New To Sponsorship? Here’s Why You Should Engage.

Positive news about Covid-19 vaccines suggests that things might start inching back to normal in early 2021. If so, now is a great time for brands to revisit the opportunities presented by sponsorship. These days, sponsorship is a highly sophisticated sector that manifests itself across dozens of real world and digital activations. But whether a brand chooses to channel its energies into naming rights or event partnership or branded content or celebrity endorsement (to name just a few), there are six key pillars to any great sponsorship.

Brand Awareness: Sponsorship executives can be a little dismissive of awareness as an objective – arguing that fails to maximise the true potential of the medium. But there’s no question that there is a value in a brand just getting its name out there. Whether it is entering a territory for the first time, reminding a new generation of consumers that it exists or launching a new product, there is an inherent value in being seen across a range of media platforms. Awareness or exposure across the right channels (either passive of PR-driven) doesn’t just convince consumer of your legitimacy as a brand, it also impresses real world retailers, which are more likely to offer up precious shelf-space as a result. And, with a few exceptions, sponsorship is very affordable.

Transferred Values: Experts in the field tend to place more emphasis on attributes such as transferred values. Sponsor Liverpool FC or Beyonce and it says something about your brand – you’re a winner, you’re popular, you mix with the right crowd. Of course there can be downsides (the tribal loyalty among football fans, the risk that a celebrity might make the wrong kind of headlines), but for the most part, sponsorship is a shorthand way of expressing brand personality.

Consumer Engagement: Perhaps more significant than transferred values is the fact that sponsorship paves the way to richer levels of consumer engagement. Consumers are bombarded with commercial messaging 24/7, so successful sponsorships can deliver differentiation and a competitive edge. Being the brand that makes a festival possible or brings some added value to a sports event or funds the renovation of a community centre creates the conditions for a two-way dialogue. Year after year, UKSA entrants demonstrate how rich engagement leads to brand preference and increased propensity to buy.

Sales Boost: This brings us to the holy grail of sales. For a long time, sponsorship was stereotyped as a soft medium – not quite ‘the chairman’s whim’ but unable to prove its ultimate contribution to shifting products or services. But all that’s in the past thanks to improvements in sponsorship evaluation and the rise of digital accountability. Increasingly, consultancies are able to show the direct linkage between sponsorship and sales revenues. Why else would every big brand on the planet have already invested in the medium?

Hospitality: We’ve already alluded to the influence that sponsorship can have on retailers; but hospitality is a way to connect with all stakeholders that might have an impact on the brand’s business – from government agencies to potential & existing clients. Major events also give sponsors an opportunity to open up a dialogue with other like-minded sponsors. An IT firm, for example, might find that these behind the scenes b2b discussions are actually more valuable than any consumer-facing activations it could engage in.

Staff: Big companies employ thousands of staff – all of whom need to be persuaded to buy in to the overall direction of the firm. Good salaries and working conditions obviously help, but sponsorship can act as a glue that unites and motivates the workforce. At a basic level, the right sponsorship can make staff feel proud that they belong to the firm. But there are also opportunities to create rewards or organise motivational events. Employees are a firm’s biggest asset, so it makes sense to use sponsorship to strengthen the bond.

UKSA’s First Timer Hall Of Fame

Thousands of brands across every sector have experienced the value of sponsorship. But each year, the UK Sponsorship Awards also celebrates the arrival of new converts. Among the Finalists in the 2020/21 edition of the Awards are retailer Boots, food company Fratelli Beretta, spirits brand Chivas and toothpaste Sensodyne. See all shortlists here.

Three of the above brands selected football as their entry point into sponsorship – though Boots’ decision to back women’s football was an illustration that, even within football, there are a range of options depending on a brand’s target market and objectives. Sensodyne, meanwhile, elected to work with Channel 4’s Made In Chelsea.

Dig back a bit deeper into our archives and it’s interesting to note the diversity of brands entering sponsorship for the first time. Among shortlisted entrants since 2015 have been: The Royal Naval Reserves, The Movember Foundation, DFS, Dacia, Octopus Energy and Ubtech. Drinks brands have featured prominently (Loch Lomond Whiskies, Cono Sur, Frontera, Chandon) as have digital first brands (Kayak, All Out Beauty, Rovio). Significantly, brands that already have a high profile have recognised the power of the medium – an example being Standard Life Investments’ partnership with the Ryder Cup. Boots, Sun Bingo and Colgate are other UKSA entrants that underline this point.

A great endorsement of the medium is the fact that so many UKSA first-timers are still active sponsors today. Autorama (via its Vanarama and Motorama brands) is still headline partner of English football’s National League; Dacia has deepened its commitment to rugby league; and Royal London has continued to support one-day cricket. Back in 2014, The Guardian referred to DFS’s sponsorship of the British Olympic Association as ‘bizarre’ but roll on six years and DFS is still one of Team GB’s key partners. This just goes to show the power of sponsorship to transform ingrained perceptions of a brand.

New to sponsorship and want to enter our First Timer category in 2022? Head here for more details about the process.

View the 2019 Winners

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