The Engagement – Virtual Reality and Sponsorship

Virtual reality has now become a reality in the way we consume and play sports. It has come a long way since Nintendo’s foray into it, albeit briefly, during the 90’s with the release of their Virtual Boy console. Despite the name, there is one thing that Virtual Boy was not, and that’s virtual reality. The system was conceived during a period of fascination with VR and although being a failure, it could be said that Nintendo were the pioneers of VR… credit where credit is due.

The ATP Tour Finals staged at The O2 in London 2 weeks ago is the sport’s biggest indication yet that they are taking necessary steps to prepare themselves for the future, with tennis fans given an introduction to the future of sports spectating. Virtual reality pods stood alongside a multifaceted broadcast operation and taken note of the mass of cameras including, the Spidercam and ultra-slow motion cameras capable of capturing the flex and movement of each muscle. Inside the pods, fans were able to use the newly-launched PlayStation VR and its tracking camera and handheld controller to give fans a deeper look inside tennis and reinventing the sport spectating experience.

Sponsors jump on this technology as they can provide fans with never before seen experiences, such as becoming their favourite athlete with POV or taking them into the middle of the action from the comfort of their own home While it is early days, we expect to see sponsored messaging tailored specifically to the individual wearing the headset, allowing for much more targeted marketing that current networks cannot achieve broadcasting to the masses.

The use of VR has seen brands open up a whole new channel of engagement. In 2014 Jaguar partnered with IBM to develop a VR experience allowing consumers to choose the model, make, colour and features of their favourite Jaguar. Consumers were even able to hope inside the car to check out interior features with a 360-degree view, and to make real-time changes all through the use of a headset. Jaguar have had such success with the use of VR, that they built on their technology with Andy Murray as part of the #FeelWimbledon Campaign, providing a Centre Court experience to feel the atmosphere while hitting the winning shot as Andy Murray.

The biggest asset VR has is its story telling power, taking users on a journey to breathe life into the brand is one of the main components of a content marketing approach and encourages the target market to develop a personal connection with a brand. The opportunities are endless for platforms to provide an immersive experience for users to gain a life-like experience, Moto GP could use this approach providing fans the thrill of riding a race spec bike in excess of 300 Kilometres per hour around Silverstone. It is this type of experience that engages someone on a deeper level, something that product distribution or branding simply can’t tap into.

While it is impossible to predict the future and whether VR will play a vital role in our daily lives, one thing can be said for sure, brands will continue to deliver unique and innovative experiences to engage with consumers and connect with them in ways never seen before.

Top 4 Tips On Uncovering Sponsorship Assets

Time and time again we see rights holders only offering some of their assets to a potential sponsor, rather than all of them. This is predominantly a logo placed in a high footfall area, or where they receive the most traffic on their website. Yes, these are important to a sponsor, but it is crucially important to ensure all potential assets are offered to sponsors.

Imagine a store that only sells the items in the first aisle and not the rest of the shop. This will reduce the potential revenue the store can generate, and narrow the potential of a customer purchasing more products from the other aisles. This is the same for sponsorship.

The problem with only offering some of the potential assets to a sponsor, or even just the main one, is that it is impossible to know exactly what a brand wants to utilise in sponsorship, particularly when approaching cold. The chances of understanding what a sponsor wants can, and should, be increased with research, but this must be done regularly. Every time a new approach is made research must be carried out to understand a brands strategic direction.

It is difficult to uncover all possible assets without previous sponsorship knowledge and whilst you are immersed in your day to day tasks. Below, are 4 quick tips to uncovering all possible assets:

 

  1. Get in the brands mindset – Figure out exactly why a brand would want to be a sponsor and specifically, what you can offer them that they simply can’t access without you.

 

  1. Brainstorming with colleagues – Don’t try to do this on your own, the more minds the better. As with any ideas session, everyone thinks differently which is needed to uncover the assets outside of the norm (NOT JUST LOGO PLACEMENT!)

 

  1. Travel the customer journey – Sponsors want access to your audience. So, travelling through the customer journey and understanding all possible touch points a sponsor can utilise to engage with your audience will provide multiple key assets.

 

  1. Check out the competition – Finally, get hold of your competitor’s sponsorship proposals and see what they are offering. It might spark a new idea or show you ways to improve your platform for sponsors.

 

When all assets have been uncovered, it then becomes about ensuring that these are effectively and aesthetically communicated in the best way possible to potential sponsors, as well as priced correctly.

Disruption? Stop it. 

Those who know me well know that I am easily swayed out of the office with the promise of good wine and sponsorship chat.  Not only am I geeky like that (I could quite literally talk about sponsorship for days), I think it’s a crucial part of working in an industry that is shifting so quickly – you really need to know what is going on, how other people are navigating through what they deem is engagement with their clients, what challenges they have and how they are overcoming them.  I find these chats both motivating and relatable.

Except when it comes to disruption.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love Uber.  And yes, we all wish we came up with the Stratosphere idea.  But to continue waxing lyrical with the ‘disrupt or die’ mentality is not progressive, nor very helpful.  Equally when you consider Uber was just an idea to solve a problem – and not generated from a think tank.  To expect entire organisations to fundamentally stop their day jobs to begin to disrupt is not feasible.  To expect entire organisations to fully fund external consultants to come into their business to figure out how to disrupt them without an understanding of how that disruption will drive their bottom line is even more ridiculous.

I do believe in the value of disruption – but disruption with a purpose, and within the constraints of real life challenges.

Furthermore, in order to disrupt and have the mental capacity to begin to think about disrupting there needs to be space, time and most importantly a motivation.  I often say that innovation is borne out of necessity, but to innovate before it becomes necessary is the holy grail.  In order to achieve this, I believe that inspiration and capacity building through a shift in mind-set in stages is much more realistic and practical.  Empowering and collaborating in small areas of the business and building from there.  This isn’t typically how most people identify or recognise disruption.  However, I think if you looked a little harder, you’d find it is happening – even in industries as stagnant as sport sponsorship.

#Ad Spells Fear for Brands

Use of celebrity endorsements on social media have arguably become one of, if not the most craved sponsorship asset for many millennial-focused brands. Whether it be sport stars, pop stars, or people just famous for being famous, the upper echelon of these role models has such power and influence over society, and brands have benefited hugely from alignments since the social boom.

With certain role models boasting multi-million figures in terms of followers it’s easy to understand why brands are happy to pay out such significant fees to these influencers for product endorsements on social platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, and it has proved a winning tactic dating back to the 1760’s where Wedgwood, producers of pottery and chinaware, used royal endorsements – in a time of divine right you can only imagine the influence that had on society.

The power of having someone you admire and look up to endorse a certain product or service is unquestionable, yet brands understand that to fully maximise the commercial potential there is a need to develop a stronger, longer term association with their chosen influencer so that all endorsements come across as authentic. Hence why brands decide to strike up sponsorship arrangements, partly because it is cost effective but also to change the perceptions of these influencers from a celebrity endorser to more of a brand ambassador.

Through sponsorship, brands can purchase rights to access these influencers across a variety of platforms creating a much stronger connection with the ambassador, which resonates better with the influencers’ audience. Within the terms of such sponsorship agreements, brands will add in exclusivity clauses effectively banning the ambassador from promoting a rival brand whilst contracted, again adding to the illusion that the millionaire role model really does shop at H&M!

However, recently the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have been clamping down on this clear attempt by brands to subtly influence society – the 21st century version of subliminal messaging. ASA have stated that “if content is an advertisement, it should be obviously identifiable to consumers using the hashtag #ad” and there have already been several high-profile cases whereby brands and celebrities have been reprimanded.

Although this seems like a small formality to add onto the end of a Tweet, Instagram post or vlog, brands now need to ensure that this clause is written into contracts to avoid hefty fines. In addition to this extra bit of housekeeping, the hashtag has the capability to cause a much bigger problem for brands. These two letters have the potential to completely spoil the illusion for consumers and ruin the authenticity that a brand may have invested in for years. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how brands look to counter and gloss over this in future.

Quantity or Quality in Sponsorship

The quantity of sports team sponsors has exploded in the last few years. In the not too distant past a sports club would be happy with a major sponsor on the front of their shirt and a kit sponsor to provide the team equipment.

In the age of globalisation, sports organisations see sponsorship as an enabler of expansion, allowing them to reach potential fans wherever their sponsors may be based as well as a key technique to raise revenue for both the club and the sponsor.

Manchester United embodies this new approach.  Already a global brand with fans around the world, in more recent years Manchester United have aggressively pursued sponsorship and partnerships from less traditional corners of the footballing globe.

Manchester United’s Integrated Telecommunications Partners are split up by region, meaning  for each of the following areas they have an entirely separate brand acting as sponsor; Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, Bahrain & Kuwait, Nigeria & Ghana, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. This approach allows the club to maximise revenue across a particular industry.

More obscure sponsors include Japanese company Nissin Foods Group acting as Official Global Noodle Partner while Malaysian brand Kansai has taken on the role of Official Paint Partner of Manchester United. These are in addition to the more traditional financial and motor companies who are considered the clubs major sponsors.

The argument for this proliferation of brand sponsorships is that it raises revenue for the club, as well as raising the clubs profile in less traditional parts of the world, all of which should translate to the clubs bottom line. In turn the brands benefit from this increased exposure and allegiance with a successful club.

However if not done correctly the sheer amount of sponsors in fact dilutes the clubs image of exclusivity and prestige which prospective sponsors may come to view as a drawback. Such a multinational and seemingly unselective approach to sponsorships could also erode the identity that years of success and history have helped to create.

There is an argument for clubs to reconsider this approach and focus on fewer, more focused and appropriate brands. It could result in greater bargaining power for the clubs by bringing back some of the feeling of exclusivity they may have lost.

With the most recent 2015 Premier League television deal worth over £5 Billion, a 71% increase on three years previously, the vast sums of money to be made in football suggest that this trend is more likely to accelerate than reverse.  Brands are showing no signs of being put off by the prospect of clubs retaining more and more sponsors. However if the trend continues on the current path, there may come a day when less is considered more.

The rise of eSports – From on the pitch to behind to the screen

By 2019, the eSports industry is expected to hit $1.23 billion in value according to SuperData reports. Considering electronic sports was not considered a legitimate form of organised competition over the past 10 years, the industry is growing at an alarming rate.

ESports is growing 38% in viewership and 42% in revenue year on year. The reason for its success in such a short space of time resides in its platform being incredibly accessible and inclusive. Regardless of size, age, gender or disability no individual is denied access of taking part, therefore the potential for the industry to develop in scale is limitless.

There are even signs to suggest that the world of eSports is taking over the traditional sporting industry. Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for eSports gamer’s, hosts more than 45 million users every month to broadcast, watch and chat. With data recorded by Twitch analysts, the average audience member of this platform spends 120 minutes a day tuning into this channel, which is only marginally less than the average person watches TV in the UK.

Sport is typically associated with athletic ability, however now that we are progressing to a more digital age, the way we perceive and participate in sport is altering. This is having a substantial effect on younger generations, who are now becoming heavily integrated with the use of technology and gaming. Since 2013 85% of children in households aged 8 to 15 owned a gaming console. With technological influence growing stronger, a new world of organised competition is emerging within the ‘sporting’ sector.

The rise of eSports has opened up numerous opportunities for participants as they find themselves with the chance to become professionals. Like all professional competitors, eSports athletes require time to train and develop their skills. Sponsorship acts as the foundation to sustain themselves as professional athletes, allowing them to commit their time and resource in becoming the best in the world!

With organised events celebrating competitions and leagues, eSports gaming stars can be earning up to 6 figures in sponsorships in addition to prize money, competing in sold out stadiums of up to 45,000 fans plus.

Global brands such as INTEL, IGN, YouTube, Google, Microsoft and Coca Cola have already seized the opportunity to sponsor eSports platforms, creating sustainable partnerships, and driving revenue and awareness to a key audience. Brands within a variety of differentiating sectors are now seeking to sink their teeth into this industry.

In the next coming decade, eSports is expected to be televised in every household. Brands world-wide are pursing early sponsorship contracts with eSports properties before markets become saturated and grow increasingly harder to access. The prospect of eSports taking over traditional forms of sport, in both participation and industry value is becoming reality.

Support the Startups Supporting You

Investing in innovation and entrepreneurship is necessary for any business to not only grow and evolve, but ultimately to survive. Becoming complacent and ignoring advances in your field can leave you left in the wake of competitors that mould themselves to adapt with changes in technology.

Given that it is not always possible to rely on your internal team for innovation many companies are recognising the need to invest in startups with new and fresh ideas. Not only does this foster creativity and innovation under their brand but it also is a way to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to advances in their industry.

One company that has seen the need to foster talent early is Nestlé who have developed their own platform to actively invest in startups. Nestlé HENRi was created with the objectives to enhance quality of life, contribute to a healthier future, tackle global issues and make genuine positive effects for millions across the world. Not only is this socially constructive for Nestlé’s brand but it also has proven benefits for sales and engagement with Nestlé products.

For example, through partnering with the startup Blippar, Nestlé have since been able to unlock new levels of engagement with their customers for both Milo & Nesquik products in an untested AR territory. Without opening themselves up to external ideas and investing in start-ups, this would not have been possible.

It’s not too late!

For companies that do not have the resources to set up projects of this scale, there are alternative ways to invest in start-ups & innovation. Slingshot is currently working with Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC), the world’s largest startup competition supported by Sir Richard BransonBill Tai (Twitter) and Jim Breyer (Facebook). XTC gives brands an opportunity to sit beside some of the world’s most influential business leaders, while ensuring that they are the first to have access to all new ideas & technology that this competition uncovers.

XTC gives brands the chance to integrate their entire suite of services throughout key events at the XTC Semi-Finals held at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January reaching over 170,000 tech savvy enthusiasts, and the XTC Finals taking place on Necker Island in February 2017.

Anchor judge of the program, Sir Richard Branson, sees the event as an opportunity to uncover untapped ideas and technology, “we are hunting for people and ideas that can literally change the world!”

Sponsor involvement is still available for the 2016/2017 XTC program. Sponsoring enables your businesses to align to a category specific to your industry, not only allowing your business to judge the entrants but also positioning you as an influencer among the best in global business. If you’d like to hear more information about partnership opportunities we have available, please contact Hayley Williams at hayley@slingshotsponsorship.com.

 

The Rise of Corporate Sponsorships

 

Corporate sponsorships of charity events are often seen in a negative light. The common concerns revolve around a perceived lack of influence on the event, or a worry that it might not align with their sponsorship activities. Admittedly, there is some substance to this thought, however, there are a number of unique benefits to these partnerships.

The abundance of ‘moments’ charity partnerships offer (something brands chase their tail for) is clear to everyone. However, brands always struggle with how to integrate this content without having the direct influence they might enjoy with other partnerships. Perhaps the content is too specific to the charity or the production partner didn’t catch the right images to deliver the brand story.

However, rights holders are now able to edit, re-edit, super-impose, dub, fuse, and do whatever a brand might want to this content. The freedom this creates for brands is unprecedented. They are now able to integrate these ‘moments’ with their brand story to not only demonstrate their support for charitable causes, but most importantly to create an authenticity that is hard to find.

The new and exciting forms of charity events now allow them to be seen as an entertainment events in their own right. For example, Music In The Wild is an event involving ten celebrities climbing one of the new seven wonders of world – Machu Picchu – with an intimate concert at the summit from a multi-award winning artist. An event like this is the sort that brands would ordinarily want to be involved in regardless of the charitable element. It merges music, adventure and charity, meaning a brands story can be told in a variety of ways that trump traditional corporate partnerships.

Equally, being part of such an exciting project is a great opportunity to engage and galvanise a workforce. Rather than the fairly mundane rewards a company might offer, a brand can instead reward their employees with truly once in a lifetime experiences. For example, instead of the hospitality treatment for employees, events that challenge employees combined with charity elements have an emotional long lasting impression on employees. The power this has change their outlook and unite a workforce behind one cause is a huge. The knock on effect of this is more money being raised for the chosen charity which is yet another thing for a brand to shout about.

The rise of celebrity ambassadors and the increasing endorsements or associations they have with charities mean corporate partnerships are now a huge opportunity to increase reach. For instance, sponsors of the BT Red Nose Climb had a huge success off the back of association with celebrities such as Cheryl Cole and Gary Barlow. These associations will almost always come at a lower cost than an ambassador partnership and with a much more authentic message. It’s a no brainer – more reach with a more credible and emotive story.

With charities now starting to invest in commercial planning, they are finding out that there is more than meets the eye than the obvious CSR benefits. The opportunities to integrate a brands story, unprecedented events and sheer reach of celebrity associations offer endless opportunities. Once brands become smarter to the benefits of these charity events the real value of corporate partnerships will begin to be realised.

 

Charity Challenge appoints Slingshot Sponsorship to boost commercial revenue

Charity Challenge, the charity expedition company behind the Red Nose Kilimanjaro Climb for Comic Relief, is launching its next series of world first expeditions and has appointed Slingshot Sponsorship to manage its commercial rights for the official kick-off to the series – a trek through the Andes Mountains in Peru to the mystical Inca city of Machu Picchu in October 2017.

Slingshot Sponsorship, the award-winning commercialised marketing agency, will handle all commercial rights and partner opportunities, ahead of the 2017 expedition.

Charity Challenge, which has raised almost £50m for numerous worthy causes, is creating an epic challenge with a star-packed group of celebrities to take on the trek to Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site one of the most famous destinations on the globe. At the end of the challenge, under the stars and amongst breath-taking scenery, an intimate concert will be performed by a Global Superstar – who is soon to be revealed.

This will be the first in a series of nationally and internationally produced documentaries that will be shown on various broadcasters with one main aim, to raise life changing funds for a globally recognised charity.

“We’re delighted to have Slingshot Sponsorship join the Charity Challenge team. The entire agency truly understands our unique vision for this series of ground breaking events” said Simon Albert, Managing Director at Charity Challenge. “I’m confident that with Slingshot’s support we can continue to grow our specialist challenge events commercially through partnerships and ensure we maximise the potential to raise vital funds for worthwhile causes.”

Slingshot Sponsorship enhances its clients’ commercial rights by uncovering new value through development and creation of sponsorship assets – supporting an execution that is mutually beneficial as well as sustainable.

“Charity Challenge have an innovative and unique approach to raising much needed funds for global causes,” said Jackie Fast, Founder and Managing Director of Slingshot Sponsorship. “Charity Challenge and Slingshot have a shared interest in creating unique ways of shaking up a traditional fundraising market, so watch this space.”

Commercial opportunities are now available for the 2017 Machu Picchu expedition.

 

Slingshot shortlisted for the European Sponsorship Association Excellence Awards 2016

Renowned as the pinnacle accomplishment in sponsorship across Europe, Slingshot have been shortlisted in both the ‘Live Music Sponsorship Award’ and ‘Rights Holder Award’ categories for the European Sponsorship Association Excellence Awards.

The European Sponsorship Association (ESA), is the voice of the sponsorship industry across Europe, seeking to inspire, educate and raise standards within the sponsorship industry. As a membership association it strives to lead the industry through activities relating to policy and governance, corporate responsibility, education and training, provision of information and networking.

A truly perfect start to the week for the Slingshot team, proudly reminiscing on their recently conducted partnership with Snowboxx (Rights Holder) and Rockstar Energy Drinks. In a new development for 2016, Snowboxx created something never seen before at winter festivals, their own ‘Snowboxx Village’. Based in Avoriaz, the heart of the Port du Soleil ski region, Snowboxx Festival hosted a plethora of events from headlining performances, off-the-wall festival features & local food and drink stalls.

With the most important aspect of this sponsorship for Rockstar Energy Drink being customer experience, the brand took VIP to a whole new level by offering 26 competition winners the ultimate experience for any music lover, the opportunity to party like a rockstar.

Through Slingshots ability to set out a clear sponsorship plan for success – Rockstar Energy Drink were able to leverage their key assets on a number of platforms, ensuring an effective delivery to their captive audience.

On being shortlisted, Jackie Fast, MD of Slingshot Sponsorship, ‘To even be recognised by the ESA organisation is a huge honour. As an agency we aim to endorse that we are not a one trick pony but will consistently exercise optimal levels in effort and commitment for each of our clients’.

Moving forward the Slingshot team look to inspire the new additions to their team showcasing one of their best in class campaigns. Slingshot will continue to cover the entire spectrum of sponsorship disciplines, ensuring this lead of creativity will be replicated in future work.

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