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 .