Craft & Creativity in Sponsorship - 10 Standout Campaigns Across The Years

Many elements go into making a great sponsorship, but often the things that leave a lasting impression on people are the ingenious craft and creativity at the heart of a campaign. That’s why the organisers of the UK Sponsorship Awards have introduced a special one-off award for the event’s 2020 edition.

The new 2020 Vision Award is looking for outstanding executions where sublime craft has brought an exceptional creative idea to life. The category is open to every area of the sponsorship sector and will focus on areas such as design, craft, artistry, technique, expertise, talent, vision and iconic imagery. It runs alongside UKSA’s innovation award, which is concentrated more on the use of future-facing, game-changing or unorthodox technology.

Unlike campaign results, of course, craft and creativity are relatively subjective terms. So to some extent it will be up to entrants to present a persuasive case as to why their chosen campaign deserves to win this new category. But to help frame people’s thoughts, here are ten examples of past campaigns that UKSA thinks captures the spirit of the 2020 Vision Award.

Cadbury’s & Coronation Street

It’s 23 years since this iconic partnership launched, but the sight of Coronation Street recreated in ‘chocolate’ still stands out as one of the most eye-catching of all sponsorship idents. Created by Aardman Animations, the combination of high-end production craft and perfectly-executed storytelling set a benchmark that few idents have managed to match since. Having said this, the last few years have seen several cleverly-crafted branded content campaigns that would be eligible for this award. One example is 2015’s Samsung School of Rugby, a branded content campaign starring Jack Whitehall. An amusing series of short online films, the campaign was successfully extended for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the following year.

British Airways and London 2012

There were lots of reasons to applaud the craft and creativity of BA’s London 2012 sponsorship, not least the ingenious Home Advantage ad campaign that urged people not to fly during the event. Other powerful components of the campaign included cultural pop up events, mentor programmes and a giant image of Jessica Ennis (the size of 15 tennis courts) placed on a key flight path. Even that was topped for sheer audacity by a celebratory flypast over Buckingham Palace by a BA jet and the Red Arrows. From the moment BA delivered the Olympic Flame on a special aircraft called Firefly, every element of the campaign supported BA’s well-crafted brand messaging.

Red Bull Stratos Space Jump

Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic free fall in 2013 was, above all, a remarkable technological achievement and feat of human endurance. But it also another example of energy drink Red Bull pushing back the boundaries of brand engagement. The event itself was particularly memorable, with a live webcast clocking up 52 million views (a record at the time). In addition, however, Red Bull Media House generated enough content to create an ad campaign and a documentary. Such was the strength of Red Bull’s content strategy that it won an Emmy. Ineos’s support for the sub two-hour Marathon challenge is a more recent example of brands connecting in this way.

Coca-Cola and the English Football League

Coke sponsored the EFL for five years, during which it made a couple of bold creative moves. The first, in 2004, was the ‘Club Colours’ campaign, which saw the colours of the Coca-Cola logo changed for the first time in history - to those of the 72 Football League clubs. This was a brave move for Coke and contributed to a new era in branding, whereby companies have been more open to manipulating their core image assets where appropriate. Equally interesting was the ‘Win A Player’ campaign launched in 2005. As with Club Colours, this was a fan-centric initiative that gave club supporters the chance to win a player for their favourite cash-strapped team. Lots of brands talk about putting fans first, but Coke often delivers.

Co-op and Glastonbury

Co-op has been transforming its brand image among young shoppers by introducing pop up shops at festivals such as Isle of Wight, Latitude, Creamfields, Reading and Leeds. As part of this process, it has been working with Keep Britain Tidy, for example by introducing a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles. At Glastonbury 2019, it took this eco-strategy to a new level by selling a range of sandwiches in 100% compostable wrapping. It also sold recyclable aluminium cans of spring water and refillable water bottles – a response to Glastonbury’s ban on the use of single-use plastic bottles. Aside from the brand engagement aspect of this work, Alasdair Fowle, Co-op’s Head of Partnerships, says festivals are “a great opportunity to push boundaries with new technology”. For other examples of festival creativity and ingenuity, check out this US example.

Unilever Series at Tate Modern

Unilever’s partnership with Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall lasted for 12 years. The partnership involved Unilever funding one artist a year to make a work of art. This resulted in some of the most innovative and significant sculptures of recent years. While this partnership ended in 2012, it’s a compelling example of how brands can use arts sponsorship to intravenously inject craft and creativity into the DNA of their brand. A brilliant example from the US saw Airbnb and the Art Institute of Chicago link up on a Van Gogh-themed campaign.

Nike Just Do It HQ at The Church

Last year, Nike converted an old church in a tough neighbourhood of Chicago into a culture and sports centre for kids. The way they did it was spectacular, respecting both the heritage of the building and the needs of the community. Although not strictly speaking a sponsorship, ‘Nike Just Do It HQ at The Church’ is an example of how ingenious craft and creativity can deliver outstanding results to both brand and community. In this case, it is almost certain to have saved lives by keeping kids from joining gangs. After just one month of summer programming, the church had welcomed 2000 kids and generated appearances from 10 Nike roster athletes.

O2 Wear The Rose and England Rugby

O2 has been sponsoring England Rugby for more than 20 years. One of the key elements of the partnership has been its ‘Wear The Rose’ strapline. Derived from a simple logo on a rugby shirt, Wear The Rose has come to encapsulate O2’s efforts to galvanise support for the England rugby team. Over the years, Wear The Rose has been reimagined as animation, VR, live events and more. It’s an expertly-crafted case study in how to build a 360 fan engagement strategy around a core concept.

FOX: Deep State and The Daily Mirror

Sponsored by Fox Networks Group and entered by Mindshare UK, this campaign saw Fox promote its new drama series Deep State by funding Daily Mirror journalists to write exposés about what the Deep State is and how it functions in the UK. In doing so, it made the subject of deep state a talking point and drove audiences to the show. 37% of those exposed to the campaign claimed to have tuned in to watch the first episode on Fox. The campaign won UKSA’s 2019 Innovation Category, but in 2020 its channelling of journalistic and marketing craft would make it a potential candidate for the new 2020 Vision Award.

NatWest & England & Wales Cricket: No Boundaries

NatWest’s Cricket Has No Boundaries campaign, created by M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment and partnered by Chance to Shine, challenged traditional perceptions of cricket as an elitist sport that only appeals to a narrow segment of society. At the same time, the campaign had an immediate impact on NatWest’s brand, with an uplift in the number of people viewing it as inclusive. Like O2’s Wear The Rose, the genius of this idea from a sponsorship craft perspective is that it took a strong central theme and then built multiple activations around it. No stone was left unturned – with activations including VR, TV, social media and grass roots community programmes.

The above ten examples barely scratch the surface of craft and creativity in the sponsorship sector. But hopefully they will provide some inspiration for companies considering entering this new category. To be eligible for the 2020 Vision Award, companies will need to adhere to the same date range as other categories. They will not be required to demonstrate that objectives have been met, but they will need to explain, in under 1200 words, why their campaign or execution stands out in terms of its craft and creativity.  The purpose of the Award is to demonstrate that the craft base in sponsorship is as impressive as media such as film, television, theatre and advertising.

For more information about the new 2020 Vision Award, feel free to contact Rosemary at To enter the category at the 2020 UK Sponsorship Awards go here. Details on UKSA 2020 deadlines and all other categories are also available. The venue for the event is the London Marriott  Hotel Grosvenor Square with the Gala Dinner on March 24, 2020.

View the 2019 Winners

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