It’s time to rethink the idea of sponsorship

Matt Rogan’s comments (MW last week) regarding the suggestion that sponsorship expenditure could be better deployed when diverted to internal communications raises an important point for the sponsorship industry and potential sponsors. Surely it is time that the idea of sponsorship being purely a media buy designed to raise awareness and create image transfer is ending as the industry matures?

Sponsorship is commonly used for such objectives, but some of the most successful sponsors have used their rights to address internal communications objectives.

A good example is UPS, which has used its Olympic Partner status to run huge internal communication initiatives. The US company has about 300,000 employees globally and, given the nature of the business, staff turnover is relatively high and maintaining motivation is a challenge.

UPS used the sponsorship to introduce Olympic-related global programmes that included staff incentives, safety training and increased staff morale through, for example, supporting – and encouraging fellow employees to support – employees who were Olympic athletes.

The programme was a huge success and UPS benefited from all the other rights the partnership gave it to market to its target audience.

UPS is just one of many companies that has used sponsorship to address business objectives and the discipline might be better considered as a flexible business tool rather than simply as a media buy. This does not mean that sponsorship should always be used to address such objectives, even if, for example, the marketing department has bought rights that allow it to do so. Companies can make sponsorship even more cost effective if different departments are consulted when rights are bought.

Dr Simon Chadwick Editor

International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

London NW6

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