Here's What You Get for $50,000...

BrandHub founder Shauna with Adrian New

Are sport sponsorships worth their salt? What do companies like VISA, Lenovo and Standard Chartered get when they help bankroll sporting competitions?

I found out the answers to the above and more when I attended Brandhub's exclusive BrandXchange - a quarterly exchange with senior marketers in Asia. Hosted by Brandhub's founder Shauna Li Roolvink, the session featured Adrian New, Senior Vice President of World Sport Group (WSG) which is a specialist in sports sponsorship marketing.

Touted as "The Power of Passion", sports sponsorship is certainly big business. Just look at the recent Beijing Olympics and you will see the number of brands being placaded by athletes from every continent. The multi-million dollar endorsement deals of big stars like Yao Ming and Tiger Woods attest to the power of sponsorship marketing in sports.

So why are more companies going into sponsorships? These are the reasons according to Adrian:

1) Traditional mass marketing (print, television) just doesn't work anymore.

2) Media fragmentation is making it increasingly difficult to reach consumers.

3) Companies to speak to consumers in relevant and engaging ways. Just a slick, cold ad isn't going to cut it anymore.

4) Consumers are all passionate about something. A brand's challenge is to find out what they are passionate about and be there! This is where sponsorship comes in.

So what are some of the traits needed for a sponsorship deal to be successful?

First, a successful sponsorship links your brand with the passions of your target customers. So if they love the EPL and your beer happen to be there, they are gonna quaff your beverage.

Next, a successful sponsorship shows your brand in action and brings something of value to your customers. If you can offer exclusive parties with sport superstars after their game, your clients are going to love you for it.

A successful sponsorship also allows your brand multiple opportunities to connect with your customers. Don't just look at having your logo plastered all over the place. Instead seek promotional opportunities, merchandising chances, special events, and so on.

The bottomline is that you should offer something exlcusive and special that money CAN'T buy. That's what makes a sponsorship deal special. So this could include a slam dunking session with Yao Ming, doing the butterfly with Michael Phelps, or meeting and greeting Lewis Hamilton.

The benefits of a successful sponsorship are multiple. Consumers will give you their business and over time build a stronger emotional connection with your brand. You will also have the chance to build loyalty with them in the following manner:

Launch -> Awareness -> Preference -> Loyalty

An interesting example which Adrian gave was that of O2, which invested about 6 million pounds by sponsoring the Millenium Dome stadium in UK. Apparently, the telco provider gained a 26 to 1 return from sponsorship!

Unfortunately, most companies in Asia is still slow to catch the endorsement wave. Many are unsophisticated when it comes to marketing, preferring to compete on price rather than value. They give their agencies far too much say in their marketing strategy, and are often under the mistaken impression that they can't afford it. Asian companies also feel fairly uncomfortable in the sponsorship game, preferring the tried and tested approach of advertising and preferring to measure their ROIs by share of voice and brand awareness.

Sponsorship isn't just for sports alone. There are lots of opportunities for companies to associate themselves with other causes like heritage and museums, the arts, the environment and so on.

With increasingly saturated markets full of me-too competitors, it is certainly time for companies to consider sponsorship as viable part of their marketing mix. And the time to start is now.

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