Sports sponsorship is a ‘dialogical partnership’ between different parties trying to maximize the effect of shared knowledge, feedback, invested time & money, human & social capital (including networks) etc. Some sponsors may find it difficult to measure the impact of sports sponsorship or to optimize their sponsorship activities via activation. Professional management of sports sponsorships requires that the corporate sponsors allocate resource to ‘manage’ the related activities, i.e. from pre-phase until the evaluation and potential re-negotiation phases of the sponsorship deal. For instance, sponsors must allocate resources for all essential elements of the process, e.g. related PR-activities, which adds exposure and recognition of the relationship between the sports entity and the sponsor. Moreover, this may relate to integration of the sports entity’s values in the sponsor’s marketing activities, side-events concerning the sponsorship deal or hospitality solutions for the sponsor’s employees or business partners. In this process, it is also of great significance to emphasize that all parties should be open to new suggestions in terms of activation initiatives and a general improvement of the partnership. This aspect of creativity may lead to differentiated solutions, which enhance the ROI of the partnership. When all comes to all, sports sponsorship is about good investments for all involved parties for what reason a proactive approach and participation rate is key!
Looking at the contemporary society where people are wrapped in all kinds of electronic devices and online social networks, there are huge benefits associated when sports entities point to social media for activation purposes. Simply, it adds extra value to sports sponsorships given the emotional dimension of sports. MarketingWeek posted a story the other day, which highlighted the importance of social media in relation to sports sponsorship (football in this case). The 72 teams in the Championship, League 1, and League 2 in the UK are engaging with their fans. Now, an initiative from the Football League (one of the governing bodies of the 3 leagues) has been designed to provide sponsors knowledge about how fans are engaging with the clubs online; a new social media tool has been created to improve the access to target audiences. The platform is meant to monitor and track fan behavior across the league’s total web content, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, and mobile applications. The professionalization of football businesses is pushed in the right commercial direction with this initiative. Elements of market research have characterized other industries for years and football clubs are joining the ‘band wagon’ in search for additional revenue streams. Data on the engagement and emotional levels of football fandom is a MUST for clubs trying to convince sponsors to bring extra financial support. Now, clubs under the umbrella of the Football League have a good argument and thus a tool, which attaches valuable knowledge to the related activation and marketing campaigns of football sponsorships.
Building an audience and achieving the right targeting is a matter of valid knowledge about fan structures, sentiment and behavior. The new tool give sponsors precious insight into the digital and social behavior of the league’s international fans, which is aimed at maximizing revenues from international activities. Networking has been a traditional commercial asset of football businesses for quite some time but this increased online networking activity is essential to give sponsors added value, which reaches beyond ‘exposure generated by television, billboards or other traditional mass media’. Fan needs are put in front line here. In that regard, it serves a purpose to underline the fact that sponsorship/brand activation is where sponsors produce a high deal of the value from their sponsorship activities. Social media (and the knowledge derived from these networks) is a perfect fit for activation pursuits. When sports entities are capable of minimizing the distance to fans, the probability for producing ‘more accurate’ knowledge about fan behavior increases with the result of adding extra value to sponsors.
There is another commercial angle to this story as well. The Premier League has been known for being invaded by foreign owners, e.g. Abramovich in Chelsea, Mansour in Manchester City, Fenway Sports Group in Liverpool FC and the Glazer family in Manchester United. Though, foreign investors have become very aware of the fact that it may be a better and cheaper investment to look for teams to buy in leagues below the Premier League and then go from there…. For that reason, the timing in terms of implementing the new social media tool seems perfect as foreign ownership most like heightens the interest of building a global fanbase and exploiting that for commercial reasons.