendly relationship amongst sponsors in a given sport, mostly because you automatically have a few things in common together. Plenty of mutual learning can be shared, and even inspire exciting new relationships.
Full disclosure; agencies thrive on referrals amongst this friendly environment. It is this self-regulating force that motivates agents to have the best interests in mind of the brands they are representing, which in turn will benefit the sport and other brands involved as sponsors as well.
Bonus: If you need to efficiently add resources and capacity to your team
As you begin to see your sponsorship programs pick up pace, your assets and activation opportunities will grow at a faster rate than you can possibly hire to keep up with leveraging them. Integrating and agency naturally into your growth and process will allow you to sustainably enhance your program. It will also give the original team members internally a chance to take a break from the day-to-day grind and start to look at things more strategically.
Updated for added value.