It’s time to focus on the ‘Why?’ behind sponsorship decisions

Sponsorship marketing has sometimes struggled to gain the same level of trust amongst brand marketers as other marketing verticals. Luscid CEO Harry Coe explores why this may be the case – and what can be done to improve matters.

Sponsorship is often viewed as unique within the world of brand marketing. But when you take a step back, it is essentially a marketing channel like any other. Budget is spent, inventory received, and an accountable benefit delivered to the sponsor. This can be reflected through an increase in product awareness, a purchase, a shift in brand perception, or a new customer.

A lack of accountability within sponsorship marketing

Similar objectives apply to every other pound of marketing spend, and the accountability to be sure that budget is spent in the right place is easier to find than ever before, across other verticals. The likes of digital marketing spend is primarily planned and executed by complex data driven ad-tech platforms – with insight fed in from the brand side via a DSP and supplier side via a SSP. Match-ups and subsequent trades are objectively delivered from both the perspective of the buyer and seller.

But the sponsorship industry hasn’t kept up.

As a vertical anchored within sports, entertainment and cultural passions, it is perhaps unsurprising that personal bias is at the forefront of more decisions than elsewhere in the marketing space. What has traditionally been a human-led process is often characterised by personal bias (gut feel, the chairpersons whim etc), inefficiency, and an inability to analyse all the options in the market. Expecting a purely human-led search to comprehensively cover all arts, esports, music, film, media, and sports options is not only unrealistic, but expensive and time consuming.

Some consultants or agencies work for commissions from rights-holders whilst also taking fees from brands to offer strategic guidance. As such, there is a hugely problematic conflict of interest, where brands may be directed towards the rights-holders who are paying commissions to the agents, regardless of whether their fanbase and values are the strongest match for the brands objectives.

The best sponsorship marketing ideas will naturally excite all stakeholders within a business, but with significant sums of money often exchanging hands, brands need more reassurance that their marketing budget is being spent in the right way. Luscid client Accor Hotels have a sponsorship portfolio worth in excess of $100m per year, and every decision (be it renewal or new opportunity) is evaluated in the same rigorous way. This has allowed consistency to be applied across 15 markets worldwide – and offered accountability of spend to the key decision-makers across the business. But up to now, there has been a lack of ad-tech solutions focussed on brands in the sponsorship space.

Navigating the data minefield in sponsorship marketing

Brand marketing has benefitted from the swathes of consumer data available to sort through, but a look at the average rights-holder proposal, suggests that 1st party fan data is most often the focus. There is without doubt huge benefits to this, but there is also a risk that it is not focussed on the audience and planning parameters for the brand. A football club may have 70,000 people in their stadium. But a sunglasses brand looking to evaluate a new partnership are more interested in how many of these people are potential new customers for them. Will they even be interested in buying a new pair of sunglasses?

There are various data sources that offer a more ‘centralised’ evaluation of brand and rights holder match-up. The likes of global survey, search, social and media listening data can offer bespoke insight for any brand search – but the sponsorship industry has traditionally lacked an interface that pulls all of this together in a consolidated and efficient way.

Additionally, the more manual processes that partnership identification has traditionally harnessed leads to a more rigid way of working. Insight can be provided to brands but without the flexibility provided via data consolidation technology – the brand search lacks the agility to respond to planning tweaks, and even changes of direction in the brand search. Two brands can request a list of the top 100 soccer teams by social media impact – but their exact needs won’t necessarily be the same. Once again there is a need for manual intervention, which creates yet another example of inefficiency and a risk of human bias.

Supporting sponsorship decisions with data driven technology

Delivering a multi-year sponsorship marketing strategy is a complex task, from initial strategic guidance, through identification, commercial negotiation, contracting and activation. It would be unfair to expect a fully automated trading process in line with those mentioned in the media space.

But now is the time for a greater balance.

For brands looking to better understand why a particular partnership solution is the right one for them, a combination of data-driven technology working hand in hand with consultative expertise allows all bases to be covered and decades of human expertise to be objectively guided in a more efficient manner.

Luscid is proud to be playing a leading role in this positive change. Now is the time for the sponsorship industry to embrace a new future in decision-making.