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Activation implementation: Coming out of the blocks!

by Emily Taylor
30 11 2010


I used to run track in high school.  Specifically the hurdles – and I loved them.  The most excruciating moments, and possibly the most critical, were those just before and just after the gun went off and you came out of the blocks.  Your start affected the entire race – if it was bad, there was no bouncing back; if it was good – you could break records.  The quality of the activation of your sponsorship partnership is like coming out of the blocks; if you are not intentionally and uncompromisingly placing every step with vigor unlike any other, you simply aren’t going to make anything memorable out of it.  In high school, being memorable on the field isn’t nearly as high a priority as it is to be memorable in sponsorship; so let’s talk about coming out of the blocks with activation efforts that leave you absolutely unforgettable. 

Here’s a question to ask: What does our audience experience when they attend?  What keeps them coming back year to year?  What would make the experience more enjoyable for them?  When you start understanding the perspective of your audience and you see things from their reality vs. your perception, you can really start answering questions about how to meet their needs.  The whole goal of your sponsor is to activate a partnership that leaves them in good standing with your audience – to be remembered as a reason they had a good experience.  As we have mentioned before, putting up a bunch of signs just isn’t really noteworthy anymore. 

Interaction is one way to really be memorable.  When you consider the classes you were most engaged in during school years, weren’t they the discussions vs. the lectures?  Or the practicum’s or labs vs. the monologue you heard from your professor?  VERY few lecturers can engage an audience in the same way as a professor that calls your name and asks for your answer.  Banners are like monologues, at some point, people just tune out.   When you drive interaction through various means where the sponsor meets a need, you’re activating creatively and effectively.  One example was of an event I attended this summer where the parking was really pretty ridiculous.  In order to get to the hub of the activities, you had to seriously trek it – lace up your shoes and grab a bottled water, because you were going to pay for your fun with about the next week’s worth of a work out.  So the property ended up landing a sponsor who handled shuttling attendees back and forth to their parking spots.  I’m not going to lie – I will never forget the relief I felt as I prepared for the marathon walk back to my car and stumbled upon a friendly driver and his invitation to take us back.  We were hot, tired, famished, and suddenly relieved – that sponsor’s activation effort turned them into my hero.  They weren’t just a banner, they were an answer to a problem.  Now, if only there had been an ice cream sponsor…

Long term reminders are another way to drive the message home.  One of my favorite examples of this is pictures.  Everyone likes to have their pictures taken, right?  So maybe you create a way for your audience to get their pictures taken with their families, or with a celebrity.  They will likely not only purchase the picture, but take them home and reference them indefinitely.  If the picture was made possible by “fill in the blank” sponsor, they’ve just placed themselves on a piece of material that isn’t going into the garbage and out of the mind for a very long time if ever.  When you go on a cruise, everytime you port, there’s a picture crew waiting to take your picture – and because we love the local culture we’re getting pictured with, and we’re “on vacation” we all end up buying those pictures, don’t we?!  As a culture, we love pictures don’t we?

So when you’re coming out of the blocks you aren’t thinking of the last hurdle, you’re thinking of the first eight steps.  When you’re activating out of the blocks you’re asking yourself what things are going to impact your audience with interaction, long term memories, meet specific needs of theirs and keep them coming back.  Then you consider with those first eight steps how your partners can meet those needs.  So when the gun goes off, and the event starts, those first eight steps are dynamic, well placed, something that inspires oohs and ahhs and sets the pace for the rest of the race.  You had a good work out, now the fun really begins because those steps, lunges and leaps matter!



Categories:   Elements of a Proposal | General | Marketing | sponsorship activation | Sponsorship resources | sponsorship sales | Sponsorship Valuation
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Why Sponsorship Themes are Just as Important as Turkey on Thanksgiving

by Emily Taylor
23 11 2010

I’ll be honest, there’s really not a lot that turkey dinners and themes have in common – except for the fact that they are both very important from my perspective.  Coming from the brain of an almost 9 month pregnant lady, the thought of turkey, mashed potatoes and rich gravy followed by some pumpkin pie and whipped cream are up there on the priority list as a non-negotiable this holiday season.  I just can’t think of much else that will put quite as big of a smile on my face as that wonderful, brilliantly crafted meal.  I feel almost equally as passionate about the need for sponsorship themes. 

From a sponsor’s perspective, without a theme, you’re chopped liver next to turkey (ok, I’ll stop my food references now).  Think about how basic marketing is done, brands are constantly trying to drive a particular message home, they have a slogan, possibly a short song or quip, something that identifies that brand message and drives it home in the mind of their target audience.  Geico has the Gecko, and the quote “I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico!”  Burger King has “the King” and their famous line “have it your way.”  And those examples are basic marketing examples, in sponsorship where your efforts are more customized and your activation is multi-faceted, it’s even more important to stick with a theme to drive a message home.  That’s why we’re seeing many sponsors pick a theme and require it for all sponsorship consideration.  Ex: ConAgra will not consider sponsorship outside the realm of meeting child hunger needs.  When a sponsor themes their sponsorship efforts, their message becomes more and more clear, their audience understands what values they affiliate themselves with, and they are able to leverage many efforts into a main message; and the truth is, there is strength in numbers.

So as a sponsorship opportunity representative, what do you do with this information?  Don’t bust your behind trying to get in the door of a sponsor who has never invested a dollar into anything in your opportunity category.  There are very few moments when this will work, and you’d better be riding the tail of major new launch, brand transition, or truly have a phenomenal new way to impact their target audience through the partnership.  The truth is, the economy has not fully come back around yet, sponsorship is still ultra competitive, and since cash is not flowing out of the sponsor pockets like we hoped I would be by now, you can’t afford to risk the time and investment into risking a sponsor that’s not perceived to be ideal.  Dig around, find out what kinds of themes a potential sponsor is interested in, what audience are they trying to reach?  The more you know about their previous efforts anyway, the more valuable you’re going to look as a partner since you took the time to find out what matters to them.  Not only are you perceived as an informed match to their interest, but also as an unselfish, valuable potential partner.  At SponsorPark, we ask a very specific set of questions around your opportunity that gives us the ability to allow targeted searches by sponsors.  So while the sponsor is typing in their search criteria there’s no room for bias, and they’ll see only those opportunities who align with their interest.  Who cares if you’re a squeaky wheel if you’re a squeaky wheel with the wrong people?  The name of the game is to target by themes.

So as you’re munching on holiday treats, and gobbling down a delicious turkey dinner, keep in mind that it’s just as important to market around themes – and that includes sponsorship!  Does this resonate with the way you pursue partners?  What other best practices are out there around identifying good sponsor fits to your opportunity?





Categories:   Elements of a Proposal | General | Marketing | Sponsorship resources | sponsorship sales
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Gross Sponsorships for Mad Men

by David Rachell
16 11 2010

This week we turn our blog over to David Rachel for his unique insights into the sponsorship and agency world. David is president of Pinpoint, a consultancy for sponsors, and serves as the managing director of the Sponsorship Insights Group.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Gross Sponsorships for Mad Men

Advertising agencies are king of the advertising world.  Most of the dollars spent in advertising and marketing pass through an advertising or media-buying agency.  Over the years, I’ve had my share, both good and bad, of discussions with agencies.  And like many colleagues, I hang up the phone with an account manager and say, “they just don’t get sponsorship.”

Actually they do.

But a distinct issue for agencies is – how are we going to make money off of a sponsorship?  Agencies aren’t built to necessarily buy sponsorship and activate the program.  Unlike creating a TV ad and buying time, sponsorship falls completely out of their model for making money.

Many agencies aren’t geared to execute street marketing programs, design a fleet of experiential tour trucks, or build out trade show booths. Perhaps because they cannot make money on sponsorships, they steer clear of involving their client in sponsorships.

Ad buying agencies make their money by receive a percentage of what they purchase for their client at a gross rate – meaning – the agency takes anywhere between an 8% -15% cut off the price of the media and that’s how they’re paid. Realize that the media “lifts” the rate they offer to agencies in order to make up for some of the difference of selling ad space directly to the brand versus through the agency.  This is called a “gross rate” versus a “net rate.”

I’m not suggesting a major conspiracy here.  But it’s possible that because the way North America’s sponsorship discipline developed (no measured media, no gross and net rates to agencies), its growth has been stymied because decision makers aren’t able to find a way to make a profit off of it.  Look at the growth of the digital media space.  Digital media can be measured in a myriad of ways and agencies make money off design (Websites/Facebook Cause pages/digital ads) and placement.

So, would it make sense for the sponsorship industry to offer a gross rate to agencies?  How would it affect sponsorship broker fees?  Would there be an overall reduction in sponsorship rates from it?   I realize there are a lot of questions to be asked before heading down this road.  But, as an industry, shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to make it easier to say, “yes,” especially to a discipline that we know works so well?

I respect the fact that agencies need to make good decisions for their clients and also make profitable business decisions for their own business interests.  Maybe it’s time our industry makes it easier for agencies to do both.


Categories:   General | industry happenings | Marketing | sponsorship activation | Sponsorship resources | sponsorship sales | Sponsorship Valuation
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