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!