The changing future of sponsorship explored

The third annual European Sponsorship Association Summit, on 18 November 2015, will host world-class speakers for a debate on whether the 'official' sponsorship model is dead

Sponsorship has undergone a paradigm shift over the past decade.

As an integrated marketing discipline, and a way to engage with an audience and communicate clearly defined messages and meet wider-ranging strategic objectives, it has too often been mistaken for an alternative to advertising by the wider marketing profession.

It’s a pretty safe bet that, when you mention sponsorship to the man or woman in the street (or even to the majority of people who are currently employed in a marketing function), the first response you’ll receive will be along the lines of "…a name on a shirt, or a logo on a racing car".

It’s easy to understand why this perception still exists. Historically, sponsorships have been bought and sold and treated like kinetic advertising.

But sponsorships aren’t an alternative to traditional ad campaigns, they are an area of consumer engagement that allows for outreach in a way that simply can’t be gained by other marketing activities.

As media value is declining in importance, so sponsorship activities are having to evolve to meet the modern strategic demands of both brands and rights-holders.

That evolution is what’s being discussed at the third annual European Sponsorship Association Summit 2015, a central London gathering of more than 250 key marketing, media and sponsorship professionals who will be discussing the theme of "Is ‘Official’ dead?" and debating whether the official sponsorship model is on the brink of a total renaissance.

Key happenings
The ESA Summit 2015 will kick off with a US presidential-style debate in which representatives from both sides, official and non-official, will argue their case and lay the groundwork for what’s to come.

The renowned marketing cartoonist Tom Fishburne will deliver this year’s keynote. Tom is a career marketer who now runs Marketoonist, a company that specialises in cartoon-powered marketing.

Tom has consulted with organisations such as Google, IBM and Dell and helped them reach their audiences through non-traditional means using the power of cartoons.

Joining Tom will be guest speakers and panellists from organisations such as Yahoo!, UFC, Diageo and the RFU, who will be discussing the changing landscapes of sponsorship and consumer marketing, as well as the changing attitude of consumers and the new ways in which they can be reached through core marketing activity and engagement.

Karen Earl, European Sponsorship Association (ESA) Chairman, believes that a couple of key happenings are driving these changes.

Content is no longer simply consumed; it’s created, curated and shared with communities - Karen Earl, chairman, European Sponsorship Association (ESA)

"First, consumers don’t behave as they once did, with these behavioural changes inversely proportional to the age of the audience. Content is no longer simply consumed; it’s created, curated and shared with communities. And not all of this occurs within the confines of the traditional media rights structure."

Karen adds: "A second factor to consider is one of technology, which is driving a push-pull media model, one in which the consumer is increasingly in charge.

Connectivity, and live-streaming technologies such as Meerkat and Periscope, will emphasise this still further, and it may be that the traditional ‘broadcast’ B2C sponsorship model, based on media value, is perhaps going to be replaced with one that is a lot more personalised and individual."

For the ESA Summit 2015, ESA has teamed up with respected data-intelligence supplier Repucom, which will be conducting research on the theme to give attendees, and the wider marketing industry, some indication of just how far things have changed from our perception.

This research, and the findings, will be unveiled at the Summit and discussed by the speakers, panellists and the audience.

"I’ve been involved with the ESA Summit for a number of years, and this is the most exciting theme, and possibly the most controversial, that we’ve had since we started," says Earl.

"We have some truly excellent speakers and contributors, from across all areas of the marketing and sponsorship industry, and that, coupled with a fabulous venue, is going to ensure that the ESA Summit 2015 is a great place to network, and to discover and discuss what’s driving consumer marketing in 2015."

The ESA Summit essentials

Where: Royal College of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE

When: Wednesday 18 November 2015

Time: The Summit will open its doors at 8:30am for a 9am start

Price: Tickets are priced £500+VAT for ESA members or £600+VAT for non-members. Special overseas rates are also available – please contact for details.

Website: To book, visit:

Theme: Is "Official" dead? The Summit will explore the question of whether the official sponsorship model is changing, and what marketers may have to consider in order to be able to take advantage of this paradigm shift.

Details: A full day of events, starting at 9am, with keynotes, panels and audience discussions, rounded off with drinks and networking.

Tom Fishburne
Keynote speaker; CEO, Marketoonist

"I’m fascinated by the way the sponsorship industry is looking to make radical and far-reaching changes. It’s a real challenge to stay relevant to an audience that is adapting its media-consumption habits faster than at any time in history.

In my marketing career, I’ve experienced (and parodied in cartoons) many of the challenges faced by companies trying to get a coherent message out to their audience.

This is a particular existential question for sponsorship. Sponsorship is an effective marketing communication tool, but the playing field has shifted. This isn’t a time for complacency. We need bold experimentation."

Kat Hebden
MD, Shotglass Media (digital division of FremantleMedia UK)

In her role at Shotglass media, Kat oversees the digital strategy and delivery for all of Fremantle’s UK labels, including Thames, Talkback and Boundless.

"The entertainment space is multiplatform and it’s imperative that, with audience viewing habits changing, we’re continually looking for ways to innovate both creatively and commercially in the digital space. Our models of engagement have to be flexible to adapt to constantly evolving audience behaviour as well as newly emerging commercial models.

The sponsorship industry, in some ways, is not too dissimilar, particularly the focus on digital activity around live events, and how fans are accessing, sharing and consuming this content. I’m hoping this will spark some interesting discussion."

Ben Wells
Director, Well Said, and ESA board member

Wells, a sports-industry professional formerly responsible for global marketing and sponsorship at Chelsea FC, is looking forward to the debate surrounding the issue of official sponsorship and its place in the modern marketing model.

"Customers are increasingly seeking relevance and value-add, and an ‘official’ stamp means less and less to them. Ambushers, and those who provide this kind of marketing service, should, in my opinion, be seen as helping to raise the game.

Disruption of this kind often causes a shift in thinking, and I believe that both official sponsors and rights-holders should look to reconsider where real value lies in the traditional model."