From sports teams to TV shows many companies are run by sponsorship agreements. Why do companies take on sponsorship deals? There are a lot of answers when asked, however, they sound like excuses in a lot of cases.

SO WHAT IS SPONSORING OR A SPONSORSHIP?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a sponsor as ‘A person or organization that pays for or contributes to the costs involved in staging a sporting or artistic event in return for advertising.’ While the statement in itself is correct, there is a lot more to sponsorship than meets the eye.

“Give money to a sports team, sit back and watch it happen. You are now playing the lottery. Not just a partnership but a buy in for all. Education, Knowledge and Understanding of the company you are representing is highly important. Having a common goal and strong marketing strategy together with motivating slogan will help bond the sponsor and the team. Success is important and will give good brand awareness, but fans also want to feel part of a community. Being part of something brings loyalty and support. The balance between brand awareness, success, activation, PR, communication and a strong marketing strategy are the building blocks for a strong relationship. If you build these blocks equally and engage with your customer base, then people will not only buy into the team but also support its sponsors. Create a win, win situation before you enter into battle.”

WHY DO SPONSORSHIPS FAIL?

Purchasing it like a product is something that will never really fit and just sit on your shelf. Rather than treating sponsorships like a product, one needs to treat it like an investment of time, effort and competence. Two entities with similar interests coming together to achieve each their individual and common goals. It means that you need to work together and invest  not only money but time and further capacities into it. This includes a dedicated budget for activating the deal. For example, lets take the case of a middle-eastern airline sponsoring a club in the UK. Their individual goals differ significantly, the airlines’goal is to create brand awareness, establish credibility and gain passengers whereas the football clubs goal is to build a good team, win games & trophies and develop talent. Both goals can only be achieved if the two parties work together. A football team that performs poorly, reflects negatively on the sponsors image. An airline that does not financially support the club’s development loses revenue and popularity due to poor performance. 

Not having a strategy is another pitfall associated with sponsorship deals.  A sponsorship deal is usually undertaken because the management has an interest in a particular sport, or it is popular amongst your target group. Perhaps, there is even some budget for activation. But what next? What are your goals? What do you want to get out of it? What do you have to offer to the team? You need to have a relevant and credible story about why you are there. What you intend to do for the team or player and what you expect from them in the long run. Your goals, missions and expectations form the core of your strategy and need to be clearly communicated across the board. If not, you quickly turn yourself into inventory. 

Defining ROI poorly and improper measurement is easily overlooked even though it seems very logical for any regular business case. This is caused mainly due to the reasons specified before in the article. Even if you do everything correctly up to this point, having the right partner, having a well defined strategy, without a clear ROI and the regular measurement of it, you are bound for disappointment and premature termination. Clear ROI definitions will manage your expectations. This holds valid particularly, when one expects results in the long-term. Of course, it also needs to be measured correctly incl. baselines for development comparisons.

Not treating it like a Partnership is the reason why you should not even use the word sponsorship. The whole term sponsorship is very closely connected to all the above-mentioned traps. Treat it more like a partnership between two entities. No, this isn´t just semantic but a crucial change in approach. The person or organization you have an agreement with, is your best partner to actually help you with meaningful activation, support your story/strategy, and achieve the ROI you are looking for. The expertise of your partner is the reason why you entered into the deal in the first place. Hence, let them help you with their “magic”, even if you need to challenge them.

TAKE OWNERSHIP OF YOUR INVESTMENT

If you turn your sponsorship into a partnership today, the benefits will be mutual and sustainable just as you would expect it. Your investment will bear even bigger fruits and for a far longer period than you could foresee at the beginning. I did it back in 2004, when I took on the management of the newly signed agreement between Skoda Auto and the famous Tour de France. During the first four years, I managed to turn an initial HQ engagement of one event to a global cycling platform. 

PUTTING A SQUARE PEG INTO A ROUND HOLE?

A perfect match never really exists and if it doesn’t fit one cannot force it even with the partnership approach. One of the latest examples is, when McDonalds pre-maturely terminated their deal with the IOC Olympics. The reasons are many fold but some of them show the clear mismatch of both enterprises like health vs fast food. Hence, it is very important to make a match check on these 4 aspects before entering any new partnership deal.

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