Is Tomorrow Here?

Mark Harrison, founder of The T1 Agency and SponsorshipX takes us through his predictions for the sponsorship market. Mark will be the opening speaker at #ISS2018.

I would like to invite you to the future. I would like to an extend an invitation for you to experience tomorrow. I would like to host you in a reality not yet real.

This may seem impossible to you, but it’s not. Because on March 15th I will be predicting the future of Sponsorship Marketing. To be precise it will be March 15th at 1:30 PM GMT. That much I know for sure, because that is what the schedule of the Irish Sponsorship Summit website tells me so. At that precise moment I will be sharing with hundreds of delegates my conference opening presentation entitled What’s Trending Next.

So what does the future hold? Where will our industry be in a year, a decade, or even in just one month. What trends will drive how we plan, develop, activate, and evaluate sponsorships. What Is Next?

Before I answer that question, I have a fundamental one for you. It’s a question that I need you to consider deeply or deeply consider. It is a question that I not only direct to you, but I direct to your entire organization. It’s a question of philosophy and strategy. While simple, I suspect your reaction will be anything but.

How much emphasis do you place on understanding the future?

Let me ask it another way. If you think about the energy and resources expended by you and your colleagues on any given workday, where is the focus? Is it on the past? Are you reaping the rewards of past efforts? Are you enduring pain from past mistakes? Are you solving for the latter while simultaneously benefiting from the former?

Perhaps your time and energy are solely focused on the present. By present, I don’t mean what is happening today, I mean everything you are working on today. Every program, plan, campaign that has been approved and is currently being developed.

Back to my question: how much energy do you spend on the future? Seriously. Are you developing long-term plans? Are you looking for contingencies? Are you painting the future landscape that you want to live in? Are you designing the environment you want your brand or property to grow in? Do you have a clear or even a vague sense of what the future landscape will look like?

I am a big believer in constant learning. Learning can come from looking at your past and identifying what worked well. But the rear-view mirror of life has a limited view. It has no peripheral vision whatsoever. Better learning comes from looking outside. It can only come from traveling to different places, from engaging with different people, from digesting other’s points of view.

That is my question of you. The unanimous answer to this question is always “Not Enough.” Mine included. We can never spend enough time looking ahead and trying to assess what is around the corner. The present is a heavy anchor and can often be overwhelming.

But I am trying. The fruits of my efforts will be what I share on March 15th. Spoiler alert – I am opinionated. But I will bring an opinion built on a framework that will communicate why I believe what I believe. The foundation of that framework is built on hundreds of conversations and connections that I engage with regularly. The daily dozens of articles (online and offline for the record), that I consume –  Harvard Business ReviewFast CompanyESP Sponsorship ReportAdweekSports ProLeadersStratecheryThe Full MontyWARCFront Office SportsSport TechieCharity Village Vibes.

Probably one of the most valuable pillars of this foundation are my travels. In the two years leading up to this presentation I will have attended a ridiculous number of conferences and events: CESNBA All-Star GameNHL All-StarSouth by SouthwestIEGC2Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsCanadian Sponsorship ForumTIFFJunosCalgary StampedeKorean OlympicsAmerican Football Coaches ConferenceIpsos Back to School Event, AdWeek New YorkAdvertising Age Small Agency ConferenceXLive… as soon as I press publish on this I will remember two more.

In addition to all of this ongoing learning I am purposely seeking out articles and cases regarding trends, the future, and what’s next. If you have thoughts, articles, or papers I should read, please forward! Even if it is just your best three guesses!

The trends such as Globalization, Market of One, Tech Impact, of course, will be a part of the discussion. But so will preparing yourself for the future. What types of skills will the future sponsorship marketer require? What will the client or the relationship manager of the future look like?

What new shapes will the definition of sponsorship take? Who will be the dominant player become – the property? The sponsor? The consumer? The public sector?

Will the currency of sponsorship continue to evolve? Literally or figuratively? Don’t you think that change is for certain? Hasn’t Blockchain made sure of it? Perhaps the currency of sponsorship will revert backward?

The best part of predicting the future is that you can never be wrong. The worst part is you can never be right. However, what you can be is provocative. You will not be able to sit through my presentation without disagreeing with some of it, being frightened by other parts, and being ready to race back to your virtual desk immediately to start revamping your career path.

That is one prediction I can promise you will come true on 

View the original article on Mark's own website here. Click here for more information on the T1 Agency and SponsorshipX

Posted on February 16, 2018 and filed under News.

Career Corner with Jed Pearsall of Performance Research

We spoke to Jed Pearsall, Co-founder of Performance Research, ahead of the Irish Sponsorship Summit 2017. Jed discusses his career to date and what advice he would give to aspiring sponsorship professionals in our latest Career Corner interview.

1. How did your career get off the ground? Were you always focused on working in sponsorship or did it happen over time?

When I started my career in 1985, there were only three notable sponsorship marketing firms in the United States, so it took less than 5 minutes to send out resumes to anyone that mattered. In the only interview I landed, I happened to mention how research and measurement would become critical to sponsors as rights fees were growing out of control. The total sponsorship revenue from the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid was just $9 million but then skyrocketed to $130 million for the Los Angeles games in ’84.  It seemed outrageous back then, but now almost laughable compared to the 1.3 billion in sponsorships in Rio.

My interviewer’s response to my concept was quick and short, declaring, “Research would be suicide for our industry.  We sell on glitz and glamour, and we don’t really want to know if sponsors are getting their money’s worth.”  That ended the interview but started my career. If no one was watching out for sponsor’s investments, I decided I would do it on my own, and founded Performance Research.

2. Has there been a key event or campaign in your career that has been particularly important to you?  

Easily the biggest turn in our business was when we got a call from Coca-Cola in the early 1990’s, they were looking to revamp their partnership portfolio. They asked us what we thought of their sponsorships, and at the risk of getting fired the first day, I told them that they resembled wallpaper-  everybody knows Coke is there but no one really sees it or cares.  That was their worst fear, and it launched years of research on finding emotional triggers and passion points in fans that Coke could tie into. In the process of finding ways to better engage fans, a new term was born “To activate” a sponsorship.     

3. What people, brands, rights holders or campaigns have you looked to for inspiration and/or guidance in your career? 

I look to fans for guidance- they are the true experts in telling us how sponsorship can be more effective.  But every client we have, whether a rights holder or a sponsor, inspires us to dig deeper, tell the true story of what is effective and what is not, and provide the insight that can move things forward.

4. What advice would you give young professionals who want to build a career in the sponsorship industry? 

Exactly what no millennial wants to hear, which is “Be patient”.  Sponsorship can’t be learned overnight.  I think it requires more on-the-ground experience than other types of marketing careers.  Internships are critical, accepting low paying jobs for the better learning experience pays off in the end, and most of all, keep a sense of humour and humility.  

5. What kind of people do you want to meet/hear from at ISS 2017 and what are you looking forward to about the event?

We are all here to learn, so I will be most excited to talk with those who don’t hold back - people who can talk about their failures with as much confidence as they talk about their success. Even if I leave Ireland with just one “Aha!” moment, it will be worth it!

Posted on February 17, 2017 .

Time to Adapt or Die in Sponsorship - Phil Stephan, Director, Two Circles

Phil Stephan, Irish Sponsorship Summit Keynote Speaker and Director of Global Consulting at Two Circles, a sports marketing agency that helps sports organisations grow relationships with their audiences and partners.

We’re all online now. On average, UK adults will spend more than 4 hours each day on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. In Ireland, where there is the highest saturation of mobile internet users anywhere in Europe, North America and South America, the average person will spend 5 hours and 40 minutes a week on Facebook alone. This, compared to twelve years ago, when we ‘only’ spent 10 hours total a week online.

Three great digital shifts have happened over this time, more or less at once. We spend more time online, we spend more time on mobile devices and we spend more time on social media. There has always been a battle for attention, but this battle has heated up as the number of players has increased and as the traditional lines blur, social platforms have become publishers and media owners themselves.

Sport remains one of the last bastions of ‘live’ content and, as we know, can turn a city’s or an entire country’s attention to the same place. It has an interesting role to play in this changing landscape with sports properties garnering huge digital audiences. Sports stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James have huge online fanbases, with hundreds of millions of followers across social channels. Sports rights owners are seeing this trend too – the average number of Facebook followers for an English Premier League club is now at 12 million, while last year IRFU became Ireland’s first sporting body to break 1 million followers across Facebook and Twitter.

As customers have moved online, brands have followed suit. With this their focus has shifted, along with their budgets. In 2016, UK digital ad spend grew 12% and made up 55% of total media ad spending. In Ireland, the trend has been even more aggressive with the first half of 2016 seeing digital ad spend grow 33%, as the market saw strong growth across social platforms. But brands also want a way into sport’s audiences.

The sponsorship industry has long been built on rights owners providing rights and assets to build connections between brands and audiences. However, whilst brand and consumer behaviour has changed, the sponsorship industry is largely doing as it has always done.

With their partners and audiences both online, rights owners need to adapt or risk being left behind. Selling the same assets to the same kind of brands, while deriving value through broadcast exposure is no longer good enough. Brands are getting smarter, recognising that they can leverage the hype around sport events whilst cutting sports rights owners out of the equation and going direct to the audience. If rights owners stand still, brands will move away and it will be increasingly difficult for ‘traditional’ sponsorship to compete in a brand’s marketing mix.

There are few examples of sports rights owners who have identified this move. The progressive rights owners that are showing how it can be done differently have responded to the changing landscape and are starting to realise the rewards. In the English Premier League, Southampton F.C. continue to make waves both on and off the pitch. Their data-led player development programme produced Gareth Bale and brought a crop of talent through the youth system, who have subsequently been picked up by the world’s leading clubs. All of this whilst continuing to challenge in all competitions. The Club is now applying the same future thinking approach off the pitch – investing in new digital platforms, buying back their digital rights and using data to build a best in class user experience for their fans – all of which has translated into significant commercial uplift.

Southampton’s new website offers fans a more tailored, content-led experience, setting new benchmarks for how clubs engage with their fans online. Partnering with innovative brands such as Under Armour, Virgin Media and Garmin, the Club has shaken up their sponsorship model by re-thinking the role of digital and generating new revenue streams through previously under-leveraged content. Southampton’s fan-first strategy has put new digital rights and activations at the heart of it, delivering for both fans and brands.


Placing Fans at the Heart of Activations - John Clark, SVP, Fenway Sports Management

John Clark is the Senior Vice President of Sales & Operations for Fenway Sports Management. He sells integrated sponsorship and marketing partnerships across Fenway Sports Group’s prestigious portfolio of properties.

In the past decade, digital and technological innovation has changed the way fans interact with the athletes and teams they so passionately follow. Social media provides unprecedented access and behind-the-scenes views into athletes’ routines, training regimens and off-the-field activities. Online gaming allows fans to play alongside the pros. New media platforms including LeBron James’ Uninterrupted and Derek Jeter’s Players’ Tribune provide athletes with a vehicle to communicate news, perspectives and messages directly to fans.

This new level of engagement creates a tremendous opportunity for brands that seek to engage consumers through their passion for a particular team or player, but it also increases the level of play. Consumers have access to unfiltered views of the teams they love, so it’s easier for them to spot something that is inauthentic or too commercial. Thus, brands are challenged with a new customer-centric imperative: fans must be at the centre of any sports sponsorship. To build a sponsorship that drives true engagement and tangible business ROI, brands must create authentic campaigns that provide value to fans – or else run the risk of being ignored.

Nivea’s partnership with Liverpool Football Club is an excellent case study. In 2015, Nivea Men became the Official Men’s Grooming Supplier to Liverpool FC in a first of its kind sponsorship deal. In the first year of the partnership, marketing campaigns delivered media visibility for the brand across the UK and reached an estimated 2.7 million consumers. Catchy commercials featured Reds manager Jürgen Klopp, first team players and legends in comical scenarios displaying Nivea products and their benefits in subtle and creative ways. The campaign included a co-branded Nivea Liverpool FC microsite that hosted the videos along with other Nivea and LFC related content including special behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes from the commercial shoot, giving fans exclusive content of their favorite players hamming it up for the cameras. The initiative was highly successful and popular among LFC supporters, with a number of the segments garnering more than one million views to date, placing it among Nivea Men’s top performing video content. And while the content prominently featured Nivea products, the key to the campaign’s success was ensuring it was built for adoption among LFC supporters by keeping the team and players as the focal point.

As an extension of the campaign, fans were invited to participate in the Nivea Men Kicking Cage Challenge, where they enjoyed unique access to some of their favourite players and had the opportunity to attempt to score a goal while Liverpool FC stars Emre Can and Dejan Lovran did their best to distract them. Fans who weren’t able to attend in person could join in the fun online, creating custom videos through a branded portal on Nivea Men’s Facebook page. The campaign conveyed Nivea’s brand message -- “A Little Irritation Can Make a Big Difference – Don’t Let Anything Irritate You” – in a truly creative and entertaining way that kept the priorities of the fans central. The Kicking Cage Challenge videos in total reached more than 7 million views.

Another illustrative example – one from my side of the pond – comes from the longstanding partnership between the Red Sox and L.L. Bean – two organisations with a storied history and deep roots within the New England community. Since the first Bean Boot stitch and Fenway Park’s first pitch in 1912, the connection between “Boots and Sox” has been deeply engrained. L.L. Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean was a Red Sox season ticket holder and his passion for the team was renowned.

The venerable relationship between the team and L.L. Bean presents in both practical and inspiring ways. For years, L.L. Bean has sponsored the protective rain tarp that covers Fenway Park’s infield in weather events. But following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the partners conceived a way to work together to give back to the community in a meaningful and impactful way. L.L. Bean designers reimagined the iconic L.L. Bean tote design to fashion one out of Fenway’s tarp, decorating it with the logo of the One Fund. One Fund Boston, which aided those most affected by the bombings and the events that occurred at the Boston Marathon bombings, received $114,000 from the 3,500 bags sold. The bags provided an authentic piece of Red Sox memorabilia and Boston history that fans could bring home and a significant way for them to give back to their community during a difficult time in the city’s history. This past year, L.L. Bean created a David Ortiz tote to commemorate Big Papi's final season. Thirty-four percent of profits went to the David Ortiz Children's Fund.

The final example I’ll share is an event that was held at Fenway Park but with strong ties to Ireland. In November of 2015, Fenway and presenting partner AIG, world-leading insurance company, highlighted the deep historic ties between Boston and Ireland by bringing hurling back to the ballpark for the first time since 1954. Two of the sport's biggest teams – Dublin and 2015 All-Ireland Finalist Galway – competed on the pitch in front of a nearly sold-out crowd of 27,766 fans. It was an immersive experience for the fans as the festivities inside the park included a lively Irish festival complete with regional food, music and dancing, as well as a crowd-pleasing performance from Boston-based American Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys. AIG, a major supporter of hurling in Ireland, was able to bring an authentic hurling experience to thousands of fans in New England where they have a significant business presence as well.

As brands look to enhance affinity and sponsorship impact by connecting themselves to the devoted followings of sports teams around the globe, creating initiatives that keep fan desires and motivations at the centre of the partnership will always be a winning approach.


Career Corner with Patrick Murphy of Atomic Sport

Patrick Murphy, the Director of Atomic Sport, discusses his career to date and gives his advice to aspiring sponsorship professionals in our latest Career Corner Feature.

1. How did your career get off the ground? Were you always focussed on working in sponsorship or did it happen over time?

Luck! I spent a number of years early in my career working at Paddy Power, where I had occasional involvement in various sponsorship initiatives, without being responsible for delivering them. After that, a number of years dedicated to affiliate marketing gave me the chance to work with brands like Nike and the NFL when they looked at the affiliate marketing opportunities in the UK and Ireland. That professional experience, a personal involvement across a couple of sports, and a chance meeting on the Canal one day led me to co-founding Atomic Sport.

2. Has there been a key event or campaign in your career that has been particularly important to you?

I've luckily had the pleasure of working with some huge names in global sport, but coming from a GAA household, the 'We Wear More' ( work Atomic Sport did with the Gaelic Players Association around player welfare was a source of personal pride.

3. What people, brands, rights holders or campaigns have you looked to for inspiration and/or guidance in your career?

People - Lance Armstrong (in his role as a self-promoter and a sponsorship ambassador for Nike, Dicks Sporting Goods and Radioshack) 

Brands - Nike. 

Rights Holders - British Cycling. 

Campaigns - Nike Find your Greatness (not sponsorship, but gets what sport is really about)

Kenny Powers CEO for K-Swiss  (one way to do sponsorship)

4. What advice would you give young professionals who want to build a career in the sponsorship industry?

A couple of things...

People in sponsorship are getting old, but the platforms for activating sponsorship are getting younger. If you are young and digitally native then you know more than I do about platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. Collate what you see that works and bring a point of view on how these platforms can work for sponsorship, and in a broader marketing sense.
Secondly, all businesses are constantly scrambling for insight and content - pitch yourself as a solution to this challenge. Write a series of articles or blog posts for an agency or a publication and commit to becoming an expert in an area that interests you.

5. What kind of people do you want to meet/hear from at ISS 2017 and what are you looking forward to about the event? 

Keen to talk to rights holders who don't regard sponsorship as an easy source of revenue.


Career Corner with Gavin McAllister of Three Ireland

Gavin McAllister, the Sponsorship Manager for Three Ireland, talks about a career in sponsorship in our latest Career Corner Feature.

1. How did your career get off the ground? Were you always focussed on working in sponsorship or did it happen over time?

Having studied marketing in DIT (including a thesis on sponsorship), I spent a year working before returning to college to complete a research masters in sponsorship. I felt that by completing further studies in sponsorship, that it would open possibilities.

So I guess my focus was always on sports marketing and sponsorship, and I sought to find a way into the industry as quickly as possible.

2. Has there been a key event or campaign in your career that has been particularly important to you?

There are probably three big events/campaigns that I was involved in that have been important:

  • WRC bid in 2007 – I was the marketing manager in the bid team that brought the WRC to Ireland for the very first time back in 2007. Seeing the bidding process in motion and being a key part of the team was a huge experience.
  • The 3 Irish Open 2010 – Having taken over the sponsorship of the Irish Open in 2009, for the second year of the sponsorship we wanted to completely reinvigorate the event.  We wanted to create one of the best ever Irish Open’s ever.  In conjunction with the organisers, we moved the event to Killarney and developed a weekend of events that was attractive to all the family. We sought to create more than your normal tented village, and create a real family event. We brought in better food offerings – seafood & champagne bar, a café, premium catering, and different activities for kids, as well as a sports bar (it was the August bank holiday weekend, and a lot of GAA was on that weekend). We wanted to create an area where people were happy to spend some time when not watching the golf. We achieved that, with more people attending the Three Irish Open in 2010 than in the previous 10 years. It took another number of years before the number was surpassed.
  • Our final 6 Nations campaign in 2016 – Being able to make such an impact with our Focus Ireland campaign was a very humbling campaign to deliver.  The preparation and planning of the activities were incredible to be part of, but the reaction and support the campaign received showed that we stuck a chord with the public overall.

3. What people, brands, rights holders or campaigns have you looked to for inspiration and/or guidance in your career?

I haven’t looked out for anything in particular. It was always been a case of seeking out the best activations put in place, and then try to learn more about how these things were achieved.

4. What advice would you give young professionals who want to build a career in the sponsorship industry?

My advice would be to have patience and seek to understand what you’re learning from every project and each year you spend working in sponsorship. There are a lot more ways now to get into sponsorship these days, from a rights holder, brand and agency perspective, as so many are seeking to use sponsorship as their key marketing activity.  I would also say, try to get as much varied experience as possible (experiential, PR, sponsorship, brand, events etc). You will then find what most excites you, motivates you and what you can best excel at.

5. What kind of people do you want to meet/hear from at ISS 2017 and what are you looking forward to about the event?

I’m always interested to hear from international speakers and their experiences of implementing sponsorships – their consumer insights, how they were translated, and ultimately the results. Ireland is a small sponsorship market in the greater scheme of things, so it’s great to hear from larger markets and what has worked.  That said, over the years some top notch activations have been put in place in Ireland, so it is equally good to hear how other brands in Ireland have managed their ideas through to fruition.


Is Sponsorship Prepared for the Digital Change? - Charlie Beall, Digital Media Consultant at Seven Leagues

Charlie Beall, Digital Media Consultant at Seven Leagues and keynote speaker at the 2017 Irish Sponsorship Summit, discusses how digital is changing the face of sponsorship as we know it.

Digital media is disrupting the sponsorship ecosystem just like it did the music and publishing industries and those who transform and adapt will emerge as the new winners.

That includes rights holders who often rely on sponsorship revenues, who will be placed under greater pressure to offer measurable return on investment, creative digital activations, detailed audience knowledge and the ability to segment and target.

The pressure is also falling on sponsors themselves who are under greater pressure to attribute a sales value to their sponsorship spend as a channel within the wider marketing mix.

Digital transformation means that if you’re in sponsorship you need to be on top of these six points:

1. Value: on both sides of sponsorship you will need to create and/or demonstrate the value you can attribute to your digital channels and activities. That’s easier said than done in an era where everyone is trying to outdo each other with vanity and in some case bogus metrics. Can you put an effective valuation on your digital audiences? How robust is your methodology and how closely does it align with your partner’s goals?

2. Audience growth: audiences are migrating to new devices, interacting on new channels and consuming content differently. If you’re a rights holder can you adapt to retain your existing audience and attract new ones? If you’re a sponsor are you sophisticated and authentic enough to ‘speak’ effectively with new audiences or via unfamiliar media?

3. Analytics, measurement and targeting: Can you offer a targeting capability to potential sponsors if that’s what they require? Or can you break down your audiences demographic, purchasing or consumption habits? Do you even have a database that you can profile?

We work with leading European sports leagues and in recent months have witnessed two examples of leagues losing valuable sponsorship deals on account of not being able to offer significant audience insight.

In one case, a major body lost a large FMCG client because they couldn’t sync their audience data with the brand’s real-time marketing requirements. Similarly, a smaller niche sports body, highly reliant on corporate funding, was unable to offer a financial services client any insight into their audience demographics and therefore lost the opportunity.

4. Creative content: whether it’s Bath RFC vs Red Bull Racing, the All Blacks working with Air New Zealand or the activations Emirates have done with Benfica it has now become an expectation from leading brands that rights holders have an inbuilt content creation capacity, or at the very least be open to innovative new content formats that cut through in a way that simple branding no longer does.

Clearly, different rights holders have different creative constraints and varying access to talent, but every one of them should be prepared with a menu of options they can present to sponsors and be prepared to adapt to sponsors’ own needs.

5. Digital amplification and longevity: sponsorship of live events is not going away any time soon, but what’s expected now is for sponsorship to be amplified beyond the venue and to live on in the digital world. That requires a lot of planning, something that’s often neglected when you’re preoccupied delivering a successful event.

6. Use of technology: the ‘cut through’ we spoke about earlier is particularly important in an age where the fight for our collective attentions is becoming ever more competitive. One way of achieving it is by using technology creatively to engage fans.

This could be by getting fans to vote or create light shows with their phones. It could be by using beacon and geo-fencing technologies to offer new services to fans and collect data as a result.

There are a host of new technologies out there and an almost infinite number of use cases. Establishing a digital capability, assessing the options and understanding your realistic return on technology investment are three areas you need to consider

Different parts of the market are moving at different paces. Some sponsors are still happy with a bit of corporate hospitality, perimeter boards and having their logo on a website. Equally, some rights holders are not yet feeling the pressure and are still generating significant revenues under the old model. That doesn’t mean the change isn’t coming and that you shouldn’t be planning for it.

A digital journey typically involves three stages: reach, engage, monetise. To do this effectively can take anywhere between three and five years. If you’re not already on that journey the market could pass you by.

Posted on January 23, 2017 .

The Necessity of Brand Experience - Ian Malcolm, President of Lumency Inc.

No matter what sector you’re in, no matter the geography, one of the greatest threats to your business for the foreseeable future is commoditization.  Your competitors are very likely selling similar products or services, in the same size and shape and at the same price. 

Half a generation ago, there was something we called the price-quality gap.  If you were buying a consumer product, there could be a significant delta in quality from one brand to the next depending on what you were willing to pay.  While you still get what you pay for (think of the kinds of choices you make when booking air travel), the relativity of price and quality has changed.  The lower end entries in most categories have risen to a decent base standard.  Consumers won’t tolerate otherwise.  Consumers don’t need to.  Consumer choice is no longer limited to what they can find on the High Street.  The internet of things gives them access to almost infinite choice.

Aside from delivering access to more choice, the internet is the new front line for marketing communications.  It’s where consumers go to see not only what you are saying about your products and services, but what others are saying.  Consumers show up to purchase better informed and better ready to buy. 

Research tells us that emotion has a significant impact on how consumers interact with brands.  Depending on your category, emotional over rational considerations may truly drive purchase decision. Even in categories considered to have low engagement purchase consideration, like insurance, fear, hope, safety can all be strong emotional drivers to brand preference and brand choice.  

In his best-selling book Start With Why, author and speaker Simon Sinek presents a simple yet powerful idea.  People, he says, don’t by what you do, they buy why you do it.  Apple’s success, suggests Sinek, isn’t because they make well designed and intuitive-to-use products.  Well designed and intuitive-to-use is the table stakes.  Apple has been successful over time because they have demonstrated that they exist to challenge the status quo and to think differently.   Consumers have had no problem buying PVRs, phones and MP3 players from a computer company, because Apple has convinced those same consumers that Apple believes what they believe. 

The largest cohort in human history, by size and by purchasing potential is the Millennial generation.  As a consumer segment, they value experiences over things.  Millennials are brand loyal, but only if your brand is meeting their needs in a meaningful way.  Millennials see traditional advertising as inauthentic. 

In the context of increasing commoditization, almost limitless consumer choice, emotion-driven purchase decisions – a powerful brand experience is a necessity.  Simply put, brand experience is the experience a consumer or customer has with your brand. 

That experience, whether in a retail environment, through a digital, mobile or social media platform, at an event or through a sponsorship activation, enables a brand to demonstrate its brand values.  In Simon Sinek’s view, a brand experience would prove to a consumer that your brand believes what they believe. 

Traditional advertising can communicate a brand promise, communicate brand values, but it asks for only vague involvement from its audience.  The more involved a consumer is in a brand experience, the deeper the connection and the more resonant the experience is.  Watching a television advert can only go so far, assuming consumers are watching.

Sponsorship presents an opportunity to create brand experiences that drive emotional connection, they align your brand with something people are passionate about.  On approach, start with what matters and start with consumer insights.  What is it that your consumer audience cares about and what are the things that you can activate in a way that is authentic to your brand.  Look for the things, the properties, that will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your brand’s values, to show what you believe.

If consumer insights show that a core target consumer audience is passionate about cricket and one of your brand’s values is hard work, that can lead you somewhere.  If it’s still cricket, but one of your brand’s core values is community, that can take you somewhere else, still within a passion point for your consumer. 

To be authentic and genuine, the connection to brand values through a sponsorship is essential.  Against the mission of creating brand experiences, show up as a super fan.  Demonstrate that you believe what they believe.  Old-model assets like camera visible signage with a sports property or branding in a gallery or theatre still have their place in creating and reinforcing the association between the property and your brand.  But branding on its own is wallpaper – likely missed and probably ignored. 

As a sports property, elevate game time and bring fans closer to the team.  If that doesn’t fit your brand authentically, and community does, look for ways to be part of the bridge between the broader community and the team, or maybe even between the property and a cause initiative that you’re already part of.  Create opportunities for consumers to experience your brand in a way that resonates, and in a way that helps them understand, like and care about your brand more.

Extend.  When you activate a sponsorship, think in terms of a 360º activation wheel.  The sponsorship in the middle, surrounded by your consumer and stakeholder touch points.  Leverage the sponsorship assets in your retail channel to enhance your brand experience there.  Use the sponsorship to create content for your digital and social platforms.  Use the sponsorship to enhance to the brand experience of your own employees. 

Powerful brand experiences create strong emotional connections between your audience and your brand.  Differentiate, decommoditize, stand out.

Ian Malcolm, President, Lumency


Posted on January 18, 2017 .

Career Corner with Jennifer Gleeson of Lidl Ireland

Jennifer Gleeson_2.jpg

Jennifer Gleeson, Sponsorship Manager for Lidl Ireland, gives a short account of what it takes to work in Sponsorship in our first Career Corner Feature.

1. How did your career get off the ground? Were you always focussed on working in sponsorship or did it happen over time?

I was nearing the end of a degree in Social Science in UCD and I attended a careers talk one evening hosted by then MD of WHPR, Roddy Guiney. A testament to the power of PR, I was won over and started an internship in their Sports Marketing and Sponsorship practice some months later. I had always enjoyed playing and watching sport so it was a super role and I just gained such a wealth of experience which stood to me when I moved to the GAA and more recently to Lidl. I feel very lucky with the career I’ve had so far.

2. Has there been a key event or campaign in your career that has been particularly important to you?

It’s hard to look beyond last year – to have been a part of what was a really successful campaign with Lidl and our sponsorship of Ladies Football. As someone who played Football for many years, I’m personally very gratified to see it making a real impact 

3. What people, brands, rights holders or campaigns have you looked to for inspiration and/or guidance in your career?

I worked with AIB and their sponsorship of the Club Championships and more recently Senior Championships from an agency and rights holder side. I think it's commendable how they’ve managed to retain such a long-standing relationship with the GAA and still breathe new life into their campaigns. 

4. What advice would you give young professionals who want to build a career in the sponsorship industry?

Try and get a foothold in somewhere and just graft; meet people within the industry, attend events and read up on sponsorship – it’s a relatively new marketing tool so there’s a lot to be learned. 

5. What kind of people do you want to meet/hear from at ISS 2017 and what are you looking forward to about the event?

I’ve heard Lesa Ukman speak in previous years and she’s so knowledgeable about the industry and a great speaker so I’ll be interested to hear about her new venture. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and colleagues also.