UK Economy is Turning Corner, George Osborne says | What does that mean for sponsorship? 9th September, 2013

This morning George Osborne announced that the UK economy was turning a corner (full article here).  This is of course particularly relevant for our business and a question I often get asked at any and all business networking events I attend.  Being that Slingshot is a sponsorship sales agency, people often assume that we are best placed to identify whether the economy is picking up or not.  However, that isn’t actually the case.

If we were flogging socks, we may be in a better position to answer the question of whether the economy is picking up.  People often need to purchase socks, but if times are tough, they tend to darn the holes rather than make a new purchase.

Instead, Slingshot sells sponsorship and secures clients based on a need to fulfil a strong commercial and marketing objective.  In our case, sponsorship is often invested in and/or chosen (despite popular belief) because marketing budgets are tight, not because they have excess money to spend.  As such, sponsorship is often critically analysed and only chosen if it meets all objectives.

This is the case for the brand, but even more so for the rights holder.  In many cases, rights holders tend to invest in their offering and delivering that offering if they are in a critical financial situation.  On the brand side, marketing budgets are under more scrutiny than before.  If the sponsorship is the right platform for the brand, it inevitably needs to deliver a very strong business case for ROI.

We view our agency as people that find the right fit out of necessity for business – rather than floggers of something that is a luxury in marketing.

This case does not always ring true for all rights holders and brands who undertake sponsorship.  However, a good indication of doing sponsorship to create true partnerships can often be seen in the churn.  If the rights holder sponsor churn is high or the brand sponsorship decisions are frequent, then it is likely that a strong sponsorship strategy is not in place for either.

I am a firm believer that through difficult economic times businesses that rise to the challenge and adapt will be stronger moving forward.  I hope George Osborne is right and the economy will pick up allowing more brands and rights owners to invest into sponsorship.  However, I hope the lessons we’ve learnt over the past three years do not get thrown out with the darned socks.

Above the Line Marketing makes way for Social and Digital Wave 3rd May, 2013

For a long time brands have revolved their marketing campaigns around ‘Above the Line’ (ATL) strategies, which consisted of utilising all types of broadcasted mass media.

Although the reach of ATL marketing is undoubtedly wide-ranging and a great platform for unique concepts, the economic downturn and the rise of digital technology has forced companies to think more ‘Below the Line’ in regards to their goals for a profitable future.


One of the primary reasons why ATL campaigns have not had as drastic a growth in recent years is due to the extraordinary budgets that are required to ensure cut through. Citi Bank’s ‘Live Richly’ campaign is a campaign that spanned over 5 years and cost over $1 billion dollars. The campaign reached people through their inner desire to enjoy life and the concept was very catchy, but this is simply not a sustainable method of engagement for many SME’s in this economic climate. For many, splashing out on mass media campaigns is not feasible anymore due to a recession-scarred business community. There is simply too much risk involved considering that the ROI for marketing departments is under such scrutiny.

Less money, less problems

Companies are desperately attempting to reach consumers on a more personal and frequent basis, which is why they are choosing to engage with people on social media platforms as well as mobile proximity marketing. Television ads and mass media may seem all encompassing, but they lack the specific ability to personalise its audience relationship the same tailored way social media does.

With large scale campaigns of this size, further risk exists with the inability to quickly adapt to change in culture or need.  A perfect example of this is the launch of Diet Pepsi’s ‘tall, skinny can’ in 2011, which scheduled its debut around their sponsorship of New York Fashion Week long before the actual date. However Pepsi were unable to adapt their pricey campaign to the ongoing outrage regarding size zero models and its affect on young women. The campaign simply could not adapt quick enough, which highlights a great advantage of online media.

Future thoughts

For many brands ATL methods will always have a place in the marketing mix, but in this current climate, brands are getting more bang for their buck by turning to digital campaigns and social media engagement. ATL mass media campaigns are a luxury in this economic slump, but for companies who want to flex their creative muscle, they are still a viable option. However brands must prioritise sustainable business methods and realise that digital and mobile technology is the future, whether it be social media, viral Internet movements, product placements or guerrilla advertising. Brands that fail to adapt will be quickly left behind.