Having worked on the Bloodhound Programme as Marketing and Partnership Director I’ve been at the cutting edge of high risk, moment based marketing. Unlike endeavours that fall out of corporate or commercial R&D exercises, this property was built on the classic sponsorship model. However, the closer you look the more you realise sponsorship is dead.
What Sponsorship Was (and still is in many instances)
A classic model is paying for brand visibility on a property like a land speed record car and benefitting from the reach a moment making event can realise through PR and Media. Alongside this, you can expect some hospitality, employee engagement and often a nice tick in your corporate responsibility box.
The challenge is – does this really impact your bottom line. It has well been documented that soft halo effects of sponsorship are notoriously bad to measure i.e. employee motivation, brand association beyond awareness. In a digital-first culture, reach is as valuable a metric as revenue – meaningless without understanding the impact.
In 2016 we heard a lot about fan engagement, and in part this is true we need to engage not just reach our audience. Engagement improves conversion rates from share to spend. We refer to the Bloodhound Experience – and it is the experience we share with the challenge of ‘how do we bring the experience of seeing, feeling, hearing and smelling a super-sonic run in the desert to a global audience?’
But in addition to this, we need to look at the network penetration, commercial models and how our moment in time underpins a story that will last a lifetime along with some hard numbers.
One Future for Sponsorship
The future is not to the exclusion of the classic model but is in addition to with a re-focus on to those revenue boosting engaging activities.
- Leverage commercial channels i.e. brand campaigns, the point of sale etc: Creates multiple touchpoints for an audience directly driving revenue to the rightsholder and brand – numbers, numbers, numbers – data can’t be argued with.
- It’s not your story, it’s your audiences. Work with influencers and your audience inviting them to write the story of your moment. For example open data programmes enable direct participation. Letting go of your brand (which should be a reflection of your audience’s perception anyway) means that it becomes a crowd driven initiative which turns passive viewers into engaged advocates.
- Network beyond. Partnerships (not just sponsorships) are critical to increasing multiple touchpoints (most people take 3-5 brand touchpoints before conversion) and in a CocaCola model – be everywhere. At Bloodhound we work with museums to provide installations, Cities and towns for on-street experiences, technology groups to open our data programme to innovative young start-ups.
- Then what? So beyond the moment what then? Think of the Olympic legacy this was a culture and inspiration that carried through into grass-roots sports for years to follow. For Bloodhound we have Bloodhound Education, an associated education charity delivering STEM education to tens of thousands of school children every year. This legacy piece continues the value for sponsors and partners.
Fundamentally, the term sponsorship is at risk of currently blocking broader commercial and marketing thinking that can bring innovative ideas and make moments part of history. It’s time to step up and be creators of the new ‘sponsorship’.