I was lucky enough to be invited to a lunch by our friends at Sports Recruitment International recently. It was a round table discussion of 20 CEOs within the sports industry on the business of sport.
There were many interesting things which were discussed such as fan engagement, athlete engagement, EBA’s, and broadcast. The discussion then moved to commercial and sponsorship; as is natural when talking about the business of sport.
Out of the session, one thing stuck with me - there is a real need to improve at balancing the needs of organisational rights holders and the talent which help create the value. By talent, I don’t mean the talent and skills of the sponsorship manager or other administrative staff. Instead, I’m referring to the talent such as players.
As such, I thought I’d take a look at the key things you need to get off to a good start and create a foundation for collaboration.
The power of the talent
Before we dive in, it is important to give context to the power of the talent within any rights holder organisation. The talent helps you to activate, integrate, and drive the emotional connection of partnerships. Whilst the rights holder brand gives the long-term benefit, the here and now mostly comes through the talent. As such, a working relationship with them is vital in any rights holder situation.
Let’s examine the three key points to getting this element of sponsorship management correct.
Talent can be fantastic influencers in a partnership activation. They can bring a hospitality suite alive, draw attention to your brand, or attract attendees to an event. You need, however, to have the right talent with you. It is no good just saying “Send me three players for my three hours of appearance time in my contract please.”
As a rights holder, it will pay for you to set out, from the start, the interests of your talent, what they are keen on, and what other personal partnerships they have, so as not to create a tricky situation when you come calling.
If the alignment is there, then you are far more likely to get interested talent for your appearance. The next job is to communicate, ahead of time, what you and your brand need from them in their time. Do they need to prepare anything and is there anything that they would like to see as an outcome? From personal experience (and personal mistakes) there is nothing talent hates more than being thrown in the deep-end and not being prepared.
This point is more about the actual activity the talent is used for. There is no point using talent for the sake of it. There needs to be a driver and some context as to how they are creating and driving more value to the activation or activity (ultimately, that’s the sponsoring brand).
This will help ensure great audience appreciation, cut-through, authenticity, and engagement from both the audience and the talent themselves. After all, everyone loves a star and even our stars like to feel like they are contributing in a positive and meaningful way.
Final Thought - Knowing the Why!!
As luck would have it, just as I was conceptualizing this blog, I attended the Partnership Huddle, in New Zealand, where a panel of digital influencers was on stage. One of those influencers was Grant Elliot, former NZ Black Cap. Grant really pushed the point of “Knowing your ‘Why’ as a sponsor”. What Grant meant by ‘Why’ is that it is nice to have a famous ambassador or talent at your event, helping promote your product, but as a brand, you need to know your Why. “Why is that player the right one? Why do you need players at all?”.
Once you can articulate that in collaboration with the points above, the talent is far more likely to buy in and help you achieve what you want.
I’ve learned a lot and had my thinking challenged by others on this topic. I would love to hear from you as to what other factors and thoughts go into using talent within partnerships. So, leave a comment and let’s get sharing!
Mark Thompson // Managing Director
Mark specializes in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.
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