Yes, it continues to be the buzz word. Activation! Sponsorship marketing is all about activation. I recently spoke to the Board of Directors at BC Soccer. When we broached the topic of “sponsorship activation,” the board members had the right questions. What is it? How is it implemented? How do you measure success from it? And more.
The numbers clearly indicate that activation is key, be it a big sponsorship like pro sports or the Olympics, or a small sponsorship of a community event. Either way, failure to activate will result in failure of the investment. And there are two sides to the activation model. The sponsor and the property must both participate.
Too often, the sponsor allocates no budget at all for activation. Quite often, that is because the property “took” all the money in rights fees. In my mind, this is the “commissioned sales person mentality” on the part of the property. The people selling the sponsorship (or their boss), are more interested in “getting the money” than the program actually working for the sponsor. It is a purely self-serving, short-term viewpoint on the part of the property and it always comes back to haunt them… but usually after that sponsorship person or ED has moved on and left the issues on the table for the those who come after. I recently had this discussion with a Canadian municipality that is dealing with a naming rights scenario in which the sponsor feels it did not get real ROI. It did get value (and a fulfilment report would have shown that if it had been done), but unfortunately, it did not get ROI.
In my mind, the difference between ROI and value is simple. Value refers to the assets. What did the sponsor pay for its rights fees and what was the true market value of those assets?
It’s like buying a car. You pay for the car and all the gadgets, but if you do not spend some extra money to buy gas, oil, new tires when necessary, and regular tune-ups, the car won’t work. It’s the money you spend after you buy the car that makes it work.
Sponsors need to remember this. They must pay for the rights fee, but then they must also invest in outside elements afterward, such as marketing the relationship, hosting and hospitality, employee engagement, etc. Great car dealers offer such “activation,” often with a preferred rate for tune-ups and lifelong oil changes, etc., to ensure that the customer comes back. (Let’s face it, though. You are paying for all of that somewhere!) If sponsors do not “activate,” they do not see results and their sponsorship will, like the car, eventually stop working. When that happens, the property doesn’t get the money!
Sponsors, remember you need to add gas to your investment. Properties, remember you need to make sure the sponsors add gas… leave them money to do so! If both these things happen, the partnership will continue for a long time!
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