From association to performance partnerships

Head of Strategy, Alex Charkham, discusses the three things any good sponsorship strategy must consider in 2019

The role of sponsorship strategy has historically been geared in acquisition i.e. where a brand should invest their money. Its relative simplicity compared to the more nuanced methods involved in, for example media strategy, has made it an appealingly straightforward and linear process.

Increasing pressure on sponsorship to be more accountable and impact driven now means sponsorship strategies require a higher level of scrutiny, one that includes greater emphasis on longer term planning, attributable return on objectives and more sophisticated use of data and insight.

As a result, strategy has taken on new meaning in sponsorship, one that not only shapes investment, but also directs meaningful business return.

While there are many aspects of a sponsorship planning process to consider, I’d like to highlight the following three priorities:

From brand association to performance partnerships

To survive and thrive, our industry must evolve towards a model of performance partnerships. Traditional rights still have their place, as does the power of ‘emotional engagement’, yet audience data has the potential to be worth more than any set of rights because it allows for direct fan targeting at scale. In turn, this can drive more meaningful business impact, alongside more typical brand metrics such as awareness, opinion and consideration.

While the full potential of performance partnerships is still far from being realised, it would be imprudent to develop a strategy that doesn’t leave space for more sophisticated, data led conversations with rights holders. At Fuse, we firmly believe that this is the model of the future.

A guiding vision and a clear role

This isn’t about signing up to a three-year deal and planning on an annual basis. It’s about setting a clear focus for what a brand wants to achieve within that period, and how it wants to show up in the eyes of the audience. Specifically, that vision should:

– Set the brand up for success, pose the ultimate KPI and give the business a focal point to rally around the sponsorship

– Determine the extent to which the brand will impact the audience’s experience of the sponsored property. Does a brand simply want to be present in the mix yet relatively passive? Or be more ambitious and play a broader, contributory role within the property as a whole?

– Plan for the cycle that allows for activity to be built and scaled over time, ensuring it can feel fresh while staying on point throughout

Insight built on actual behaviour

Survey based tools (claimed data) like TGI have historically been at the heart of sponsorship insight and remain useful when it comes to indicating a target audience’s passions or establishing a hypothesis for further investigation.

However, survey-based tools are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to truly meaningful audience insight. Fuse has a range of behavioural analysis tools that enable us to gain invaluable insights into audience journeys around the things people love. Specifically, we are able to:

– Combine multiple data sources to build a detailed profile of a sponsorship property’s audience

– Analyse that audience’s specific online foot-print to build a detailed sense of their overall behaviour, from interests and shopping habits to brand affiliations and spending power

– Apply social media analytics to gauge where these audiences “hang out”, the tribes they belong to, content preferences and general conversation around any given subject

– Location-data based profiling to understand where audiences physically go and how this can be integrated with online behaviour

We have often found a discrepancy between what consumers ‘actually do’ and what they ‘say they do’. Behavioural analysis is the key to bridging that gap and powering the performance partnership model.

While there are many composite parts of a sponsorship strategy, using the most progressive tools and methods available is key. Not only will this lead to the most business-relevant sponsorship solution for brands, but it will also ensure they stay relevant and authentic in the eyes of the audience.