Asia Pacific Opinions Updates

Play on: How to extend brand sponsorship beyond events

Mega sporting events attract the marketing dollars of many global brands, but how can we elevate sponsorship to create more meaningful experiences? 

A deafening roar erupts from the stadium as the athletes receive their medals. The eyes of the world are on them – and on the brand name prominently displayed on the podium.

It is a scene that plays in every global sporting event – and we remember the brands as clearly as the athletes. It’s so effective that global sponsorship spending is expected to grow this year by 4.9 per cent to US$65.8 billion, according to ESP’s recent forecast.

That high spend looks set to continue, supported by the high corporate confidence and improving sales, and the fact that sports are just getting bigger. Notably, China envisions the value of their sports industry growing to more than RMB3 trillion by year 2020.

In addition to this, the coming opportunities are just too good to miss. The impending Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are just two of several chances for brands to grab some serious global exposure.

Eastern brands reach Western eyes

While the investment in sponsorship is growing, so too is the roster of brands vying for attention. Until very recently, global events like the FIFA World Cup, Olympics and Commonwealth Games were dominated by a ‘usual suspects’ cast of Western and sometimes Japanese and Korean sponsors.

That has changed in the last few years, with Chinese businesses gaining the clout and confidence to ‘Go West’. A growing presence in major trade shows and expos has helped, but the biggest gains in profile have often come from sports sponsorships. Hisense’s sponsorship of the last UEFA European Championship, for example, brought a brand unfamiliar to the West to billions of people via TV, onsite activation and online promotion. In the UK, their brand awareness went from seven per cent to 19 per cent in just four weeks.

And at the recent 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, Chinese brands were the dominant sponsors. The Wanda Group became the first Chinese company to sign up as a FIFA Partner, and Mengniu became the first (and so far, the only) Chinese dairy brand to be a FIFA World Cup sponsor.

Like their Western counterparts, the global marketing strategies for Chinese brands extend beyond mere sponsorship – both have leveraged their global footprint with marketing activations and unique experiences for sports fans.

Playing the game while maximising ROI

Sponsorship can and should be more than simply paying to leverage ad assets and have a brand name emblazoned on stadiums. The impact of sponsorship can be multiplied – and made more personal – when it is integrated with a larger campaign that takes audiences on a journey via online and offline platforms.

Procter & Gamble has perfected this approach, having used its ‘Worldwide Olympic Partner’ status as a platform for emotionally-driven campaigns as ‘Thank You, Mom’ and ‘Love Over Bias’. Well-crafted, authentic and very human-centric, both campaigns gained wide coverage for the brand’s message of ‘creating a better world’.

And at this year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics, P&G created the P&G Family Home, which served as a ‘home away from home’ for athletes, their families and friends, and was stocked with famous P&G brands.

In another sponsorship activation, we worked on Volvic’s ‘Project Volvican’, which aimed at associating the mineral water brand with those who use their inner strength to the fullest and strive to achieve their goals.

The campaign was an experiential journey executed through multiple touchpoints, including public relations, retail promotions, brand partnerships, social media, influencer engagements and event sponsorship and activations.

Volvic’s sponsorship of events such as the Under Armour’s Test of Will in Singapore and PUMA Night Run in Singapore and Taiwan, extended far beyond the events themselves, with the campaign reaching into PUMA retail shops and fitness centres. In-store promotions scheduled to coincide with the events used social media to invite individuals to become part of the phenomenon.

By creating platforms on which individuals could share stories, sponsoring sports events, and partnering with brands with a shared vision, the Volvic campaign drove an increase in brand affinity and commercial success, while ultimately creating a ‘Volvic community’.

The final score on sponsorship

Sponsorship can be a win-win proposition. For events, sponsorship helps defray costs and makes more exciting programmes possible. For the sponsors, it can instantly raise a brand’s profile and create positive associations with the qualities exemplified by the event.

However, it is important to maximise ‘bang for the sponsorship buck’ by selecting events that align with the aspirations, target audience and values of the brand itself. Sponsorship should act as a base for a wider campaign that exploits opportunities to engage and interact with audiences on a more personal level.

Rita Seow is regional assistant general manager of TBA Singapore, Pico+