by Michael Noone
Making the decision to sponsor a nationally recognised event or sporting team is a big decision. So what are the determining factors and how do you even decide on what is, or is not, a good deal?
So you're not left hanging your head like a defeated grand final team at the end of a season, hopes dashed, money spent, coffers empty, here's some of our advice.
1. Do you have the capital?
This might sound like a patronising first question, but we're not sorry. You must always keep in mind that any sponsorship your company agrees upon, large or small, is only a part of the puzzle. The sponsorship dollars you pay will only ever buy you access to that team and the associated benfits. You will then be expected to cover all of the costs of activating your brand, creating and implementing the advertising campaign, installing signage, hiring activation teams and making sure your message and your brand are all on point... so yes, you will have to manage that sponsorship, as well as do all of your normal marketing, advertising and day-to-day business.
So do your homework, build campaign proposals, find the right team to work with and define your goals and desired outcomes from the investment you are making. Without thorough research you may find, like so many companies, that sponsoring the back of the shorts is just plain expensive or worse, you invest all that money to reach the wrong crowd... on the butt of a losing team.
Before we go into Return on Investment, or any other buzzwords, you have to consider how long you want to sponsor a team for and why, especially if you're on a jersey.
Sporting clubs are all about belief, support, camaraderie and self-sacrifice and it is this cultural framework that your company is now going to be associating into and then, over time, becoming a part of the club fabric. Why? Because clubs were around long before they became the money-making enterprise you see today. Clubs were all originally started by Mums and Dads supporting their kids, banding together under community banners that represented their district or area. Over time and through small, but generous, sponsorships from the corner-stores, meat raffles and member-events at the local RSL these clubs grew in size and reputation to become what they are today. So you need to ask yourself and your company, do we actually believe in what this club is doing and do we want to be a part of it in 10-20 years time? If you find that your answer is yes, then don't be afraid to start small.
The last thing you want is to go in strong only to find yourself back-pedalling out of a deal that you never wanted. A flash-in-the-pan sponsor to a club with a strong and loyal fan-base that will quickly forget your name, especially if your biggest competitor comes in and takes pride of place on every jersey of every player and fan for the next 5 years.
3. Where does your brand end up?
So you have decided you want to take the plunge, but what determines where and how your company / brand is represented and for how long?
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your company when you look through the contract and asses all of the assets you now have access to:
Is this team or sport well followed or well liked on a local or national level? Your brand will be linked with their reputation and behaviour.
Are you a state-wide company or a national company? This may influence where you choose to invest.
Does this sport attract the type of people likely to buy your product or utilise your service?
What is it that you want to achieve from sponsoring this team or sport and does it have any affinity with your company and brand values?
Do we have the assets available to manage all of the new events, functions and games we need to attend?
Who will manage our brand?
Are our competitors advertising in this space? If not, why not? Or you'd better get in before they do!
What is your share-of-voice? That is, how many other sponsors are involved and at what level of sponsorship? Will you be drowned out in the noise?
Are you better off spending the same amount of money on a smaller local team or club and completely dominating the sponsorship?
How many sets of eyes will see my logo/message and for how long? Consider game-time, TV broadcasting, average crowd size and the ingress and egress patrons from the venue.
Does your company get mentioned or represented on club-wide communications like emails or newsletters?
Is the club renowned for being helpful to sponsors?
If you're sponsoring a team that is broadcast, will your signage be seen during TV coverage and how many people watch the games? Is it worth your while to consider TV advertising during game time too?
Are you allowed to do a give-away or special promotion on game-day?
Can you activate at half-time on the field?
What clauses exist to protect you? For example, if there's a scandal of some sort that you want to distance yourself from what rights do you have to withdraw your sponsorship?
Are you allowed to collect names and details for future re-targeting?
Do you have access to the club social media channels and what is their audience size?
How much static and or digital signage do you have access to?
Do you have any naming rights?
So you might be exhausted just reading this list, but when you're about to invest big dollars and put your brand into someone else's arena there are still even more questions you should ask!
4. The benefits aren't just for you... well, sort of anyway.
When they win, you win!
If your team competes in a beautiful venue with courteous wait staff, corporate boxes flowing with the finest beverages and delicious foods, you will very soon realise you want to show it off to your friends and family, you may even want to create a rewards program within your company for staff to access games.
It is also a good time to remember all of the other companies and people that helped you get to where you are and all those companies you would like to start a relationship with. Some famous Australian companies have a business to business marketing strategy built entirely on sponsorships and perks!
So while you sit and enjoy some of Australia's finest athletes go toe-to-toe in the arena and your brand is promoted across all available visual real estate, remember to sit back and enjoy what you and your company helped to make happen.