10 Essential practices on sponsorship / partnership activations

Sponsorships, partnerships, ambassadorships are getting more and more complex nowadays. Experts in the field will talk about social media metrics, evaluations, new technologies but still there is a gap of understanding in the basics, I still get a lot from brand managers ..’’ We want to partner with this celebrity but we have no clue from where to start from or we haven’t done this before and we don’t know who will be the right fit for us… So I took some time to write my first ‘’advice’’ before getting in too deep on partnership activations.

1. Analyze your customers profile

Before you actually start, carefully examine your customers’ profile and set measurements: i.e. age group, nationality, profession, approximate income bracket, interests, habits etc. For example, after research on their customers, MasterCard determined a set of criteria that should be met if they are to give out a sponsorship. Their top three categories were festivals, music and sports. 

2. Partnership should be aligned with the marketing campaign

Partnership should be aligned with your marketing strategy. Messages, content, strategy should be on the same line with your marketing campaign. In the case of brand ambassador activation, the brand ambassador should not be chosen solely based on a popularity basis e.g. how many followers he/she has. The values and characteristics that the specific person brings to the table (looks, personality, past experiences, etc.) should be in sync with the marketing campaign. 

3. Plan

The beginning is half of everything” as an ancient Greek philosopher said. In an effective partnership, planning is very significant part of your project that usually takes between 3 to 6 months. Take time to assess the risks entailed in the venture, ways to minimize risk and the existence of alternatives. Communicate your goals and targets well with your partner; it’s not only about contract obligations and how many tickets you will receive as part of the hospitality deal you made with a football club.

4. Acknowledge the third party involved

Partnerships, sponsorships and brand ambassador activations are not just a two-way ”relationship”; there is a third party involved: the customers. It’s not all about fulfilling the obligations that have been put on paper. For example, a sponsorship contract may dictate that a video-commercial be made featuring the sponsor. This in itself does not guarantee benefits to either the sponsor or the brand being sponsored. If the partnership/sponsorship is to bear benefits, it is crucial to acknowledge the importance of involving the customers in this process by making it interesting, relevant and relatable. 

5. Media dynamics

Using the media to advertise a partnership/sponsorship or brand ambassador activation is essential nowadays. Media exposure is a great tool since it reaches a wide range of consumers and therefore ensures brand exposure/awareness. A sponsor should be looking in both their own media channels and partner media channels to distribute partnership news in order to reach more diverse audience. Traditional media (e.g. broadcast television, radio, outdoor billboards, etc.) and new generation media (e.g. social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) are essential to use in order to make it more dynamic.

6. Be creative

Creativity gives rise to authenticity and authenticity is precious in the marketing business. Lots of brands tend to sponsor sports teams or partner with athletes. However, chances are people will not remember after some time which brand sponsored which sports team no matter how effective the marketing had been, just because there are so many such partnerships. If, however, a company innovates by sponsoring, for example, exceptionally high-achievers or people with inspiring stories (look at the case of Usain Bolt and Gatorade animated story), and then the sponsorship/partnership bears yet one more benefit: memorability.

7. Create emotions- Be Fan Focus

When sponsors provoke an emotional response to fans, the sponsorship/partnership tends to be more successful in not only creating brand awareness but also engagement with the customer. Once consumers associate the brand with a persona that triggers positive feelings, e.g. awe, admiration, nostalgia, love, passion, respect, brand loyalty is created: a long-lasting well sought-after advantage for brands. Emotions can be created by:

  • Being interactive: Very good example is #Orangesponsorsyou at the Euro2016. They did something simple; instead of just having their logo placed on boards in the games they turned the spotlight to the football fans. Everyone could get involved, and participate with the opportunity to win match tickets or get local phone offers.
  • Reward your customers: One example is to have some clients meet the brand ambassadors, organize speeches by the brand ambassadors or allow a communication channel through social media. This shows that your brand has taken the time and effort to look into its customers which makes them more inclined to either start using your services or remain loyal to it.
  • Including a story: whatever comes with a story, the human brain is more receptive to because stories trigger emotions. Instead of creating a factual report of the brand’s benefits and characteristics, it would be better to create a story around them by metaphorically linking the brand ambassador’s daily routine or past experiences with characteristics of your brand. 

8. 360° Model

In order to maximize the benefits of your partnership/sponsorship project and have well-rounded promotions, you should work on a 360° Model with different type of activations, where it can include i.e.

  •   Traditional media
  •  Social media
  •  Signage and Branding stadiums, T-shirts -tickets
  • Fan engagement activities e.g. video/apps/prize draws
  • Hospitality
  • Presentations, Press Conferences, Events, Business Meetings
  • Social Responsibility Activities

9. Seek assistance

In many cases industry specific knowledge and experience are necessary to make a sponsorship/partnership successful. Sport sponsorship activation is not a rocket science but if you have not done this before, an expert team will help you to maximize the return of your investment and with their experience will assist you to obtain customized benefits to fit your specific needs; as there is no standard package that will be suitable on every case. It is also important your advisor to keep an eye on your progress to determine whether the sponsorship/partnership is bearing benefits and come up with alternatives when it’s appropriate. 

10. Be up-to-date

Know the trends in the market by being updated through trustworthy sources and industry leaders such as: