When seeking to increase brand awareness and affiliation and generate leads to increase revenue, sponsorship seems like the ideal method. Sponsorship continues to be the second-largest marketing communications spend for most brands, second only to media, often accounting for between 11% and 18% of the total marketing budget. This isn’t surprising- it’s a subtle alternative to a brash marketing campaign and when done right can help to develop brand loyalty. A featured logo or a branded screen will have little effect on helping your brand stand out from the crowd but the right brand activation strategy can help make your brand memorable and help the beneficiary develop more meaningful connections from your sponsorship.
When engaging in sponsorship, brands need to take their marketing activities to the next level to make them impactful. This is known as sponsorship activation — committing to sponsorship and “activating” it by making it work for you through various marketing activities connecting you with the audience you want to target. A truly successful sponsorship activation is one that is valuable for all parties involved- the audience, the beneficiary of sponsorship and the sponsors themselves.
Why does activation matter?
Getting value for your sponsorship investment isn’t down to the beneficiary- it’s your responsibility! It’s up to you to maximise the value you get from your new marketing platform and make sure that you create a foolproof strategy to optimise your ROI. Sponsorship provides an opportunity for increased visibility, but how a brand activates its sponsorship is where they have the opportunity to make an impact. Brands need to consider how exactly this impact will be made. As restrictions are lifting, people are eager to return to live events, however the power of virtual cannot be forgotten and it is expected that a mixture of live and virtual events will continue to evolve, therefore both must be seen as an opportunity to attract and engage current and potential customers.
“It will become vital for brands to leverage new technology and utilise digital platforms to develop fan-engagement strategies that didn’t exist before in linear broadcasting. The fan is now the catalyst for huge change.”
How do you ensure your activation is unique and impactful and what kind of sponsorships reap the greatest rewards? Well, that all depends on your brand and what you are trying to achieve from the sponsorship. As a brand agency with physical activity at our core, sports sponsorships are highly relevant to us and tie in to our company values. However, the amount of exposure sports teams can achieve means that other brands seek these in order to gain maximum visibility and reach a large fan base. Sports sponsorships have become increasingly more popular with a report by Nielsen finding that Sports sponsorship increased by 107% in 2021. There was also an estimated 146% year over year rise in unbundled sponsorship investment in women’s sports (UEFA, FIFA, World Rugby) compared to a 27% rise in 2020. With a rise in the number of female sports being televised, there are now a greater number of opportunities related to women’s sports and more brands can now reach consumers that weren’t previously reached through sponsorship in men’s sport.
It’s not difficult to see why so many brands are seeking to make connections with sports teams or athletes, but what activations stand out? We looked at some national and global stand out sports sponsorships to see how sponsorship activation worked for them.
#Weareone- Fifty-Three Six and FAI
Sports marketing agency Fifty-Three Six work as a full-service marketing partner to the Football Association of Ireland. Guided by the concept of #weareone and the idea that Irish football has the ability to unite Irish people like nothing else, Fifty-Three Six have developed an omni-channel marketing approach utilising best practice social, display, search, OOH advertising and traditional marketing to design and develop campaigns and convert fans. Activations for this digital first campaign included the March 2021 launch, with a multi-touch campaign that utilised digital video, supporting creative graphics, OOH advertising, an influencer campaign and in-stadium activations.
Further effective activations included those surrounding World Cup Qualifiers against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia. The impact of the #WeAreOne - Power of Fans concept was most powerfully felt, when it drew on the emotion of fans coming back to the Aviva stadium for the first time in 18 months. With results to date including over 6.3 million ad impressions, 1m high quality video views and a ticketing campaign which drove over 10X ROAS for the FAI, this is one sponsorship activation we can certainly get behind.
Lidl and LGFA Level the Playing Field
Another powerful campaign motto with Level the Playing Field, Lidl strives to reduce the gap that exists between ladies Gaelic footballers and their male counterparts at all levels of the game. The retail giant has activated this aspect of their sponsorship by developing a club rewards scheme which provides every club with the opportunity to raise up to €20,000 in funding by allowing customers to select a club of their choice using the Lidl Plus app when they shop in store. The initiative has a number of reward levels beginning with a set of new jerseys for clubs that collect at least 50 stamp cards and go right up to €5,000 in cash funding for 500 or more completed stamp cards. In addition to this, the club in each province that collects the most stamp cards overall will win a top prize of €20,000.
This initiative follows on from Lidl’s #SeriousSupport campaign which invested over €5 million in the Ladies Gaelic Football Association and its members on a local and national level. The most impactful result of this campaign was the shift in attitudes towards Gaelic football with support rising to an all-time high and multiple attendance records smashed. Despite this success, Lidl wanted to make further progress into closing the gap which still exists between ladies Gaelic footballers and their male counterparts.
Lidl is set to double its €5 million sponsorship and invest €10 million in LGFA over their 10 years of sponsorship through various different initiatives.
Some amazing results to date include:
68 schools have taken part in the #SeriousSupport Schools Programme
Over 200 schools have received new jerseys and/or equipment
Over 500 clubs have received new jerseys and/or equipment
Over 200 clubs have received cash donations
The level of competition was tough but the final stand out sponsorship for us has to be the unique activation by Steinlager Beer.
Fight for Territory- Steinlager Beer and New Zealand All Blacks
Having sponsored the All Blacks since 1986, Steinlager has engaged in several memorable activities. However, their activation during the Lions Rugby tour in 2017 was one that couldn’t be forgotten. Steinlager came up with a stellar stunt to be noticed by finding fans and teams spending the most time in the airport. Steinlager bought every sign in every terminal and created an interactive competition with the Lion’s sponsor, Guinness. The concept was that the Lion’s could have the signs for free, they just had to fight for them. Based on the team they supported, fans stood in front of one of 65 interactive digital screens and changed the messaging that appeared on the screen. With bespoke image recognition software and mobile WAP technology, fans got heavily involved in the battle to alter every sign across terminals.
The battle between fans throughout the 6-week tour saw 2.5 million people pass through the airport and resulted in 96,000 screen changes.
The above are just three unique and successfully activated partnerships, however there have been multiple stand-out connections.
Check out these other creative sponsorship activations that we can’t get enough of: