Sponsorships are challenging and although many master the best practices, opinions and approaches still vary from one industry to another. We conducted a list of the 14 most influential sponsorship experts from all around the world and collected their thoughts about “What are the 3 main upcoming challenges in sponsorship?”
The resulting opinions differed in multiple ways – the length, focus, industry. This was due to experts having different backgrounds and working with sponsorships towards different industries.
Check the list, click on the experts’ names and see if you can relate your challenges in sponsorship to the ones mentioned below.
Karen Earl (European Sponsorship Association, United Kingdom)
Avish Sood (The Sponsorship Space, Canada)
Judith Mugeni (Octagon, South Africa)
Andrea Petrone (Sports4Brands Ltd, United Kingdom)
Natalia Grodecka (GetHero, Poland)
Joachim Lange (COMASCO, Germany)
Anthony Stabourlos (Cashfree, Belgium)
Sophie Morris (Millharbour Marketing, United Kingdom)
Matt Tewhatu (MediaWorks, New Zealand)
Dan Maisey (CSM Strategic, United Kingdom)
Chris Sinclair (The Anthem Group, United States of America)
Wim Mathues (GfK, Belgium)
Abby Clemence (Sponsorship Broker, Australia)
Brent Barootes (Partnership Group Sponsorship Specialists, Canada)
Karen Earl, Chairman at European Sponsorship Association & Founder KE Mentoring
#1 Knowing your audience and creating campaigns that both appeal and engage.
#2 Constantly strive to be new and different whilst being true to brand values.
#3 Continue the relevance of sponsorship in the face of alternative, lucrative revenue streams for rightsholders.
Avish Sood, Co-founder of The Sponsorship Space
#1 Brands are closely evaluating their activation spending more than ever. With hundreds of competing properties and various value propositions built around commoditized assets, properties need to move away from traditional sponsorship models to really stick out. Innovation needs to be a priority and digital disruption needs to be looked at as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
#2 Proving return on investment can be a daunting task. In an increasingly digital world, I believe rights holders still face challenges on proving value with social media mentions outside of basic interactions. Once sponsors start to figure out a more accurate way to value being a part of the online conversation, it will be a lot easier to determine if goals and objectives are being met.
#3 Commercial rights management has always been a challenge. With many ways for companies to build ‘association’ with a property (national governing body, league, team, player, etc.), how do rights holders limit a company’s involvement if they haven’t paid the appropriate rights fees? Beats by Dre is a great example. During the 2012 Olympics, the company sent tons of athletes complimentary headphones and received significant social media attention from it. They are very well known for also associating themselves with pro athletes in football, soccer, and basketball as well despite exclusive league deals with competitors. The challenge with combating this is that there are many ways to be a part of the conversation which can sometimes be cheaper than paying for rights fees. Clear sponsorship guidelines need to be in place with rights holders to prevent companies from doing this, but easier said than done.
Judith Mugeni, Consultant Business Director of Marketing and Sponsorship Strategy and Research at Octagon
#1 Measurement battle ROI vs ROO still at it.
#2 Strategic fit of sponsored properties to brand vs reverse engineering.
Andrea Petrone, Managing Partner at Sport4Brands Ltd
#1 Poor Integrability in the Marketing Mix – Sponsorship is the most powerful and the only fully integrability platform in the marketing mix available to brands. However, most of the sponsors activate sponsorship only on specific aspects of the marketing mix.
#2 Poor Activation on Social Media – Whether for lack of digital expertise or because they are too concerned on logo exposure, most of the sponsors aren’t yet exploiting the power that social media has to engage with fans and customers.
Natalia Grodecka, Key Account Manager at GetHero
#1 Catching up with the new possibilities and technologies.
#2 Adapting to ever changing consumer’s needs (related to audience migration from traditional media to the online world).
Joachim Lange, Managing Director at COMASCO
#1 TECHNOLOGY: The challenge for sponsors is to not just get carried away by technology itself, but rather to make it work for the fan experience with the brand.
#2 EFFECTIVENESS: In an environment, where the communication channels have grown exponentially (while budgets have not), the challenge to maximize resource allocation effectiveness is huge.
#3 RELATIONSHIPS: Building and nurturing honest, meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with all stakeholders in the sponsorship industry remains the key to long-term success in this business and cannot be replaced by any amount of data.
Anthony Stabourlos, Chief marketing officer at Cashfree & Co-founder of SnappGear
#1 Relevancy, is the sponsored company’s content in line with my business strategy?
#2 Will it make or break my image?
Sophie Morris, Strategic Marketing & Sponsorship Director at Millharbour Marketing; Chartered Marketer; Board Director of the European Sponsorship Association
#1 Not doing technology for technology’s sake
Technological advances will keep coming thick and fast. How do both brands and rights holders know which to take up? It will come down to accurate customer insight and having strategic filters by which you assess all new initiatives. It means having the capability to judge but being brave enough to say no to those that don’t fit with your strategy and won’t directly help achieve objectives.
#2 Analysis of data as more companies invest in CRM and data
Both rights holders and sponsors should be investing in customer insight. More than just collecting data to send emails out, they need to be mining that data to learn about customer behaviour and preferences, and to predict future behaviour. Rights holders in particular need to know their audience well in order to present themselves to sponsors as a platform to reach that audience.
#3 Increased scrutiny in measurement
As sponsorship becomes more integrated into marketing, brands need to plan, manage and measure their sponsorship activity with the same scrutiny as any other marketing activity. They need tools to strategically plan and actively manage their sponsorship, and then evaluation frameworks that will measure the effectiveness of their sponsorship in terms of their marketing objectives.
Matt Tewhatu, Sports Digital Producer at MediaWorks NZ
#1 Finding the balance between using digital for the sake of it and using it to improve/boost your brand.
#2 Ensuring that you’re not just basing your engagement on figures, to get love, brands have to give love.
#3 Being genuine in your engagement. Tailoring the content to your target market by knowing what they want, how they want it and when they want to receive it.
Dan Maisey, Consultant at CSM Strategic
With increasing uncertainty in the UK, businesses are more careful than ever regarding their sponsorship options. Whilst I believe it’s still a main aspect of their plans, they need to ensure they’re getting something back for them and their shareholders. With this in mind, in my opinion the three biggest challenges facing those in the industry are:
#1 Return on Objective
Whilst Return on Investment is still key, ROO is becoming ever more prevalent as businesses look to align their strategic objectives to what they’re supporting. Ensuring any sponsorship deals deliver on this, through direct or indirect means, ensures companies can justify them.
This follows hand-in-hand with the above. Sponsorship is no longer a name on a shirt or a pitch-side barrier, companies want to see innovative ways of activating their sponsorships, which get them involved in the community and ensure the brand name is spread as wide as possible. O2’s Touch Rugby Camps is a great example of this, which has been going on for a while.
This is absolutely paramount in today’s tech-based society. Companies want to see real-time numbers, so they analyse and assess exactly what their sponsorship is delivering. The amount of data we can access to give businesses practically anything they ask for means we are having to really show companies, and their shareholders, exactly what their sponsorship is doing for them.
Chris Sinclair, President at The Anthem Group
#1 Identifying and reaching the decision maker(s).
#2 Standing out and/ or getting the attention of decision makers when the sponsorship process is becoming more automated and regulated.
#3 Proving ROI using multiple metrics.
I will also say that a fourth, which can be related to the second above, is that there are a lot of questionable properties and sponsorship opportunities. Some are not questionable but in fact may be great but they can often over reach/over extend on their value and clutter the marketplace. Other times they may just not be good opportunities. The rights holder does not always grasp market value, which can in fact lead to a harder process for everyone as the prospective sponsor(s) can be even more inundated.
Wim Mathues, Business Lead & Consultant at GfK
#1 Integration of all marketing & media touch points and understanding their relations to each other (incremental reach & impact) is key! Not isolating sponsorship activation, strategy or research will be of the essence as it needs to fit into a bigger marketing & business framework.
#2 Using and especially applying independent, unbiased sponsorship data & research is of the essence! With this also comes the importance of tailor-fit, exclusive analysis projects, instead of buying data that your competitors or opposite entities have acquired at off-the-shelf pricing.
#3 Being creative and unique is a constant challenge in sponsorship! The opportunities & technologies are increasing rapidly, and lots of people like to throw buzz words like VR, storytelling, and mobile sponsorship marketing around, but hardly anyone seems to really apply any of these in an impactful and creative way, so far. Keeping up with the changing media landscape (OTT, VOD, SVOD, role of mobile), device usage and technology is an ongoing challenge, but a very exciting one from our point of view!
Abby Clemence, Director at Infinity Sponsorship
#1 Moving from a transactional-based to a relationship-based sponsorship paradigm.
As the general public becomes more and more aware (especially our younger pioneering generations) that they hold the real power, they are putting their money where their heart is. And the research is conclusive, their heart lies with the For-Purpose sector.
The new rules of etiquette in successful sponsorship are all about creating a partnership. A partnership between two like-minded brands that know what they want, understands what the other wants and are both prepared to work collaboratively to make it work.
Many For-Purpose organisations have yet to realise the powerful position they are in to move with this new relationship-based paradigm shift and capitalise on the shifts already occurring in society.
#2 Appreciating they operate in a competitive environment.
In Australia and New Zealand alone there are approximately 700,000 organisations that identify themselves as not-for-profit. That number multiplies to some 10,000,000 worldwide. When it comes to sponsorship, many organisations forget (or may not even realise) that organisations and events also operating in the same industry, sector or profession will be approaching the same brands to seek a partnership.
There is a real opportunity for organisations to uncover their unique value to a well-aligned brand and make an approach that is mutually beneficial.
#3 Understanding their REAL value to sponsors.
An organisation’s real value to a well-aligned brand comes from the fact that they are a gatekeeper to a community of followers that is also the ideal target market to that brand. They can offer a company a warm introduction to meet their family. An organisation’s community of followers are not mandated to stay. They stay, support, donate and volunteer because they believe. They trust. They feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. That can be a very compelling proposition to a potential sponsor if you get it right.
Brent Barootes, President and CEO at Partnership Group Sponsorship Specialists
#1 Shifting the historic belief that sponsorship is a two way transaction between a brand / sponsor and a rights holder/property. It is today a three way transaction; the brand/sponsor; the rights holder/property and the audience (be that fans, donors, event goers, customers) – the Trinity of Sponsorship needs to be understood!
#2 Failure for rights holders/properties to custom build proposals and programs for their sponsors – still too many “stock packages”.
#3 Failure of our industry to have a certification program for sponsorship professionals. We need national/international criteria for certification/designation so that we work with a common goal – accountants have it, fundraisers have it, ski lift operators have it… why don’t we? Lots of training, but no “cross the board” thinking!
1# Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) is key, while Return on Objective (ROO) is becoming more prevalent as businesses are aligning their strategic objectives with what they are supporting.
2# Businesses strive to understand and get to know their audience in order to create campaigns that are fresh, different, appealing and engaging.
3# Not knowing how to stand out and get the attention of decision makers is another issue, especially in the era when sponsorships become more automated and regulated.
4# It is challenging for business to assess all the data and show an understandable overview to shareholders pointing out whether they’ve succeeded or failed.
5# Many businesses place innovation and digital disruption at last on their priorities, and see them as obstacles instead of opportunities.
6# Technology is an ongoing challenge however, if taken advantage properly it will open up a vast amount of new opportunities.
Thanks to all the experts that contributed to this expert roundup!
Are you a sponsorship expert and would like to share your thoughts about the 3 main upcoming challenges in sponsorship?”