A powerful tool
Sponsorship, or “brand partnership,” is a tool used by a company to buy, build and leverage an association with an event, team or group—a.k.a. “a property”—for specific marketing purposes.
It is a powerhouse in the marketing armoury: a sponsorship creates a unique position in the market, and, if done well, can provide a competitive advantage for the sponsoring brand.
But in order to generate positive returns, sponsorship needs to be actively managed.
The journey from selection, valuation, negotiation and activation all the way to performance measurement can be treacherous. Adding to the complexity, the sponsorship’s success hinges on an important third party: it must make sense to consumers.
To work well, brand partnerships need a strong strategic foundation, meaning sponsorship investments must be closely tied to corporate or marketing objectives. Value must be demonstrated to stakeholders, such as shareholders and management, to justify the large sums invested in sponsorships.
Emerging from the global pandemic
The global pandemic changed everything. Or did it? While the unprecedented pause enforced on sports and entertainment certainly had negative, and in some cases long-lasting, impacts on those industries, it also provided an opportunity to create more optimal sponsorships that better deliver on objectives. Before the pandemic, even if the sponsorship industry was thriving with double-digit growth, the underlying issue of how to demonstrate return and effectiveness on such investments was not being adequately addressed.
The worldwide crisis gravely affected the sponsorship scene, as the entertainment sector, from film production to sports and live events, ground to a halt. With very few deals signed in the past 24 months and most sponsorship activations halted, the steady stream of marketing dollars directed towards partnerships dried to a trickle.
These sectors are now re-emerging, and sponsorship requests will soon begin pouring into corporations. Now is the time to hit the reset button and put solid processes in place to ensure companies are investing strategically in the right way to achieve meaningful results.
Don’t go back to the old way; take the guesswork out of sponsorship investment. Today, we can do this right!
Sponsorship Lifecycle Management (SLM)
Introducing Sponsorship Lifecycle Management™, Elevent’s technology-driven, people-backed process that allows you to take a strategic approach and actively manage your partnerships every step of the way.
Supported by software solutions and deep industry knowledge, the process, which evolved organically from our successful work with clients over the years, facilitates data-driven decision making to select the most effective properties, ensure the right investments and measure outcomes.
Backed by Elevent’s expert team of marketing, advertising and technology professionals, the new SLM platform provides companies with a safe, effective, and easy-to-follow process at every stage of the sponsorship journey, including:
- Assessing the space: How are particular niches of the sports and entertainment market performing? How well are your current sponsorship investments, if any, doing? Where is the competition investing?
- Brand alignment: What is the purpose of your sponsorship and how does it align with your brand values?
- Proposal analysis: Automatically score and manage incoming requests.
- Valuation of sponsorship assets ($)
- Contract negotiations: Let data dictate your spend.
- Performance measurement: Track and measure the effectiveness of sponsorship investments.
Why lifecycle management makes sense
Our many years in the sponsorship space combined with our brand, agency and property experience has helped shape this philosophy, which drives our strategic approach. Partnerships are long-term investments can generate tremendous value, and even a competitive market advantage, when they are well crafted.
Sponsors don’t have the luxury of allocating sponsorship dollars that don’t serve a strong purpose.
We have been in the space the longest and have been its key innovators, developing unique technology to help decision makers select partnerships and evaluate assets. Put simply, Sponsorship Lifecycle Management is the right idea at the right time.
Most organizations rely on an unconnected smattering of solutions and service providers, putting the onus on the brand or sponsorship manager to make sense of it all. An integrated approach lowers the investment risk while continually monitoring effectiveness.
For instance, a major global food and beverage brand took advantage of the pandemic pause to rethink their entire sponsorship portfolio. By asking themselves what purpose sponsorship served in the organization that other communication tools could not achieve as effectively, they determined that sponsorship was the most effective tool to get their products into consumers’ hands, in a positive environment that would promote a positive image and brand message.
Working together, we conducted a nationwide survey of consumers in the sector to determine their “passion point.” We then aligned the property selection and communication campaign (activation) to convey an effective, unique brand message. The focus throughout was on results. We designed the blueprint for how to measure success early on in the process, enabling the brand to track the performance of their overall program and investments.
The work brought tremendous clarity to the team, allowing the company to confidently shift their sponsorship investments over a two-year period and build a new portfolio that was strategically aligned with their objectives and brand promise.
Elevent clients, like the example cited above, appreciate the convenience of a single, data-driven solution for identifying, selecting, measuring and maximizing the ROI of strategic sponsorships. The Canadian Tire Family of Companies, a $12+ billion corporation, uses Elevent’s SLM platform to inform its sponsorship decisions and associations with many of Canada’s most influential sports organizations, including the seven Canadian National Hockey League teams.
On average, clients who use the SLM platform save between 10% and 20% on rights fees and benefit from a reduced sponsorship management workload of between 50% and 80% (200-700 hours per year). Our company has served more than 250 clients, managing more than 20,000 proposals for leading brands including Nespresso, Sun Life, and Six Flags, among many others.
Even as the practice of sponsorship was growing, very few organizations were addressing the elephant in the room: Why sponsorship and, more importantly, does it work?
My business partner, Jay, and I have worked with brands, properties and agencies for many years. Elevent was born out of the realization that companies both large and small had no clear sponsorship objectives or guidance on how to properly manage, but more importantly, measure the performance of their investments.
We also noticed that sponsorship was not taken seriously by senior management and other stakeholders. Why? Because of the large amounts involved, the potential conflict between the good of the company and the interest of top executives, and the lack of clear, universal metrics to accurately measure sponsorship value and ROI.
We are passionate about our business; it has a huge upside. We love the entertainment arena and the tremendous opportunities that brands can leverage to express themselves in a creative fashion.
Advertising may not change people’s lives, but audiences do welcome brands that support and invest in the objects of their passion. Therein lies the real power of sponsorship and the driving force behind what we do every day at Elevent.
Elevent by the numbers
- 250+ clients across 5 countries
- 472 sponsorship proposal valuations
- $100+ million sponsorships under management
- 125,000 surveys completed
- 21,000 sponsorship proposals analyzed
The pandemic forced us all to re-evaluate the way we usually do things. This has been especially true for the marketing and sponsorship industry.
As things get back to normal, creativity and resilience will prevail.
People want to be entertained and are flocking back to stadiums, concerts and Broadway.
Now more than ever is the time to put your house in order and build strong brand partnerships that will move the needle.
Sponsorship and partnerships
Defined by Otker in 1988 as (1) buying and (2) exploiting an association with an event, a team, a group, etc., for specific marketing (communications) purposes. Commercial sponsorship fits quite naturally alongside advertising, PR, personal selling and sales promotion in that its basic function lies in achieving a marketing communications objective (Meenaghan, 1991)
Property or rights holder
This refers to any organization with which a sponsor formally aligns itself as part of its marketing or corporate strategy (Farelly, 2008). Typically, these organizations are sports teams, arts organizations, entertainment events or causes. Synonyms: rightsholder, sponsee.
Assets or sponsorship benefits
This refers to the items offered to a sponsor within a sponsorship agreement. There are a number of possible benefits or assets, but visibility assets (which give the sponsor the opportunity to showcase its brand) are the most common. Other asset categories include digital communication tools, interaction opportunities, on-site visibility, promotional opportunities, hospitality and broadcast visibility. The visibility awarded as part of the property’s marketing communication plan is also one of the most common assets offered.