Delegates at an event hosted Havas Sport and Entertainment Ignition this week (18 September) were told the traditional sponsorship model, where rights holders create value by controlling and restricting access to their assets, is at risk.
The fragmented media landscape combined with a tough economic climate is pushing brands to demand more agility from their sponsorships and offer fans a sense of ownership of content.
Gordon Lott, former London 2012 Olympic marketer for Lloyds TSB and managing director of Havas Sport & Entertainment Ignition, says: “Marketers are beginning to understand that sponsorship is a tool for which brand exposure is an outcome rather than it being the reason to sign a multi-million deal. Rights holders, however are yet to reach the same conclusion and are struggling to “bring to life” their content in a way that will deliver value beyond a traditional media buy, he added.
Lott said: “There is a big onus on rights holders to think harder about what channels and activities will genuinely enable brands to connect with fans. If [sponsorships] provide consumer value, then it generally provides overall social value. It may not have a tangible media value but it will have the greatest impact.”
Samsung’s initial five-year deal with Chelsea FC was cited as an example where a brand’s ambitions to move beyond a traditional sponsorship strategy had been hampered by a lack of flexibility and shared values from both parties.
Carolyn Anderson, former Chelsea FC marketing manager and head of marketing at LG, said the restrictions forced the South Korean multinational to establish a two-tier model where it uses the tie-up with the Premier League club to promote its premium qualities and focuses its CSR work through deals with lower-league clubs such as Swindon and Leyton Orient.
Anderson added: “In the beginning, Samsung’s deal with Chelsea FC was a wallpaper exercise which they were only interested in using for the high-profile media coverage. This objective changed over time but they did not have the assets built into their deals to allow them to push their social conscience in a relevant way and resonate with the younger generation.”
The demand for greater flexibility has also been spurred by the growing need for sponsorships to have a central CSR element. Procter & Gamble, Sainsbury’s, Mondelez International and Coca-Cola are among a small number of companies exploring the area through their London 2012 legacy activity.
The British Paralympic Association (BPA) is trying to tap into this shift in an effort to help transform perceptions of disability and establish its own credentials as a rights owner that can drive long-term profits through CSR initiatives.
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the BPA, said the organisation’s relationships with partners is based on 3 Vs – the value of the rights, the values of the business and that business being valued as a partner.
Consumers have become more “savvy”, according to the panel, and are far more positively minded toward a brand if they feel that it is having a positive impact on individuals and communities. HS&E Ignition’s research into 7,000 members of the UK public as well as 30 brands – across energy, financial services, sportswear, consumer goods and telecoms – revealed that 76 per cent of people do think brands should get actively involved in major events across sport and entertainment, as well as causes they’re passionate about such as healthy living, the environment and supporting the community.