Slingshot: Brand Side. 19th December, 2018

Chances are – if you’re reading this – you’re aware of Slingshot and what we do. Or are you?

Our work with rights holders all over the world has been well documented, whether through our own channels or through numerous industry awards. We have worked as the exclusive sponsorship agency for many of the world’s most innovative platforms to identify and secure strategic brand partnerships. But what may be less known is our brand consultancy service: working also on the other side of sponsorship with global brands to highlight the most relevant partnership platforms in order to achieve the biggest cut-through, awareness and equity.

Our expertise, developed over many years working on the rights-holder side, has led us to understand exactly what brands are looking for when they are considering sponsorship opportunities. Thus, on the flipside we know precisely what assets are needed to be secured to achieve brand marketing objectives, regardless of industry or budget.

How can Slingshot help?

Dream Package:

 A crucial step which is often overlooked by brands is the creation of an asset list or dream package. By creating an essential asset list, brands can identify exactly what they require to achieve key objectives and generate a strong ROI. Too often we see brands being one dimensional when it comes to aligning with events and failing to make full use of the opportunity and their budget. A classic case being the purchasing of activation space without making use of the wider PR, marketing and social benefits that would help them cut through at a much higher level with their intended audience (sometimes these extra assets can be bargained within the original price!)

Negotiation:

Many agencies, when given a brief and a budget by a brand will look to spend the whole wad of cash, even if the package offered isn’t worth its price in the current market. With extensive knowledge of sponsorship valuation and sales: Slingshot can negotiate on the brands behalf to get the assets they require at the best possible value. Saving valuable sponsorship monies which can be used to leverage the partnership through activation instead.

Efficiency:

Our extensive network within the industry provides the perfect platform to take a brands’ vision for their sponsorship strategy to market. Building a network takes time and surprisingly, approaching a rights holder for sponsorship enquiries can actually be a lengthy process. However, by utilising an agency who already has an established name in the sponsorship field your brand can save exponential amounts of time, helping you to understand and evaluate the available opportunities more promptly.

Unique Events:

 Lastly, Slingshot is renowned for being at the forefront of the industry as one of the most innovative sponsorship agencies. Our position within the sponsorship industry means that we regularly work with niche, innovative and exciting events. Rather than pitch you the same old generic properties, we have access to platforms with specific demographics and highly engaged audiences which stand out from the crowd and can deliver a far better ROI at generally a far better price too. Some of our current clients include Extreme Tech Challenge, a start-up competition held on Necker Island with a B2B focus and a HNWI audience and London New Year’s Day Parade a mass consumer event with 650,000 attendees. Thus, we may already be working directly with a rights-holder which would deliver the cut-through needed for your next product release, re-brand or campaign push!

If you are looking for advice on any aspect of the sponsorship industry, we would be more than happy to offer our expertise, please email info@slingshotsponsorship.com or call 0207 145 0150 to get started.


The Strategy Behind Sport 10th August, 2016

Sports teams are built and developed – crafted over years of training, coaching, and trading.  Ironically the same strategic perspective is not invested off the pitch.  Although sport sponsorship is responsible for over 70% of the total industry, it still lacks the necessary expertise to execute a sustainable and robust rights holder commercial strategy.  With so much sponsor churn, the sport sponsorship industry reflects a transactional method of sales with the highest bidder taking ownership of sponsorship rights that are often not fully utilised, supporting marketing strategies that are often never realised.  Unfortunately, this hasn’t been an issue for most rights holders with sponsorship rights fees on the whole increasing.  Why fix something that isn’t broken?  Why undersell rights when you can oversell them?  And why, if money is all that you are after, not align yourself to a brand that has no relation or even tenuous link to the sport.

The answer is that now you have to.

It’s not only more imperative for sports sponsorship sales teams to start thinking more creatively about how a sponsorship activation will support an overall sponsor’s strategy, it’s also becoming crucial for fan engagement.  If sport supports brand messaging by harnessing people’s passions, then brands who aren’t contributing to the fan experience or advocacy fail to gain the cut-through they once had through logo badging.  Brands have needed to become more creative with how sponsorship is utilised; however, the sports rights still fail to recognise this shift in value.  Sports teams and organisers tend to complain about the lack of activation on behalf of a brand.  However, if the sponsorship rights package is skewed towards how many impressions they will get on broadcast then it’s impossible to deliver an activation that will resonate.

It starts with creating the right assets.

By strategically understanding the value in a sports sponsorship package beyond that of perimeter boards and logos on kits, rights holders will begin to build the foundation for a partnership that truly works for everyone – including the fans.  By offering the same sponsor benefits as everyone else, sports rights holders not only run the risk of relying on team performance to generate ROI for their sponsors, but also fail to differentiate from every other team.  The assumption that the way things have always been will work in today’s fragmented media landscape is naïve.  However, this ever shifting environment can create unique opportunities for rights holders to develop their assets and audience (social media) – making it a new playing field.

From a sport sponsorship sales perspective, the pace of change is extraordinary – and sponsor gains are being made everywhere.  Be a rights holder who recognises the brand requirement to be part of the experience by creating assets that brands can use.  Be relevant by understanding what assets drive your partnership opportunities – rather than where you can put a logo.


The Pitfall of Long Term Sponsorship Deals 27th July, 2016

English football team Chelsea and global sportswear brand Adidas outline the potential challenges that long termed partnerships can create. In early May this year, a mutual agreement was made to end the sponsorship deal that short-fell Adidas’ potential and failed to reflect the value of Chelsea FC.

The 10-year sponsorship deal ended after only four year on the basis that the partnership was not benefiting either party.  Chelsea felt the £300million deal did not reflect their success nor their value, whilst Adidas felt the deal was not in line with their new business strategy of maintaining a lesser number of sponsorships at an increased sponsorship sum for their sponsees.  Having recently made a £750million sponsorship deal with rival team Manchester United, Adidas left Chelsea FC feeling undervalued and believing they could achieve greater sponsorship than what had been offered to them 4 years ago. On the other end, with Chelsea’s shocking performance this past season, there was no incentive for Adidas to increase the amount of the sponsorship deal in a way that offered enough benefit and still aligned with their new strategy.

Whilst the partnership proved to be mutually beneficial for the initial years, in recent times with both parties growing and evolving it only proved to be a hindrance to their futures. With the sponsorship industry constantly growing and as a result its costs ballooning, Adidas prioritising their new strategy of a more focused portfolio.  Additionally, Chelsea’s acknowledgement that their partnership did not reflect their market worth today was vital in their growth with a new partner.

The sponsorship industry evolves at a rapid rate, shifting away from logo badging to strategic business deliverables. Simultaneously the sporting world, and more specifically the football industry remains somewhat volatile – with politics and the economy affecting players and transfers amplified by team performance (Leicester City).

Although signing a 10-year contract may seem beneficial, the pace of the industry and media landscape evolution creates more risk.  Long termed contracts in such changing conditions mean that partnerships can get to a stagnant point where neither party can maximise the initial benefits sought. The idea that an extensive contract will provide security is predominantly only viable when looking at the monetary side of sponsorship, but sponsorship is more than money.  This façade of security tends to be a contradictory ‘benefit’ – potentially being more risky than short term contracts that evolve as both partners evolve.


Sky & British Cycling – When It Pays To Put All Of Your Eggs In One Basket 29th July, 2015

Fresh from the saddle of my first Sky Ride and currently in awe of the (super) human feat by Chris Froome in the Tour de France, I thought this the perfect moment to celebrate the partnership between Sky & British Cycling and question what’s next for both properties.

Since its inception in 2008, Sky’s partnership with British Cycling has been embodied across multiple areas of the business from staff engagement cycling events to wider reaching Sky Rides and the global media machine which is Team Sky. Sky’s involvement was initially seen as a revelation in the industry, only to be further magnified by the venture into Team Sky, with mass plaudits following shortly behind.

Hitting the targets of the partnership over a year ahead of schedule, Sky delivered over a million more regular cyclists across the UK and a British winner of the Tour de France. Now Sky is seen as an industry leader in cycling across all levels from the elite to mass participation with cycling becoming the epicentre of Sky’s engagement both internally and externally.

The announcement earlier this year that Sky will end the partnership with British Cycling in 2016 created a shock throughout the media. With such success and over delivery on the partnership, many have expressed an uncertainty about what will follow. Despite the decision to part been reached “amicably” as British Cycling’s chief executive Ian Drake advised, the challenge for British Cycling will be to find a partner that offers the same level of support as Sky for the long term.

The question which forms much speculation is what the focus of Sky’s next partnership will be. After all, people generally advise not to put all of your eggs in one basket – following Sky’s success with British Cycling, only time will tell if they choose to do so again.


Identifying Potential in the Barclays Premier League’s Transfer Window 26th November, 2014

It’s not even December and the rumour mill is in full flow regarding the opening of the Barclays Premier League’s January transfer window. Already dominating football-related conversations in pubs and bars across the UK, can we take a leaf out of our American counterparts’ book and capitalise on this excitement?  

Football is right at the epicentre of British culture. With revenue reaching €3 billion last year in the UK alone, it comes as no surprise that brands have attached themselves to every perceived point of value, from stadium naming rights to TV ad spots.

The Potential

With speculation rising as to how teams are aiming to strengthen through the mid-season transfer window, it seems an apt time to discuss the potential of the transfer market as a whole. As of the launch of Sky Sports News HQ in August this year, ‘Deadline Day’ is gaining traction and fast becoming a staple in the diets of football fans across the UK. As we saw last autumn, the transfer window offers a unique opportunity for brands to both reach and engage with their core audience in the off-season.

Furthermore, transfer deadline day is impossible to miss on social media. This year, Radamel Falcao’s switch from Monaco to Manchester United sparked a surge on Twitter with his name being mentioned over 1.6 million times before the window had even closed. Above all else, this clearly demonstrates the active participation of viewers.

The market is growing too, in just the last decade, due to the influx of wealthy overseas owners, English clubs have increased their spending in the transfer market from a combined £265million to £835million.

One of the challenges that we face is that in its current form, transfer deadline day is actually pretty dull; moments of excitement are surrounded with hours of ‘dead time’ and speculation. Whilst advertisers are aware of the increased interest on news outlets on deadline day, as yet none have been bold enough to do more than pay a premium for advertising space.

It’s Not Impossible

The NFL – America’s most watched sport on TV, and one that is making real progress in terms of successfully opening a London-based franchise, has proved that the transfer market is an area that holds great potential for the sponsorship industry. Their incredibly strong commercial strategy has contributed to their increasing success in the UK, having sold out Wembley for the Dallas Cowboys vs Jacksonville Jaguars game earlier this month.

Bud Light signed on as the official beer of the NFL in 2011 and has since adopted the NFL draft (a once-a-year event in which NFL teams select eligible college football players to add to their rosters) as a core aspect of their strategy. According to Mike Sundet, senior director at Bud Light, “the NFL Draft has become an unofficial holiday for fans – something they begin looking forward to almost as soon as the previous season ends.”

This year Bud Light is offering 32 fans, one representing each NFL team, an opportunity to be directly involved in the second-round draft, aired live on primetime US TV. Bud Light not only provides a channel for fans to directly connect and interact with their favourite teams, but also engages with fans increasing both brand advocacy and awareness.

The Opportunity

If a brand were to take total ownership of transfer deadline day with a clear strategy on how best to exploit the vast interest from the fan-base, there are huge potential gains for both the brand and the English Football Leagues.

If cooperation from the Premier League Football Association and Sky Sports could be secured, the space would be a blank canvas for a brand to create something both memorable and incredibly effective. The only part of the equation missing is the brand that’s willing to think outside of the perceived limits of the existing area.


Bank of America restoring faith in Super Bowl mania 4th February, 2014

Ah, the Super Bowl – the time of the year that makes little to no difference to my life, apart from on Monday, whenAdweek provides us with the glory of the previous evening’s ad-off; with the added bonus of no touchdowns in between.

This year, we bore witness to a Clydesdale horse falling in love with a puppy and (to many people’s dismay) another showing of Bob Dylan selling a car.  Dylan sticking it to the man aside, the ad that struck me most was that of Bank of America.  The Bank used its prized slot as an opportunity to launch the company’s partnership withAIDS charity (RED).  The 60 second slot showcased U2 with the release of their first track in 5 years, ‘Invisible’  and directed fans to download the track for free off iTunes for 24 hours after the ad’s airing, with Bank of America donating $1 for every download (up to $2 million).

The showcasing of this partnership leads perfectly from the piece Patrick Nally wrote last week for #Synergy30.   Within the article, Nally makes the crucial argument that for the sponsorship industry to progress, it ‘needs to be directly involved in the debate and examination of the relationships between sports and the worlds of commerce, education, technology, governments and politics and society in general.’  For me, this 60 second ad did just that.  The Super Bowl had the world at their feet on Sunday (well, until the second half) and granted Bank of America, U2 and (RED) a platform not only to gain global exposure, but to raise awareness and funds for the charity.

What is emphasised through this partnership is the endless opportunity for corporates to use sponsorship/advertising at global sporting events as a platform for greater good.  Through the ad slot, over 3 million free downloads were purchased on iTunes – reaching the $2 million mark within hours, encouraging Bank of America to continue donating further into the night.  Such an overwhelming response to this partnership emphasises the influence corporates, global sporting events and even aging Irish rock stars can generate when given the right opportunity.  Of course, the Super Bowl is at the highest end of the spectrum, but what we need now is for more rights holders to offer platforms that can facilitate these partnerships, and for sponsors to recognise the undeniable value in them.


Korean Tourism Organisation Partner with GB Taekwondo for 2014 18th December, 2013

The Korean Tourism Organisation (KTO) has been announced as the ‘Preferred Destination Partner’ for the Olympic gold-medal winning, GB Taekwondo for 2014. The year-long partnership will see KTO run a number of initiatives throughout the next year, starting with a presence at the inaugural World Taekwondo Grand Prix at Manchester Central between 13-15th December. The event, which saw 250 of the world’s top athletes compete for valuable qualification points ahead of Rio 2016, was used by KTO to launch a unique sports package that will take holiday-makers to places of sporting interest across Korea, including the T1 Stadium (the world’s first taekwondo specific complex).

jade-jones-sarah-stevenson-lutalo-muhammad-and-the-rest-of-the-gb-taekwondo-team

Ramy Salameh, PR Manager of the Korea Tourism Organisation said: “As ‘preferred destination partner’ we open a new chapter to an already long-standing relationship with GB Taekwondo. Korea’s national sport has grown to new heights in the UK thanks to London 2012 successes. Korea will open a new Taekwondo Park in 2014, which has already attracted interest from sports tour operators and will enable sports fans to visit the ‘home of Taekwondo”.

As Preferred Destination Partners KTO will run a number of joint promotions with the Manchester-based team in 2014; including utilizing athlete appearances to promote the launch of the T1 Stadium in Korea, offering travel promotions to GB Taekwondo’s database and further integration across GB Taekwondo communications.

Steve Flynn, GB Taekwondo Operations Director, commented: “We’re delighted to announce the Korean Tourism Organisation as our ‘Preferred Destination Partner’ for 2014. They have been really supportive of us over the years so we’re looking forward to further promoting Korea and its new purpose-built Taekwondo Park as a tourist destination to an ever growing taekwondo audience in the UK”

The World Taekwondo Grand Prix took place at Manchester Central on December 13-15, 2013.


Connecting with the Youth- Successful Sponsorship Strategies to Young People 3rd December, 2013

Digital media proliferation has led to social media platforms becoming paramount to successful sponsorship strategies directed at the youth. Younger consumers also tend to be far more receptive to campaigns based around their passions, of which sport and music are the most universal.

Deloitte and Further Education

Sponsorship campaigns in Universities are becoming increasingly common, with the most well-known examples coming through sport. Deloitte’s collaboration with the British Universities and Colleges Sport body (BUCS) is particularly successful. The 5-year partnership deal focuses on a ‘Leadership Academy’ model which delivers events to BUCS members to experience and develop leadership and communication skills.

Through the partnership, Deloitte has first-hand access to thousands of graduates which enables them to maintain their position as one of the top graduate employers (#2 in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers 2013). It also gives Deloitte an opportunity to build a rapport with students, making them a leading choice for career-searching graduates.

Spotify and Bacardi on Tour

Consumers tend to be more receptive to campaigns that draw upon personal interests. ‘Spotify on Tour’ tapped into this by teaming up with Bacardi to bring music based experiences to fans across America. They created intimate gigs and festivals with renowned artists such as Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lemar with an emphasis on musical discovery for real music lovers.

The project was supported by a dedicated ‘Spotify on Tour’ which enabled sharing of tour dates, exclusive images and video content. The campaign resonated with the younger generation, which in turn helped Spotify increase its Facebook ‘likes’ to over 2.7 million.

Coca-Cola – Fusion of Music and Sport

Sporting events also represent golden opportunities to engage with young people. Coca-Cola directed its sponsorship of London 2012 towards the youth with the innovative ‘Move to the Beat’ campaign. ‘Move to the Beat’ celebrated British talent by combining the critically acclaimed architects Pernilla & Asif and award winning DJ Mark Ronson. It was based over four different platforms: the Coca-Cola song, documentary, Facebook app and the Coca-Cola Olympic Games pavilion, and had the overall objective of bringing ‘teens closer to the Olympic Games by fusing sport with their passion for music’. The campaign generated a vast amount of online activity including 245 million search impressions, an additional 1.5 million Facebook likes and 21,000 Twitter followers. In addition, Coke became the 2nd most talked about brand during the London Olympics.

Much of the success of these campaigns can be attributed to the use of highly  relevant content for young people and the right platform for the market. Given the significant changes to the way young people are now marketed to it will be fascinating to see how the sponsorship landscape continues to evolve and how brands adapt to this fertile marketing demographic.


Is Following your Passion Leading us Astray? 2nd December, 2013

I recently had the pleasure of guest lecturing for the amazing students at the University of Northampton.  I have been fortunate enough to have spoken at a number of Universities this year including Cambridge and Westminster and always find it invigorating – mostly because it was not too long ago that I was on the other side of the lectern.  However, this recent presentation included an opportunity to sit down with the students afterwards where I was able to ask them questions about their views on sponsorship.  When asked what their plans were after graduation, one student’s reply particularly peaked my interest – she wanted to work in football.  When I dug a bit further, I found she was so passionate about football that she would be happy with any role just as long as it was working in football.  Digging further still I queried whether she would take a similar role at a cricket club?  Her reply was unsurprisingly ‘no’.

Passion is what makes our industry different.  Our ability to tap into consumers’ passions – whether it is for sport, music, art, or even their own industry awards, enables us to derive value based on a connection to the audience.  It is what separates our marketing strategy from above-the-line campaigns.  It is what makes our industry unique.

However, I would argue that our biggest strength can also be our biggest weakness.  Far too often I meet Commercial Directors at sport clubs whose last role was on the pitch; Artist Liaisons and Media Managers for festivals that previously were lead singers of failed bands.  To make matters worse, there have been multiple occasions where we have lost pitches to other sponsorship agencies because we were ‘not passionate enough’ about sport or music – and in one bizarre case, yoga.  It seems that the criteria for being employed in sponsorship can sometimes be judged based on passion for the activity rather than the skill set required to do the job.

We have therefore hit the core part of the problem: the skill set is ill-defined and vague at best.  Sponsorship encompasses so many different types of roles in so many different industries that it is almost impossible to define who would excel or even who would enjoy the type of work.    In our agency alone, not one person entered the industry with the intent to become a sponsorship professional (I wanted to be a mathematician).  And even with the clients that we are working with, some of our most creative and successful work comes from industries/organisations I didn’t even know existed until a couple years ago; and therefore had never had the chance to become passionate about.

Though our industry is built out of passion; passions, unfortunately, do not create the pathway to success in sponsorship.  More needs to be done within the industry to define and communicate the attributes and skill sets of a successful career.  In addition, the industry needs to work closer with educators and course leaders to highlight opportunities that may be overlooked, in order to help realistically hone graduate passions into a career that they love.  This not to say however, that a passion for football won’t lead to success within football sponsorship – far from it.  Many incredibly successful sponsorship professionals have a strong passion for the industry they work in (whether it be sport, art, or music).   But it is experience in doing sponsorship – regardless of industry – that will prevail.  As Gladwell states in Outliers: The Story of Success ‘You need 10,000 hours of experience to become an expert’.

You better get started.