Effective Sponsorships and Activation

Leading your company to integrated marketing success without breaking the bank

Sponsorships and Activation. Everyone does it, right? Some more than others and some better than others. For the most part, most of us really only hear about who just closed the biggest deal. And the names usually repeat themselves, over and over.

According to IEG, the main players spend billions in sponsorships and activation every year. And this doesn’t even include money spent on traditional media.

  • Pepsi and Coke – more than $600 million combined.
  • General Motors, Ford and Toyota – upwards of $550 million.
  • AB and Miller/Coors – well over $350 million.
  • AT&T, Sprint/Nextel and Verizon – dialing in at $300 million.
  • State Farm, Allstate and Nationwide – insuring up to $100 million annually.

These examples account for thirteen of the biggest spenders within sponsorships and activation – whether it’s in sports, entertainment or even lifestyle events. Believe it or not, there’s still plenty of room for others to play in this space. What really matters is how effectively you spend your money because we all can’t be the Big Dogs.

Over the years, I have worked with companies of all sizes from Fortune 10 to Fortune 5,000. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from both sides, it is how to effectively deliver a sponsorship and activation strategy that integrates an overall marketing plan. You don’t need to have a $500 million budget to get that done. Sometimes, having less money to work with can make you smarter and more efficient.

Regardless of your budget, the objectives shouldn’t change. Believe it or not, there are still plenty of companies buying with the “heart” vs. the “head.” In the sports world there is still an issue with buying the traditional assets that teams put on the table first to sell – signage, tickets and media. Do you think that works in today’s highly cluttered advertising world? My answer is definitely not. There’s a place for those assets but not in a silo. They must come with a plan.

Social media, texting and the Internet didn’t exist when signage, tickets and media were an important part of a sponsorship package. Today, these three great examples of how your integrated marketing plan can come together using non-traditional assets to build a better campaign. The final two components to measuring success are on-site activation and measuring results – the one thing that most companies don’t do.

One great way to separate your company from the competition is to put together a solid activation plan. How you talk face to face with your consumers – a novel concept today it seems. Let them touch your product. Focus on increasing opinion and consideration in your product while improving awareness. Yes you can reach more customers with a :30 commercial but you’ll never know if they zoomed past it on the DVR or if it really registered. You will know that if you are talking directly to the customer.

Southport Marketing recently helped a company launch a new product. This is a perfect example because awareness was low, budgets couldn’t put us everywhere, and we had to be very efficient with our plan to have the greatest impact. Our plan delivered some of the top football colleges in the country for less than six figures. This integrated plan included:

  • A direct line to a well-to-do Alumni base.
  • Assets consumers couldn’t buy but wanted.
  • Shared our product face-to-face with consumers.
  • Created a CRM tool with an on-site and on-line lead generation component so we could create a relationship with the customer. This is vitally important because not everyone is ready to buy now.
  • Developed a process to sell product on the spot at our events.
  • Integrated a media package including radio, OOH, radio remotes, in-stadium signage, former player appearances, etc.
  • Facilitated cross-promotional partnerships to extend the promotion to non-traditional areas.
  • Utilized social networking to increase awareness and gather support prior to each event.
  • Put plan in place prior to starting the football tour on how to measure success. If you do this after the fact what are you really judging?

To many, this all seems basic and straight forward. You’d be surprised how many companies still cross their fingers and hope they are doing the right thing. We all know budgets are tighter and there are less people to do the work in today’s corporate world. Yet, those above you in corporate rank still want the same results. How can you achieve that without jumping out the window? Leverage the right relationships and your partners to deliver what can still be done the right way in an effective grassroots style. You don’t have to be the Big Dog or be everywhere with your sponsorships. There’s no magic bullet in this gun. If you combine three effective tools – Sponsorship, Strategy and Activation – you will hit the target dead on.

Editors note: Tim Young is President of Southport Marketing – an agency focused on developing experiential marketing for client across the country with offices in Southern California. Tim spent nine years with General Motors R*Works managing the Western Region office for five of those years and working on nationally integrated programs his last two years. Prior to GM R*Works, Tim was the Director of Entertainment for the San Diego Padres where he ran all in-stadium entertainment and events. If you have ever seen MLBs saves leader Trevor Hoffman pitch for the Padres or Brewers, you’ll remember Hells Bells and Trevor Time. That was Tim and his entertainment’s team creation during the Padres 1998 World Series season. Tim can be reached at tim.young@southportmarketinginc.com.