Sponsorship on the up as brands look for fresh ways to engage

Brands are spending more on sponsorship, according to new research, as marketers look for fresh ways to drive emotional engagement at a time when marketing budgets are under close scrutiny.

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Research from IFM Sports Marketing Surveys found that 41% of brands across several industry sectors increased their investment in sponsorship against declines for many marketing channels in 2011.

More than two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed forecast a real terms increase or no change in 2012, in contrast to what many analysts are predicting will be an overall reduction in marketing spend this year.

The study comes a month after PwC found that the sports industry will receive more from sponsorship than gate receipts by 2015.

Predictions of success come despite lingering doubts that sponsorship investment can be wasteful and untargeted at a time when marketing budgets are being reduced in many companies.

Raymond van Niekerk, chief marketing officer at investment firm Investec, which recently signed a deal to sponsor the England cricket team’s home test matches and backs Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, says that its backing of sporting properties offers a “heightened positive emotional engagement” with sport which could offer an alternative to large-scale brand campaigns.

“You don’t have to build it [emotional engagement], it already exists with sports such as cricket and football. Other marketing mediums do not quite have this”.

Iain Newell, director of marketing for Budweiser in Western Europe, says that his brand’s backing of the FIFA World Cup and the English FA Cup provides an opportunity to tap into the emotional ties consumers have with football.

“We choose our sponsorships carefully and activate them in relevant and engaging ways that connect with our consumers.”

He adds: “Football and sports in general are a key global consumption and celebration moment and the FIFA World Cup offers a strong and relevant global platform with which we can connect with passionate football fans around the world.”

The European Sponsorship Association estimated in November that the size of the European sponsorship market has hit £23.3bn, much larger than previously thought.

Karen Earl, co-founder of the ESA, argues that sponsorship is becoming more appealing because brand marketers understand how to activate sponsorships better.

She says: They [brand marketers] understand the medium of sponsorship far better, understand how to maximise its benefits and how to research its results. Its popularity is not due to it being a cheaper option, merely a more effective one on which increasing brand budgets are being allocated.”

Look out for this week’s upcoming cover feature about how sport needs to be about strategic partnership

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