07 Aug Sport Sponsorship – What is it and why it can be an effective marketing tool for SME’s
It is not a bold statement to say that sport, as a whole, now has a universal reach. To an extensive and growing population, sport is an exciting, challenging, often-unpredictable type of entertainment that can be accessed and understood by anyone worldwide. But above all else it has the ability to connect people emotionally. It is this emotional involvement that brands and marketers have been trying to utilise for over 100 years to promote themselves while engaging with and enhancing their customers’ lives.
The first concept of sports marketing occurred in the 1870’s when tobacco companies featured cards of baseball players. While this could be deemed unethical to today’s standards, it was a highly effective way of partnering their brand with a highly passionate market.
During the initial days of sports marketing, brands were only concerned with ‘product placement’ and the development of product credibility. Fast-forward to today’s sport climate, sport sponsorship now offers a lot more than just placing a brand’s product in a specific market place. An article by McKinsey Quarterly argues it’s about catching those key moments, those ‘touch points’ when consumers are most open to influence.
Now I understand what you may be thinking; this is a corporate, manipulative way of capitalizing on vulnerable people. That stigma may, in some cases, be true but the difference lies in the way in which an organisation chooses to communicate with its customers. I have never met someone who has said that they do not want to be connected at all with their favourite brands or companies. What is common however is the desire in the choice of methods consumers wish to be contacted in. Whether that’s, tv adverts, online marketing, post or through one of their most passionate and invested sectors…sport.
If we look back to the core reason for why sport can offer a highly effective marketing vehicle, it is not just because of its large audiences or highly revered athletes, but because sports marketing can create a strong connection between a brand and its customers and potential customers.
Today, however, the term sponsorship often gives the impression that this only concerns international, major brands or ridiculously high paid footballers. That is simply not the case. When broken down, sponsorship is simply an agreement between two entities to create a mutually beneficial partnership or synergy. It is a process that is totally adaptable and can be applied at any level.
So when applied in the right way, sports sponsorship can provide a brand with several additional benefits other traditional methods simply cannot facilitate, including:
Building brand awareness – through print, digital and unique advertising methods
Generating positive PR on the organisation as a whole
Displaying corporate social responsibility beliefs
Improving brand positioning
Supporting sales promotion campaigns
Building internal emotional commitment to the brand amongst the workforce
Providing corporate hospitality opportunities for both clients and employees
But why aren’t more SME’s utilising these opportunities?
While research shows that people respond very positively to sponsors and are more receptive to advertising through sport, almost all sports clubs, properties and athletes are desperate for funding. Sport families realize that your role as a sponsor is vitally important and are more likely to support you, in turn, over a competitor. So the answer to the previous question…is time. From my experience of running a start up business, there simply isn’t enough time in the day for SME’s to analyse all the sponsorship opportunities out there and make a well-informed decision on who to sponsor and how to sponsor them.
This key difficulty is the reason myself and my business partner set up Archer Sports Management, to bring the 360 degree service that usually occurs only at the elite level to the smaller businesses and sport entities that need it the most. We believe sport offers loyalty, entertainment, innovation and passion and these are qualities that SME’s can portray through sport sponsorship, while reaching a vast and diverse audience. Therefore, we believe sport sponsorship wields the transformative power capable of driving growth in brand awareness and affinity.
To conclude, if you are someone that wants to connect with your target audience through the powerful vehicle of sport then it is our job to listen, strategise and implement on your behalf.