As more businesses make ever greater investments into sponsorship, we believe many brands still don’t take full advantage of what partnership marketing can do for them, either through lack of capacity or a full understanding of the opportunities.
TOO OFTEN WE SEE
• Partnership rights and assets not being used - the worst case in point is when tickets and hospitality are not taken up by sponsors. Under-utilisation is a waste of rights inventory: they could be sold on by the rights holder to other partners and the existing sponsor is paying a rights fee for something they are not using or do not need.
• Failure to activate properly – many rights holders we know are frustrated that their commercial partners are not activating, either fully or sometimes even at all. Many brands treat sponsorship deals as a transaction but rights holders are now wanting deeper and more integrated relationships where their partners buy into a joint vision built around proactive marketing. Astute rights holders are establishing themselves as brands in their own right and this activation is integral towards their long-term commercial prosperity.
• Lack of communications integration – too few brands integrate their partnerships into their broader marketing communications. Brands that have the partnership relevance (and budget) should look to truly extend their sponsorship activations through-the-line in a clear and consistent manner – the resulting impact is considerably greater.
WHAT IS NEEDED
- Clarity of purpose - Leadership and senior management need to outline the rationale and objectives of a partnership right from the outset. Too often middle management ‘inherit’ partnership projects which can feel like CEO ‘passion projects’ because they have not been engaged properly – formalise the long-term vision and the short-term goals.
- Strong relationships – Good communications and transparency from top to bottom between rights holder, partner, and their agencies as to what they are hoping to achieve from the partnership is key.
- Build your partnership infrastructure - Robust planning in the form of adequate budget allocation, appropriate team resourcing, a coherent campaign strategy and clear project evaluation processes are fundamental cornerstones of successful partnerships.
- Partnership expertise – knowledge of the sponsor’s business, understanding of the rights holder’s objectives and experience tailoring these partnerships to the bespoke needs of the stakeholders to deliver tangible returns on objectives and the investment.
THE EVOLUTION OF PARTNERSHIPS
The partnership opportunity has moved on, it is no longer about buying rights based purely on reach, it is about leveraging the brand, product and cause related synergies that exist between so many rights holders and businesses, be it across sport, entertainment or culture.
It’s not all bad but the industry needs to step up to the next level. Enough mediocrity, more ‘best in class’ execution. Greater planning, integration and accountability will show how partnerships can truly ‘shift the needle’ for businesses more than any other marketing initiatives.
We have lived this industry on both sides of the fence as both rights holders and global brands and can run an independent audit to ensure you are getting the maximum value out of your partnerships. Interested to learn more? Get in touch here.
Guinness and Coca-Cola’s activation of their Six Nations and Premier League partnerships respectively are good examples of how through-the-line activation, bolstered with a coherent above-the-line plan, take a partnership to the next level.
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