How To Win a UK Sponsorship Award: 2020 Agency Categories

There are three Agency categories up for grabs at the UK Sponsorship Awards 2020 – Best Large Agency, Best Small to Medium Consultancy and Breakthrough Consultancy. As in previous years, the UKSA organisers expect tough competition across all three, so have compiled a list of ‘top tips’ for companies planning to enter. 

While these tips are not a guarantee of success, they should enable companies to put their best foot forward, says UKSA managing director Rosemary Sarginson. “We’ve looked back at some of the best entries in recent years and assembled a set of guidelines that will help people understand what the panel of judges are looking for.”

The judges on the consultancy categories are typically client-side executives, so they know from experience what makes the difference between a good and a great sponsorship consultancy. “But if I would add one thing,” says Sarginson, “it’s crucial that consultancies get all of the relevant information into their entry. Judges can only base their final decision on what is written in the entries, so it’s important to cover all the bases in a concise, clear, easy to follow narrative.”

The Breakthrough category is new. The winner will be chosen from entries into the other two categories and will be a company that can demonstrate a step-change in performance during the year in question. “What we are looking for here is a company that may not tick every single box on the other two categories, but has experienced some kind of quantum leap during the year,” says Sarginson. “This may be a rapid rise in revenues or a landmark account win that changes the way we think about the consultancy. Diversification into new business areas, the opening of new offices, the introduction of innovative methodologies, company acquisitions and so on are all examples of breakthroughs that the judges will look at. Consultancies of any size are in with an equal chance of winning this category.”

Top Tips for Entering Consultancy Categories

Punchy Introduction: A paragraph that summarises the ethos of the company and the story of the past year can help set the scene for judges. That said, it will need to be backed up by evidence across a range of key criteria. Don’t be tempted to fill the entry with mission statements and mantras because the judges are looking more at practical illustrations of what makes the company special. On a similar note, it’s worth making entries easy to read. Judges may have read dozens of entries before they get to this one so make it digestible.

Numbers: Use figures to present a positive case. Clear revenue and profit figures with % increases tell an important part of the story. Gaps in the numbers or vague assertions tend to leap off the page. That said, don’t include numbers that are likely to confuse the judges or bog them down in detail. Remember, everything is confidential, so take the opportunity to include a strong, simple financial analysis.

New clients: Give examples of new clients that have been added during the year in question, ideally across a range of industrial sectors. Include both brands and rights holders if relevant. Highlight the more substantial relationships, where your consultancy has been given a broad-based strategic task as opposed to a short ad hoc project. Sometimes judges’ attention will be drawn to the fact that more than one consultancy is claiming to represent the same brand. Winning accounts from big blue-chip brands is eye-catching, but so is introducing brands to the sponsorship sector for the first time. It’s also interesting if a holding company is so impressed with a consultancy that it assigns them work on a new brand, or uses their creative template to drive the sponsorship strategy in additional territories.

Retained clients: Just as important as winning new business is hanging on to existing briefs. Mention key relationships, especially if they have been running for several years or have expanded in scope. The evolution of partnerships suggests dynamic thinking within the firm.

Campaign Details: Provide 2 or 3 succinct examples of the work your consultancy has been doing in the past year. A single paragraph should be enough to provide an insight into key activation elements. Try to focus on aspects such as creativity, innovation and results. What was new and exciting? How did it impact positively on the client? Are there any examples of how you turned around a looming problem for a brand, helping it turn a potential negative into a positive?

Client Services: Give examples of how your consultancy is helping its clients beyond the immediate task at hand. Does it organise workshops and networking events? Has it introduced any digital tools that support the relationship? Does it conduct bespoke research? Has it helped the client improve the way it organises internally?

Employee/Workforce Development: Examples of staff training and support are important. Evidence of opportunities for employees to advance or explore areas that interest them will be taken into account, as will illustrations of how staff are stretched to fulfil their potential. Staff retention rates, work/life balance initiatives, action to ensure diversity and good networking and communication are all of interest to the awards judges. The emphasis is on helping staff feel empowered but also driving them to contribute greater value. Staff surveys, company perks, dress-down days and so on can be evidence of a company with a collaborative and transparent attitude.

Investments back into the business: Examples of any resource that has been added to stay ahead of the curve and keep servicing clients to the best of the consultancy’s business are of interest (for example the addition of content creation capabilities). Successful expansion or diversification are worth mentioning, though the ability to fund a major acquisition is not enough in itself to win an award. The judges will be looking at the logic and implementation of such a move. Being the first-mover into new tech areas like esports, VR resonates. If the company has moved premises or rebranded turn that into a story.

Testimonials: Client testimonials always look good in awards entries. They provide objective evidence that the consultancy is actually doing what it claims to be doing in its entry. Not a lot is needed, just a pithy sentence or two from a key decision-maker at the client.

Supporting Materials: There is some scope to provide supporting materials, but judges are unlikely to read masses of additional material. A few relevant hyperlinks and some images are usually enough. The latter is often helpful in bringing a concept to life. 

Contribution to industry/society: Involvement in trade bodies and industry events (organising panels, supplying speakers) are a good measure of a company’s contribution to the advancement of the industry. Encouraging staff to write thought leadership articles and online blogs is also a way of improving the industry’s knowledge base. It’s is also interesting when consultancies practice what they preach – perhaps engaging in CSR or pro bono activities on their own behalf.

Further Reading

View the 2019 Winners

Campaign of the Week

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