Double Standards: How brands can become part of a winning team

By Staff, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 27 August 2010 12:08AM

Brands are clamouring to get involved in London 2012, yet giving England's footballers a wide berth. Two sponsorship experts examine today's market.

ROBIN CLARKE, DIRECTOR, STARCOM MEDIAVEST GROUP SPORTS

How surprised are you that the England football team has struggled to find a main sponsor, and is the association still attractive at all to a brand?

Not entirely surprised given Nationwide's contract term coincided with a very disappointing World Cup for England. But you have to remember that football is still the number-one sport in the UK and that all sports teams experience peaks and troughs (even if some have more troughs than others!). So there's a major opportunity for a brand to invest in what is a stand-out football sponsorship platform. Right now, it's a buyer's market - you just need a midto long-term view.

How important is it for brands, not just the main sponsors, to have a strategy in place for 2012?

Incredibly important. The UK media landscape in 2012 will be unique. Restrictions will enter the market from LOCOG, sponsors and big spenders will look to secure the best opportunities early, all creating a more buoyant and fast-paced market for clients and agencies to navigate. It's why we've created a range of 2012 resources for our global network, including a website outlining venue, regulation and local market information so our global clients can make their plans early with the right information.

What has been the most innovative project you have been involved in this year?

I've only been in the building a couple of weeks but I've already been impressed by the diversity of solutions deployed across the Revlon portfolio in particular.

Across three separate brands, the team have built comms platforms based on passion areas identified using Semiometrie insights from SpaceID. From Mitchum Deodorant's sponsorship of UK Athletics, Charlie's experiential activity at festivals, social networking and Habbo hotel partnership, through to Revlon's broadcast partnership as the official make-up partner of Britain's Next Top Model, they really understand how to build affinity with their consumers.

Why is it important for a media agency to treat sponsorship as a specialism?

I'd be wary of calling it a specialism if it means that sponsorship assumes a siloed position within an agency. The same principles of communications planning apply to sponsorship as they do to any other piece of brand communication, so integration is critical. SMG Sports is designed to offer sports marketing expertise because there are particular regulations, trading mechanisms and stakeholders involved in the sports industry. But we work alongside strategy and investment teams on a given project from start to finish to ensure the consumer experience is consistent.

To what degree did last year's downturn impact on your business?

Sport's been remarkably resilient, thanks in no small part to the World Cup. It's a similar theme across broadcast sponsorship, where demand for good properties remained relatively buoyant - strong content continued to demand interest and commitment from advertisers. Digital really helped here, opening up multiple platforms to what might traditionally have been one-dimensional broadcast deals.

Sports and music seem very well populated by brands but what's your prediction for the next growth area in sponsorship?

Sponsorship has always been about understanding and leveraging an audience's passions. Digital provides an evolving landscape for brands to develop dynamic format platforms that allow them to communicate key messaging across a broad range of engaging passion environments. O2's Priority does this brilliantly, a panorama of access for its consumers communicated in both broad and personal channels that's tailored to the individual. So it's not about one area of growth, it's about the growth of all areas.

TOVE OKUNNIWA, MANAGING PARTNER, MEC ACCESS

How surprised are you that the England football team has struggled to find a main sponsor, and is the association still attractive at all to a brand?

I think it's more a question of timing than the England football team losing appeal as a sponsorship property. While there is still a good deal of disappointment and disillusionment around the team post-World Cup, the passion is still there among the fans for the sport and the team. It just needs channelling in a positive direction - not an easy challenge at the present time. But that passion will always make the team an interesting proposition for brand association, just not for the faint-hearted.

How important is it for brands, not just the main sponsors, to have a strategy in place for 2012?

It's pretty crucial to have assessed the risks as well as the opportunities for a brand in 2012. If any of the LOCOG partners are within a brand's competitor set, then that may have a material impact. Likewise, as London 2012 is such an exceptional event, habitual behaviour of both brands and consumers could undergo considerable change. So while it will be difficult for any non-sponsors to undertake any London 2012 consumer-facing activity, that doesn't mean that they can afford to ignore the Games.

What has been the most innovative project you have been involved in this year?

The launch of a digital, content-based hub for Evian's partnership with Wimbledon on Wimbledon.org. 2010 was Evian's third year and this innovative addition to its activation gave Evian consumers and tennis fans alike a real insight into off-court life in SW19, bringing the brand to life within the Wimbledon context.

Why is it important for a media agency to treat sponsorship as a specialism?

Sponsorship and, in its wider form, partnership/associative marketing can be a complex business, difficult to get right and with many potential banana skins. It has required skills, a specific mix of expertise and nuance, as does every other discipline within an agency. What we must ensure is that we build expertise iteratively rather than going back to square one with each partnership, particularly since the sophistication of consumers and the sponsorship industry itself continue to develop at such a pace.

To what degree did last year's downturn impact on your business?

The downturn impacted in two key areas: the first, a real reduction in the spend that most sponsoring brands had available to activate and leverage their partnerships. The second was an even greater focus on measurement and evaluation of effectiveness of their sponsorship activity. Quite right too and something that we welcomed!

Sports and music seem very well populated by brands but what's your prediction for the next growth area in sponsorship?

Brands getting involved with cause-related initiatives, giving their consumers the opportunity to participate in intrinsically rewarding experiences. Orange RockCorps and Morrisons' Let's Grow are just two examples of this - there's so much more opportunity for innovative work in this area.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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