GLOBAL: Sports sponsorship offers a unique opportunity for brands to reach highly engaged audiences but, warns an industry figure, without activation it is little more than a media buy.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How to plan an effective sports sponsorship strategy, Neil Hopkins, director and head of strategy at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment in London, explains that sponsorship in and of itself is not a marketing channel, but rather a brand communications platform that can be brought to life across a broad range of consumer touchpoints.

Well-activated sponsorships deliver more significant returns on investment as well as better alignment with a sponsor brand and higher engagement with its target audiences leading to more pronounced business benefits, he says.

Brands contemplating sports sponsorship need to be clear on their business and commercial objectives, he advises, and to negotiate issues around rights fees, inventory and term accordingly.

But it is the activation where creativity and channel planning can deliver a sponsorship campaign that really stands out, he adds. It’s “where the stardust needs to be sprinkled in order to make your brand’s sponsorship famous”.

That will require a multi-channel communications programme to engage target audiences and compel action, with brands developing insights about those audiences and their relationship with the sport and/or property that can be married to an effective and authentic role for the brand.

Hopkins outlines ten ways in which brands can use sports sponsorship effectively, from boosting exposure and awareness via high-profile media rights to demonstrating a positive role in society by creating community programmes that can engage audiences that are hard to reach by other means.

Other potential benefits can include access to sporting talent that can be used to create marketing collateral and content that can be distributed across multiple channels, while the right to use marks and logos on products and promotions can be a key differentiator.

Furthermore, he says: “Those brands that successfully integrate sponsorship assets such as tickets, merchandise or money-can’t-buy experiences with athletes into their CRM programmes can achieve higher levels of loyalty, brand consideration and advocacy than is typical for their sector.”

Sourced from WARC