How To Choose A Sponsorship – 11 Basic Rules

With so many enticing sponsorship properties on the market, it’s often difficult to know which one to back. Here we provide a few basic pointers to steer you in the right direction.

Objectives First: This sounds obvious, but some brands still end up investing in sponsorships because of gut instinct or the persuasive power of the rights holder. For a sponsorship to deliver, you need to be clear about your desired outcome(s). Is it about brand-building, brand reappraisal, driving sales or connecting with communities? Sometimes it will be all of the above in which case you need to find a sponsorship that ticks all the boxes. If you’re clear about your objectives then it will help the rights holder deliver the best possible outcomes.

Audience/Property Fit: Which section of the consumer market are you after and where are they located? Are you trying to re-energise existing customers or take your brand into new sectors? Either way, make sure that the property you select can reach the required group and connect with them. Sponsoring a Premier League football club might give you high levels of exposure but it might also alienate some consumers.

Budget Properly: As with anything in life, be absolutely clear about what you can afford. And this doesn’t just mean acquiring sponsorship rights. The cost of activation often exceeds the cost of title rights, meaning you need a lot of firepower if you want to get the best out of your partnership. Are you planning on supporting the sponsorship with TV advertising? Or maybe you have plans for mass community mobilisation. Whatever your plans, ensure they are affordable.

Sound Out Stakeholders: A sponsorship might look right but what kind of reaction will it generate if you actually take the plunge? Will staff be motivated? Will they be excited by the prospect of getting involved or irritated at the extra workload? The same question applies to the public and the media. Will the duration of your sponsorship be dogged by accusations that your move is cynical or extravagant? This has been a big issue for banks in recent years. But fast food companies that enter sport also need to beware. And special care also needs to be taken if you get into the area of education or the environment.

Sponsorship/Rights Holder Track Record: You’re unlikely to be the first brand to sponsor a particular property, so the property owner ought to be able to provide you with some evidence of the sponsorship’s effectiveness across a range of measures. Also, consider talking to previous incumbents (assuming they are not direct rivals). Ask them if the sponsorship lived up to expectations. Were there any nasty surprises? Did the rights owner add new sponsors you weren’t expecting after the deal?

Rights Holder Flexibility: 21st century sponsorships are often referred to as partnerships. The reason for this is that they tend to work best when there is scope for creativity and innovation. It’s imperative that the rights holder is willing to listen to you and make things happen. Who is going to be your point of contact and do they have power to make things happen in their organisation? Are you dealing with a hidebound organisation that doesn’t like change (you can often tell by looking at other aspects of the way they operate)? Or maybe they are boxed in by rules that they would like to break but can’t. It’s important that you are able to deliver a stand out creative execution so you need to be sure that they are able to deliver the tools.

Rights Holder Assets: In a similar vein, what assets do they actually have to offer? Can they deliver on the promise? Do they have a stadium or a building where you can hold events? Do they have a media operation that can promote your cause? Do they get social media? In the case of sport, can you get access to stars? Are there money can’t buy opportunities available like backstage passes or tickets to top events?

Be Careful About Clutter: Of course, the more exciting an event the more sponsors are likely to be attached (think FIFA World Cup, Manchester United, Formula One). Ask yourself if that matters. Does it matter if another brand overshadows your media exposure? Do you have an idea up your sleeve to address that fact? If you take guests to an event will their experience be inferior to that of a more important sponsor? How would that feel? Would you be better being a big fish in a small pond than swimming with the sponsorship sharks?

Property Performance: Will Property Performance Affect Your Brand? Sponsorship properties are a bit like stocks and shares. Some are rock solid, some go up and down in popularity and success. It’s best to be prepared for this. Both can work well if you have the systems set up to adapt. If you sponsor the England Football team, you can say “We’ll support them through thick and thin”. But if you back an event you can make plans that are unlikely to be disrupted by unforeseen events.

Get The Right Agency: You shouldn’t really attempt any of the above without a sponsorship agency because they have deep pools of knowledge and experience. But make sure you push them hard to come up with the right solution for you. Maybe hold a pitch to make sure you’re getting the best ideas and best value. Even the best agencies can suffer from routinisation so you need them to really push themselves to be creative. It’s so easy for a sponsorship to get drowned out by the noise.

 

Shop Around: With your agency, make sure you shop around. Sponsorship can be an emotional purchase so there is a risk of overpaying. Stay cool and look at all the options. Don’t go down the road of thinking you must have a sponsorship at any price. Having a team on board is a way to avoid impulse decisions. Also, do some research. Maybe look at previous winners of the UK Sponsorship Awards to see what stands out and why!

View the 2022 Winners

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