How To Win A UK Sponsorship Awards 2019

In November, the UK Sponsorship Awards published a list of ‘top tips’ for companies entering 2019’s three Agency categories. In this follow up piece, we have compiled a similar list for companies planning to enter the event’s other categories. While these tips are not a guarantee of success, they should enable organisations to put their best foot forward, says UKSA managing director Rosemary Sarginson. “These tips are a synthesis of what many judges have said to us over the years. They emphasise the importance of telling a great story in the entry, and providing evidence of how it has helped the brand.”

In addition, UKSA’s organisers have also extended the deadline for the one-off free to end Silver Award to January 11. Created to celebrate the Best UK Sponsorship of the last 25 years, the Silver Award will go to a sponsorship that is deemed to have had a transformative effect on both the brand in question and the wider industry (more details here). 

Top Tips for Entering UKSA Categories

Punchy Introduction: The UKSA judges read a lot of entries, so it helps if you can command their attention with a strong mission statement for the campaign. Try to encapsulate the core elements of your sponsorship success story before going on to add detail in the rest of the 1200-word entry. The judges will read your entry even if the opening paragraph isn’t very clear, but if you can provide a few succinct pointers within the statement it will help them navigate their way through the narrative. Better to have them on your side at the outset, rather than struggling to extract meaning for themselves.  Please take a moment to look at the entry form (you will need to register but you can do this as many times as you like) 

One of last year’s big UKSA winners was NatWest – Cricket Has No Boundaries which opened like this: “In 2017, NatWest evolved the role sponsorship plays in its business by aligning it to a higher purpose to address an issue of social importance. It did so to underpin its new brand promise We Are What We Do, which invites customers to judge the Bank on its actions. This is why, in 2017, we became the Principal Partner of not just the England Men’s side, but the Women’s, Visually Impaired and Disability teams. NatWest launched ‘Cricket has no boundaries’, a campaign that celebrates and showcases the diversity and inclusivity of cricket in England and Wales.” There is no hard detail in here, but this paragraph signposts what the judges should look for.

Readability: This in an extension of the above point. Entries don’t need to be of Man Booker Prize-winning quality, but they do need to be readable and, if possible, entertaining. An indigestible 1200-word tract which forces the judge to do all the work is unlikely to come out on top, even if the substance of the sponsorship is pretty good. Bold, upbeat language helps, but unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims are like a red rag to the judicial bull. If you overstate or over claim, then the judges will probably go hunting for proof of your assertions.

Clear Objectives: In terms of the nitty gritty, this is the first thing judges look for. They want some explanation of what the sponsorship was trying to achieve. Year after year, judges mark down entries for failing to deliver on this point. Don’t be afraid to include background insights here. Often, the most eye-catching entries are the ones that begin: “Client A had a problem. Market share was in decline and its brand had a tarnished image among younger consumers. It needed to find a way to reconnect with trendsetters and decided that unicorn fighting was the ideal sport to associate with”. In other words, explain why the sponsorship was selected and how it was expected to address a specific problem. Last year’s TV Sponsorship category winner giffgaff started its entry like this: “In 2014 giffgaff identified a risk to their future; their own success. giffgaff’s brand positioning and strong values were making a substantial impact on the market leaders, winning valuable market share. It would not be long before competitors launched lookalike brands in an attempt to win back share. Furthermore, we predicted the battleground would be cost.” 

Reference pre-sponsorship research if that also played a part. Be careful, though, of retrofitting objectives. Judges are good at spotting when a brand has achieved unexpected results and then pretends that those results are a reflection of what it wanted to do in the first place.

Campaign Activation: Without listing every single thing you did, give the judges a sense of how you took a certain set of sponsorship rights and transformed them into a compelling, bespoke campaign that worked for the brand in question. Innovative ideas are eye-catching, but don’t overlook the bread and butter elements of the campaign that really cut through.  Avoid coming across as too gimmicky, but try to show how you covered off lots of different angles (social media, branded content, point of sale, hospitality, etc.) and how you built the campaign to reach out to different groups of stakeholders.

Results/Outcomes: Ideally, you need to have some objective measure of why the sponsorship worked, otherwise you’re unlikely to get too many advocates among the judges. Impact on sales/market share is great, but just as interesting is evidence of how the brand’s image or relationship with customers benefited. Make sure the results link back to the objectives. If the primary objective is to improve employee satisfaction and relations, then that needs to be referenced in the results. Judges are not especially keen on long shopping lists of social media metrix, especially if they come with no context. The same goes for lavish claims regarding media value that don’t seem rooted in reality. If social media is genuinely important as part of the sponsorship evaluation, make it clear why that is the case.

Research: When giving results, reference research companies used – since this adds credibility. Obviously some companies have their own internal research capability, but being able to cite a third party ticks a box with many judges. Indeed, linking back to an earlier point, don’t be afraid of referencing how research was used to guide any stage of the process – from property selection onwards. Paying attention to the research component of your entry might also persuade you that you have a good chance of winning the Research category.

Double Check Who Needs To Have Benefited: Some categories only require entrants to prove brand benefits. But others need to show that both the brand and the sponsored organisation gained in some way. As a rule of thumb, anything to do with community, education, grass roots etc probably falls into the latter category.

Make Sure Everything Relevant Goes In: This sounds obvious, but it isn’t unusual for judges to say “I know this is a great campaign, but the entry doesn’t reflect that”. The bottom line is that judges can only assess a campaign by its entry. So it is important not to assume that they will judge the campaign based on what they already know. As Lord Sugar has taken to saying on The Apprentice, look at your entry with fresh eyes, as though you are coming to it for the first time. Big brands with famous (and expensive) sponsorships are generally most at risk of assuming that everyone knows what they achieved.

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 written material. A few relevant hyperlinks and some images/videos are usually enough. The latter is often helpful in bringing a concept to life. As they say, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, which in this case means that one image can double the impact of your entry!

Plans For The Future: If the result of the sponsorship is a renewal or increased investment, then it’s worth mentioning – because that indicates to the judges that the sponsorship worked. Entries which say “the partnership was amazing but we decided not to renew” can leave a hint of doubt in the judge’s mind as to why that is the case (though of course it’s legitimate to end a sponsorship when objectives have been achieved). It’s also worth mentioning lessons learned and how they might be built on in future sponsorship activations.

Double Entries: The UKSA judges welcome entries across more than one category. But where appropriate, entrants should aim to distinguish their entries. While it is tempting to just put the same wording into different categories, this means that one of the entries is probably not capturing the nuances of its particular category. It’s rare that a year goes by without judge picking up on this point.

Explore Categories Before Entering: Think creatively about which categories to enter. While categories like Arts, Sport, Brand and TV might seem like obvious targets, it’s possible your campaign has a social purpose or sustainability component that merits entry in those categories. Low budget? First time? Think about ways in which you can maximise your chance of having a successful night out in March.

The entry process for the 2019 UK Sponsorship Awards is now live and runs through until its January 22 deadline. The 25th Anniversary edition of the Awards includes many of its usual categories (arts, sport, media, etc.), and also has some new innovations. The industry-leading event will be held in the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square on March 26 2019 and typically draws around 500 sponsorship industry decision-makers.

The Sponsorship Awards team is ready to answer any queries so please email info@sponsorship-awards.co.uk or call us on 020 8891 1067.

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