What Car? Car Of The Year Awards 2013 15th January, 2013

After much anticipation, the What Car? Car of the Year Awards in association with Warranty Direct took place on Wednesday 9th January 2013 at the prestigious Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane. The event was by far the biggest and best to date with all of the leading manufacturers from the motoring industry in attendance.  The Awards were visually spectacular with the stage placed in the middle of the room amongst the tables and entertainment from comedian Al Murray had the audience in stitches.

The Awards presented by the BBC’s Kate Silverton and What Car? Editor in Chief Chas Hallet revealed the best cars on the market in 2012. The category winners were selected from an incredibly high standard of contenders, with the Audi A3 Sportback taking the prestigious title of What Car? Car of the Year. To view the full list of the 2013 contenders and winners click here.

The 2013 event was a resounding success for the What Car? Awards sponsors with Warranty Direct coming onboard as headline sponsor for the first time, Kwik-Fit joining Associate Sponsors Hankook and TRACKER and Category Sponsors Allianz Global Assistance and Cobra continuing their support for the Awards. For further information on this year’s sponsors click here.

Over 300 people engaged with the What Car? Awards on Twitter and gave a strong indication of the buzz surrounding the 2013 Awards:

Does Sponsorship Enhance the Festival experience?? 18th September, 2012

So it’s the middle of yet another mild British summer and I’m standing in the middle of a muddy field, surrounded by an eclectic array of people listening to very loud music and to cap it all off it’s raining – who would have imagined this would be the perfect environment for brand engagement.

Music festivals have become an important and developing platform for sponsorship by larger and smaller brands alike. For the festival organisers sponsorship is an important revenue stream, and from the brand’s perspective, the sponsorship of music festivals and events provides opportunities for bespoke communication and interaction with the predominantly young and receptive festival audience. However, are the brands actually concerned about improving the festival experience or are they just in it for their own benefit?

Whether or not corporate sponsorship activation should be allowed within the festival arena is the subject of much debate, with many events such as the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons adopting the traditional ‘Early Glastonbury’ or ‘Woodstock’ approach of zero-branding. However, the real question that should be asked is whether or not the sponsorship actually benefits the experience of the attendees. After all, this is the sole reason for attending the festival in the first place.

Festival goers are passionate about music but most go to festivals first and foremost for the overall experience, something that can be looked back on for years after the event has passed. With this in mind, surely the primary objective of the festival organiser is to ensure that festival goers have the best time possible and if brand activations can help achieve this then why should they be sidelined?

In a study by Havas Sports and Entertainment of six festivals across six European countries and involving 2,244 respondents, they found that 65% of music festival goers believe brands improve the festival experience; with 60% interacting with two or more brands at festivals and 85% liking the brand activations they visited.

In the case of the Green Man and others, it appears that festival organisers do not want to draw too much attention to the sponsors in fear that this would have a negative effect on the integrity of the event. However, Havas’s study does much to dispel the view that music festivals are a dangerous arena for brand sponsors and suggests brands are a welcome part of the festival experience if they develop activations that add value.

Sponsorship therefore delivers a three-way benefit, as the more attendees that partake in and enjoy the activations, the stronger the relationship with the brands and the event. In the over-saturated and intensely competitive festival market of today, festival organisers are constantly looking for new ways in which to attract and retain their audience. As a result, engagement is becoming increasingly expensive, with sponsorship therefore proving to be a highly cost-effective method in which to enhance the overall festival experience.

Slingshot Sponsorship Get Extreme with Nitro Circus Live 16th September, 2012

Nitro Circus Live – an extension of the hit MTV show and proclaimed by many as the greatest action sports show in the world today – has appointed Slingshot Sponsorship as its sponsorship agency for their first ever European Tour.

Following the success of the 2011 Australian tour, Nitro Circus Live will be touring Europe throughout November and December 2012 – with three dates in the UK alone: London, O2 Arena, 3 December; Manchester, Manchester Arena, 4 December; and Birmingham, National Indoor Arena, 5 December.  Slingshot Sponsorship will be aiming to facilitate new partnerships with the tour in addition to existing sponsors Red Bull and DC Shoes.

The brainchild of seventeen time X Games gold medalist, Travis Pastrana, Nitro Circus Live features death defying stunts from the world’s best action sports stars across Freestyle Motocross, BMX, Skateboarding and more, with UK venues already well on their way to selling out for the December shows.

Nitro Circus Live’s European leg is set to be part of a bigger global tour visiting the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Asia and the Middle East over the next 18 months with the Nitro Circus 3D movie set for release in September 2012. The tour therefore offers unparalleled global exposure and unique brand activation opportunities within the action sports market and beyond.

The London Olympics: Marking the ‘Coming of Age’ for Sponsorship 25th April, 2012

Sponsorship is undoubtedly an exciting industry to be a part of at the moment – and it’s not just due to all of the outside media attention surrounding the London Olympics and its various sponsors.  Granted that some of the individual sponsorship campaigns around London 2012 are fantastic in themselves; but what stands out, from a sponsorship agency’s perspective, is the universal shift in the way brands are approaching sponsorship and the remarkable levels of engagement that brands can create from such collaborations.  A wide range of companies, from British Airways to McDonald’s, have launched a series of highly interactive campaigns designed specifically to get the customer using, tasting, watching, listening and experiencing their products through the Olympic platform.

Have these campaigns only come about because the need for cut through and ROI is so vital due to the high investment of the Olympic sponsorship rights?  Are creative sponsorship campaigns only to be seen during this period before reverting back to the more ‘conventional’ strands of sponsorship, such as branding & hospitality?

Unlike naysayers in the industry, I believe that the sponsorship campaigns being created are the culmination of a growing trend of brands realising that well-positioned partnerships can offer far more engagement with a highly targeted audience across multiple media channels, than straight advertising or PR alone.

Cadbury’s activation of its Olympic sponsorship rights is a great illustration of this shift.  The ‘Spot vs Stripes’ competition encompasses all forms of marketing and engages with the public far more than an advertisement campaign ever could.  In fact, it all started with an advert – a 2 minute spectacle of animated marine-creatures, divided up into spots and stripes, participating in an underwater frenzy of Olympic-esque competition.   Viewers were then urged to logon (spotsvsstripes.com) to join a team and compete in online games and earn points for their given side.  Players could also earn points through taking part in physical competitions, like crazy golf, as well as downloading games to play offline.  Hundreds of thousands of people took up the challenge and interacted with the Cadbury’s brand, albeit without a chocolate bar in sight!

When the focus point of this campaign – the Cadbury’s Challenge Bar – hit the shelves everyone had already chosen sides and was fully familiarised with the concept, guaranteeing cut-through to an audience that otherwise may have been reluctant to try another new Cadbury’s product.  The bar itself, was divided up into 3 pieces; one piece each with spots or stripes on, with the middle piece tobe contested for via further games printed on the inside of the wrapper.  The winner of the game won the middle piece and was also able to claim points back for their given side online.

From start to finish, this sponsorship activation campaign was a huge success.  Cadbury’s capitalised on their partnership with the Olympics through interaction and competition – engaging with their audience through digital, social and physical.

This is the future of sponsorship.

Sports Sponsorship: More Than Just Branding 25th January, 2012

Ever since Kettering Town became the first English football club to host a sponsor Kettering Tyres – across their ‘famous’ red and white shirts, in 1976, corporate sponsors have been obsessed with branding. Every sport, from snowboarding to horse riding, is full of brands trying to get the most prominent position on a racer’s helmet or the best placed advertising board on any given sports field around the world.

The most pertinent example I can find of such blatant logo blasting is FX Pro’s sponsorship of Fulham – signed chiefly so the foreign exchange broker could have its logo streaked across the roof of Fulham’s home ground, which lies directly along the Heathrow flightpath.  A multi million pound deal, just so people flying in from Beijing can see your company emblem.  No message explaining what they do, how they do it or what their company ethos is – JUST the logo.

And for years this type of marketing has worked.

Exposing customers to logos has been a tried and tested formula, creating profit for brands for decades.  But in today’s market, where we are constantly blasted with logos of innumerable brands – many of which we don’t even recognize – is it enough?  And from a sponsor’s perspective, is it even worth it?

In today’s world a simple logo is no longer enough – it does not convey enough about your company to make a positive impression on the consumer.  With marketing budgets being slashed, brands are being forced to ENGAGE with their target audience, to ensure resonance.  Well-executed sponsorship activations can do just this.  They bridge the communication gap, allowing the target audience to experience exactly what the brand has to offer.  For the rights owner, such sponsorship deals offer the opportunity to provide a richer and more complete experience to their audience.

Whilst many sponsor relationships remain stuck in this branding culture (especially within sports sponsorship), some brands and rights owners are leading the way through truly innovating sponsorship campaigns.  One of the most forward thinking approaches is the partnership between Spanish giants Real Madrid and network provider Cisco Systems.  The agreement will see the installation of Cisco’s high-density Wi-Fi system at Madrid’s home stadium – Santiago Bernabeu – allowing fans to:

  1. Access specifically designed applications through their smartphones, encouraging them to engage directly with the Santiago Bernabeau.
  2. Watch Hi-Definition screens throughout the ground that will broadcast replays, highlights and interviews exclusively to those in the stadium.
  3. Utilise social media – encouraging match-goers to share tweets of their match day experience with those at the stadium and those around the world.

Whilst there is an argument from die-hard fans that such technological progressions may detract from the atmosphere on match-days, I actually think it has the potential to enhance it.  I’m not advocating everyone sitting on their iPhones, tweeting for 90 minutes.  Rather, at half-time or during injury stoppages people in the ground can watch a replay of a missed opportunity they couldn’t see clearly; get information about a new player; or even find out the words to a chant they weren’t aware of – meaning they can actively contribute to and thus improve the atmosphere in the ground.

Another interesting approach to sponsorship within the realm of football has been the recent  partnership between Manchester City & EA Sports.  Both partners have fully embraced the relationship, making user-interaction a far more engaging and rewarding experience both at match days and online.  A few examples of the activation have included:

  1. A virtual launch of the club’s kit for the 2011-2012 season, exhibited by a computer generated Manchester City eleven.
  2. Full motion capture of the Manchester City squad, making player movement even more realistic – resulting in Manchester City being the most commonly used team by online FIFA 2012 players around the world.
  3. A proposal to use FIFA statistics to simulate upcoming Manchester City matches.

All interesting stuff, however the innovation of this campaign lies in the way users are directed to the data.  The plan is to deliver the latest software – Sergio Aguero’s new haircut, up-to-date statistics, or the new Manchester City away kit – to users via smartphone, be it using a personalized QR code or the RFID chip on the back of fan’s membership cards.  Once the code is scanned, the fan receives unique FIFA 2012 data, which they can then trade with other consumers.  Friends could swap them via smartphone, match-goers could swap them at a game and online users could swap them over Facebook.  While EA Sports and Manchester City would create the initial software, the fans would be tasked with sharing the data – taking the EA Sports and Manchester City brand into a more social setting.

Although football sponsors have the tendency to simply ‘brand’ everything, Formula 1 sponsors are undoubtedly more culpable: every driver, every car and every available space is awash with corporate sponsors.  Such branding may still be effective to a point, but some companies are realizing that they can get so much more out of their sponsorship.  A perfect example of this realization is the ‘Step Inside the Circuit’ campaign, produced from Johnnie Walker’s sponsorship of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes racing team.

Viewers are directed to branded content via Johnnie Walker’s Facebook page, where they are then transported to the hustle and bustle of a Formula 1 track.   Users can mingle with the other drivers, check out the last minute adjustments to the cars or take a spin around the track to experience what it’s like for Lewis Hamilton or Sebastien Vettel on race day.  To further personalize the experience, photos are taken from the user’s Facebook, along with webcam input and text-to-speech technology.  The campaign culminates with 20 competition winners being taken to Silverstone for three days of training, finishing with VIP tickets to the Grand Prix itself.

It is still unclear, which of these different sponsorship channels will prevail and prove to be most rewarding for a partnership in the long-term.  Many of these alliances are still in their infancy and it is impossible to tell if anyone has already found a winning formula.  However what is clear is that, if done correctly, there are substantial gains to be made for the sponsors, right owners and fans themselves:

  1. Sponsors better engage with their audience and promote their brand
  2. Rights owners can offer a richer and more varied experience to their brand/event
  3. Fans receive a more interactive and diverse experience.

From what we’ve seen, it is clear that future sponsors cannot rely simply on branding alone.

Experiential: 3 Ways to Maximise Your Assets 20th January, 2012

With the London 2012 Olympics fast approaching we are due an influx of experiential campaigns in 2012. With headline sponsors of P&G, Coke and McDonald’s taking the majority of the London 2012 marketing opportunities – both in sponsorship as well as ramped up advertising campaigns, other brands will be engaging in shorter term experiential marketing to capitalise on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Experiential marketing at its basics is a live brand marketing campaign allowing consumers to experience the product through their senses.  It occurs in real time and is a two way communication between the brand and consumer – creating a lasting connection with the brand, which is then amplified through other marketing channels. Experiential activation offers a great way to showcase a brand’s products, or simply demonstrate what the company can offer with immediate feedback.  Some examples of experiential campaigns we’ve run include Tracker’s Photo Booth for the What Car Awards 2012 and the EA Sports’ Game Hub at the London Irish Rugby Club’s St. Patricks Day Party.

Maximising Assets for Experiential Sponsorship Campaigns

1) Brand Positioning

With immediate feedback, experiential activities first need to ensure their audience is the right audience to be receiving feedback from.  Ensure that you are very clear who the target audience is first and then decide how best to reach them and more importantly where to reach them.

Being relevant to the right consumers will provide both the correct feedback, but also will enable you to drive the communications further through additional marketing campaigns.

2) Engagement is Essential

You have to be engaging in activity consumers can relate to and want to engage with. The message and positioning should be clear and concise ensuring cut through.  Providing people an experience that is on brand for the experiential activation, on brand for the company and also on brand for the sponsorship platform will create a cohesive message with all parties building resonance with the audience.

3) Make it Last

Even if your experiential activity is a one-off campaign, ensure you are making the most of it and that you have resources to support this.  If the objective is to create a viral campaign through the experiential activity, do not forget to include a social strategy that will drive this communication forward through user networks and your own company network through user generated content, videos, competitions, etc.

Top 10 Sales Tips for Sponsorship Rights Holders 12th December, 2011

With an increasing number of platforms available for corporate partnership, the selection process for brands is becoming more complex, with a wide range of factors influencing the allocation of marketing budgets. Therefore when approaching potential partners, it is important for rights holders to ensure that each of the following factors is taken into account:

1.  Price

The fees asked by the rights holder play a key role in the decision-making process for a sponsor to come on board with a property. The price of association is often the first aspect of a proposal to be looked at and it is therefore imperative that rights owners understand how to value their sponsorship assets correctly.

2.  Timing

Depending on the company and industry, budgeting can take place at different times of the year. However, as a rights holder, the important thing is to understand the general time of year that marketing budgets will be allocated by your prospects in order not to miss the boat.

Depending on the size of the investment relative to the prospective sponsor, opportunities with lower fees may be handled on a tactical basis. However generally, companies will be much less open to new partnerships once budgets have been set and it is therefore crucial to get in there early.

Typically planning periods are September/October and March/April.

3.  Prospects

It is important that rights holders understand the key demographic of their property’s audience as misunderstanding this can lead to approaching an inappropriate market and wasting valuable time.

Once understanding the relevant brands to approach, the next step is to understand their behavioural tendencies in terms of their general sponsorship partnerships and activations and how they have utilised these relationships in the past. This will highlight which assets are relevant to each sponsorship category and in turn allow for a more tailored approach.

4.  Audience Resonance

Are the prospect’s consumers interested in the sponsorship? And furthermore, will the sponsorship audience be interested in the prospect’s products and services? A sponsor will always have their target audience in mind when activating a sponsorship and therefore you as a rights holder must also adopt the same thought process, ensuring that the needs and wants of your prospect’s consumer base align with the benefits of your property.

5.  Attendance

In the case of an event-based platform, the attendance is always of high priority to prospective sponsors. Whether the focus is on engaging with a specific audience or allowing for key networking opportunities, the attendance must present the prospect of new business opportunities.

A common error in the sales approach of a rights holder is approaching all companies within their property’s industry rather than taking the time to break down it down by relevance. By evaluating the industry and which areas will be most relevant, sales teams can prioritise their approach, generally receiving more positive feedback and in turn taking less time to close new partnerships.

6.  Reflection of Company Values

The more a company can see of itself in a property, the more willing they will be to forge a partnership as a key aspect of a sponsorship is to emphasise brand values. This again relates to audience resonance and the tailoring of a sales approach as different selling points will appeal to different brands depending on their relative markets.

7.  Comparison of New Business Figures with Previous Sponsorships

Producing financial, attendance, or media value figures are one of the most effective ways in which to sell a property as they are cold hard facts that cannot be easily manipulated. Tangible figures and facts provide a clear indication of such highly influencing factors as ROI, media coverage, attendance and give the prospect an immediate understanding of the tangible benefits they would receive from their investment.

8.  Prioritisation of Company Goals

Each sponsorship platform caters to different aims and objectives of sponsors, this being a huge factor in the prospect’s decision making process. What is the largest benefit of sponsoring your property? There may be more than one but at least one of them should align with the core objective of the brand.

9.  Cross Marketing Opportunities

Sponsorship platforms can attract brands from different industries with similar audiences.  These rare opportunities can create cross marketing benefits that add substantial value to a sponsorship. This tends to occur with Media Sponsor rights and we’d highly recommend considering bringing on board something like this to strengthen your event or program.

10.  Data Provision

Another advantage of sponsorship is the opportunity to carry out research amongst a captive sample of a brand’s target audience. If you are able to offer behavioural data to your sponsor helping them streamline their products and services, this brings a whole new level of value to the sponsorship – gaining important exposure whilst receiving precious qualitative feedback.

By putting in the time and research to evaluate each of the above factors before pitching to prospective sponsors, rights holders are able to carry out a truly time and cost effective sales approach. This will in turn allow for a more streamlined prospect list, resulting in fewer knock-backs and improved close-ratios.

Furthermore, adopting a more methodical approach will significantly increase sales staff motivation, driving the property forward in terms of investment and the opportunities for expansion that come with it.

Innovation in UK Sports Sponsorship 21st November, 2011

Each year, towards the climax of rugby union’s most demanding league, the Aviva Premiership, London Irish Rugby Club host their two biggest games of the season The St. Patrick’s and End of Season Parties.

Last year with the aid of Slingshot Sponsorship, London Irish implemented a unique strategy with these games applying a three dimensional model that generated new revenue, promoted fan loyalty and increased the reach and exposure of the club.

These events saw the introduction of live music, entertainment, competitions, food stalls, and brand experiences prior to kick off for the sold-out fans creating a festival experience.  This changed the single match day experience to an entire day out for families and supporters within the Madejski Stadium.

Further to creating a more encompassing day for fans, it has also proved to be an innovative way to allow international, national and local brands to get involved with one of the biggest team names in British sport at a fraction of the fees commonly associated with sports sponsorship.  In doing so, the club has been able to create additional value for fans through this new sponsorship revenue stream supporting activity on those specific game days.

Experiential Brand Activations

In 2011 both events integrated a number of brand partnerships for these two games.  From the EA Sports Hub providing visitors with the chance to experience the latest EA Sports video games in a pop-up gaming station, to McCain Foods’ inflatable Track and Field Road Show giving younger fans a chance to be mentored by professional athletes at a range of disciplines from running and jumping to strength and reaction testing.

Benefits for brands included:

  • Being able to physically connect with the London Irish audience of young families
  • Communicating the brand messaging through the integrated marketing campaigns including game programmes, print, online, and social media
  • A platform to promote positive messages of sport and health
  • Brand exposure for local businesses to reach the community through one of the biggest experiential marketing, advertising and hospitality platforms in the area

2012 and Beyond

By offering the opportunity for sports association at single games, the St. Patrick’s and End of Season parties are attracting growing numbers of partners each year and in turn presenting increased diversity in the event content offered. This is inevitably broadening the team’s fan base; providing a sustainable and growing sponsorship platform, whilst simultaneously building upon the traditions of heritage UK rugby club. With St. Patrick’s Day 2012 seeing Aviva Premiership winners Leicester Tigers come to the Madejski stadium, followed by Gloucester for the final game of the season, London Irish’s two key events of the year are set to be the biggest yet and will no doubt provide the parties to match.

Why Sponsorship Continues to Prevail 24th October, 2011

With sponsorship budgets continuing to increase year upon year, what advantages does this innovative marketing medium have over those more traditional elements of the advertising mix?

Engaging the Consumer

With marketing mediums such as advertising and sales promotions becoming ever more saturated, companies need to be extremely creative in their efforts to gain brand exposure – especially in terms of activations and partnerships.

Especially with today’s average consumer receiving more information on the products and services available to them at a much higher frequency than ever before, traditional marketing methods are becoming significantly less effective as the general public require something more innovative and engaging in order to provide a focal point within today’s plethora of commercial activity.


Sponsorship is invaluable within the marketing mix as it touches on all the consumer interaction with a property and brand. It can include and is typically a combination of brand advertising, sales promotions, email marketing, experiential, sampling, and social media. A truly engaging sponsorship campaign provides cut-through because it has built a relationship and a commitment to the audience. This relationship creates a primed and responsive avenue to deliver brand messaging, ensuring that the marketing does not fall on deaf ears.

Added Value

An additional reason behind the growing use of sponsorship is down to the value that a partner can bring to a property. Whereas simple branding and promotions result in only a financial benefit to the rights holder, sponsorship provides the opportunity for much more engagement with all parties involved. This can include enhancing the experience of the guest whilst giving the sponsor the opportunity to gain first-hand feedback on their products and services whilst achieving extensive exposure amongst their target audience.

As a result of the potential added value, rights holders are increasingly favouring corporate partnerships as an alternative to simple advertising, due to the added depth and quality delivered to the property whilst also increasing the number of channels for promotion.

The Figures

Emphasising the shift from conventional branding to today’s heavily integrated campaigns, sponsorship is continuing to increase its share of the marketing budget. Despite 2009 being the first time in history that corporate partnership spending in North America saw a decrease from the previous year, 2010 saw sponsorship sales back in full swing with expenditures growing by a healthy 3.9 per cent in 2010, with 2011 forecast to see an impressive growth of a further 5.9 per cent, seeing a total of $18.2 billion spent by the end of the year.

Global sponsorship spending, on the other hand, has well and truly weathered the economic storm, with 2011 set to witness similar growth as seen in 2010 of around 5.2 per cent, bringing worldwide spending to $48.7 billion as reported in IEG’s annual year-end review and forecast.

In comparison, advertising in 2010 is only forecast to increase by 3.9 per cent where as sales promotions have by far taken the biggest hit, forecast to show no signs of growth in 2011 and having shrunk by 3.3 per cent in 2010.

The Future of Sponsorship

Over time, sponsorship as a marketing medium has established itself as a key part of the modern advertising mix, providing opportunities for both brands and rights holders that traditional forms of advertising cannot.

With the recent social media boom also taking sponsorship opportunities to a whole new level, the medium is now more powerful than ever. Integrating social media platforms presents a further development of integration with a fraction of the cost you would have with print – creating truly cost-effective marketing campaigns.

With an increasing number of companies owing a boom in brand awareness to engaging corporate partnerships, the growth in sponsorship is showing no sign of slowing down reflecting the increasing demand for innovation in today’s marketing environment.