“Enter At Your Own Peril” : Sponsor Association With Controversial Brand Ambassadors 23rd September, 2013


“The role of a brand ambassador – the brand ambassador is a marketing model that employs trusted, credible personalities to promote and give greater visibility to its brand products

It seems, historically, that sport and scandal have gone hand-in-hand. Over the past five years there have been multiple athletes in the upper echelons of their respected fields that have been subject to a public fall from grace. For the sponsor, the usual protocol will be to run for the hills, and withdraw any association with the respected star. However, there are some exceptions, and brands do, in some cases, stick by or re-invest in their asset – but under what circumstance and why?

Level Of Association

If the player is either an integral part of the sponsors make up, or headline star, then it makes the job of getting rid of them, and keeping to your marketing strategy a lot harder. Woods, of course, has been embezzled with the swoosh his entire career, this can also be said of Wayne Rooney. However Ryan Giggs has not been so fortunate, despite being held up as headline moral ambassador for his maturity, the star ended up being shunned by a number of his sponsors for a comparable offense to that of Rooney or Woods.


The commercial revenue generated by any ambassador is integral to their credentials, and can play a significant role in the decision making process. In Woods and Rooney’s case, both EA games and Nike had complete product ranges centered on them, and commercially had too much to lose.

Sponsor’s market place

Accenture was Woods’s big loss in the aftermath of the scandal around his affair. The firm could not justify sporting a star whilst marketing themselves as a trusted Business Consultancy. Brands have ambassadors for a multitude of reasons, but they must be able to link their common values and business goals. In contrast, Alex Rodriguez, was still used by Guitar Hero in their adverts even after he admitted to taking banned substances. The business case for this was that Guitar Hero’s product was not affiliated with his sporting attributes, but his public personality.

The Offense

The line with which most brands have consistently taken when suspending contracts, has been when the ambassador’s actions directly affect the relationship they have with the respected brand’s promotional attributes. In the case of Drugs there has been a 100% termination rate in sport. However, in the case of Kate Moss and the fashion industry, the offence was taken very differently. Although she did lose substantial contracts, Moss managed to retain seven, and go on to re-build her career, something which has never been seen on such a scale in sport.

There is no doubt that trust in ambassadors has publically waned, as such, there has been a shift in how brands market their ambassadors. Recent campaigns by brands such as Nike illustrate that the focus is now upon empowering the consumer, rather than showboating the skills of an untouchable star. Even in fashion, couture designers are collaborating with high street fashion chains to bring their products to a consumer level. This shift undoubtedly showcases ambassadors but does much to bring the star or garment to the consumers level, retaining brand loyalty, which is essential in a very fickle market place.

It’s the end product that matters

As the quote above states, ambassadors uphold the values of the product they promote, and being the lucrative tool which they are, brands will do anything to protect them. However no one is bigger than the brand and on a case-by-case basis, the outcome of each offense is dictated by the relationship between the star and the value of the product they endorse.

Game, Set and Match: My Top 3 Wimbledon Sponsorship Campaigns 20th June, 2013

In a few weeks another chapter of the greatest tennis tournament in the world will be written. Wimbledon is not just one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world, but also a very unique platform for sponsors, or as The All England Club calls them – suppliers.

So what is it that makes Wimbledon so different? Watching the matches on television you will realise that unlike the Premier League for example, no sponsor hoardings and perimeter advertising within the grounds of Wimbledon itself are currently allowed. You may spot Rolex next to the clock, Slazenger on the tennis balls or Ralph Lauren outfits worn by the ball kids, but these logos are only allowed on the items and services that the brands supply Wimbledon with. Despite those restrictions, Wimbledon is still exceptionally attractive to brands. Sponsors can use the association with this traditional event across their own marketing mixes.  In light of this, I’ve put together my top 3 Wimbledon sponsorship campaigns:

1. IBM at London Heathrow (2010 and 2011)

In order to raise awareness of IBM’s sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships, IBM ran an innovative digital advertising campaign at one of the busiest international airports. Over 70 airport screens at London Heathrow were been programmed to select match updates and players most relevant to departing flights. “On average, passengers look at digital screens 99 times during their airport stay. The campaign supports IBM’s role in delivering real time player progress to Wimbledon fans at a time when they are unable to watch the match and want to keep in touch with the action”, stated JCDecaux’ Airport Marketing Director Steve Cox in an IBM press release. Thanks to the live updates IBM’s screens would have had a fair few more glances at the screens during the Wimbledon period. Check out the video summarizing this successful campaign.

2. Evian ball hunt (2012)

In 2012, Evian used its social media channels to engage with tennis fans offering them the chance to win VIP Wimbledon tickets. In their ‘Evian ball hunt’ campaign, which was supported by tennis star Maria Sharapova an Evian ball boy regularly revealed clues on the water suppliers Twitter and Facebook accounts. Followers chased him throughout London and once caught, the ball boy gave them a numbered Evian tennis ball. Each day one lucky number was chosen giving tennis fans the chance to be part of the action.

3.  Lavazza’s ‘We are the queue’ (2011)

Due to the aforementioned restrictions within the Wimbledon grounds, the famous Wimbledon queue, where people wait for up to 8 hours to get tickets, has become an increasingly important area for sponsors to showcase themselves. In 2011 Lavazza got it right. Through their ‘We are the queue’ campaign, the official coffee brand was not only serving coffee to patient tennis fans, but also made their queuing time worthwhile. Lavazza converted the area into a huge playground and relaxation bubble, where queuers could interact with games. A dedicated website and Facebook page as well as a smart phone application gave Lavazza the opportunity to engage with this key audience further. Check out the video footage of this amazing campaign here.

The Future of the Stadium Experience looks Dark, Sponsors must Act Now 17th May, 2013

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend The Innovation in Sport Business Summit, which was in conjunction with the Turkish Airlines Final Four in London. The first topic of discussion was ‘Innovation as a revenue driver in Sports’. Unsurprisingly the general consensus was that everything is moving towards digital, social and mobile; making fan accessibility easier and increasing online activity.

All the panellists rightly mentioned how the sofa experience has transformed with a number of different upgrades such as the use of the second screen and datatainment (the availability of in-depth stats and figures, which make pub debates that much more enthralling). However it became clear that with all these technological luxuries, the appeal of going to a stadium may be losing its gloss. Today’s consumers not only want things quicker but they want things catered around their lives, hence why Sky Plus and mobile media are so popular, they align with the schedule of the consumer and give them a great amount of control.

This is far from what can be said about the sporting experience in person- a game starts at a set time, tickets are expensive and hard to get hold of, weather and travel can be extremely frustrating and there are still a large amount of limitations on stadia facilities (alcohol, food prices, crowd control, Wi-Fi, seating). No one can argue that watching your team score a last minute winner in person can be replicated in any form at home or on your mini screen but in this era ticket holders still deserve much more from the total stadium environment- up to date facts and statistics, extensive match highlights and in-game food and beverage ordering to name a few.

Sponsorship agencies are desperately trying to shed the perception that sport is all about logo bashing and big ad banners, but sponsors themselves must contribute by exposing their brand to a wide range of different channels, starting with promoting a technology-led stadium experience, even if it means investing that little bit extra. If sponsors want to capitalise on their mass brand presence at stadiums, increase slipping ticket sales and build loyalty and engagement with all types of fans, enhancing technology in stadiums has to be a priority. Sponsors must treat their association to a team or competition as a mutual and progressive partnership in order to tackle these glaring hurdles, rather than simply pumping money into a team and letting them sort an issue that is actually imperative to a sponsors’ ROI.

There is no point of having marketing strategies like brand advocates, match day content and social media campaigns if they are only visible to fans at home. The purest form of fan engagement is the raw emotional roller coaster that occurs in stadiums and only a handful of sports teams have realised this (see Arsenal and Manchester City). Of course teams like Manchester City and the LA Lakers have the resources to build multi functional digital facilities but other sporting organisations without as much funding must begin to collaborate more strategically with sponsors to enhance stadia experience.

An inspiring example of how successful this can be is the New Jerseys Red Devils Mission Control, the first digital command centre launched by a pro sports team. Mission Control, launched in 2011, acts as the hub for internet and social media connection for both the team and the arena, allowing fans to utilize the space and monitor messaging. This innovative collaboration with Prudential (stadium partner) and The Red Devils revolutionised the fan-stadium platform.

The rewards for this dynamic and engaging project was not only higher ticket sales and two 2011 Bulldog Awards (including Socially Engaged Brand of the Year) but it also attracted global powerhouse T-Mobile to sign on in 2012 as official sponsor of the stadium’s digital hub. The New Jersey Red Devils are by no means an elite financial sports team but it shows that if sponsors work collaboratively with teams and utilise the innovation of technology, they can help drive fans into stadiums, rather than out of them.

The Increasing Importance of Sponsorship in Winning the Right to Host International Sporting Events 28th January, 2013

Last week Olympic bidding city Istanbul announced the signing of 7 leading Turkish companies as sponsors of their bid for the 2020 Olympic games, a $20m deal that organizers feel could swing momentum away from the favourite Tokyo. While to some extent this announcement was simply a show of financial strength and a dig at Japan’s stagnant economy, it raises a question that has been increasingly important in the bidding for the Olympic Games and World Cup in recent years;

How important has the ability to attract, and successfully handle sponsorship become in winning the right to hold these two major international sporting events?

Speaking at the recent announcement, Istanbul bid chairman Hasan Arut used the successful acquisition of sponsorship to push home their ability to host the Games;

‘The Olympic Movement should take great confidence that Turkey will be able to deliver a significant amount of high quality sponsors should we win the rights to host the games.’

This claim has been widely backed by public opinion, UK bookmakers signalling the change in momentum by the cutting odds on the Turkish capitals bid in half, making them a close second behind Tokyo.

Istanbul is by no means the first city to use sponsorship as an early show of strength in an Olympic bid. Our own London 2012 team publicly announced the support of 25 national sponsors to the tune of £6m back in May 2004, 8 years before the event and over a year before the final vote.

It is not only a bid’s ability to bring in national sponsorship that has become increasingly important in securing an event, but also the ability to provide the optimum platform for international sponsors within a host city/country.

The agreement of both Olympic and World Cup bids to provide the events sponsors tax waivers is needed for an organization to even enter the process. While in London this was actually declined by all sponsors within the Olympic Park due to the economic decline, it highlights the necessity for a bid to be willing to yield significant power to sponsors.

The importance of event holders working for official sponsors has most dramatically been shown in Brazil, where legislation banning alcohol consumption in football stadia was overturned last summer. The ban, put in place in 2003 to tackle domestic fan violence, was overturned in Brazilian Congress under FIFA’s request due to Budweiser’s positions as the exclusive alcohol brand of the World Cup. Commenting on the ‘Budweiser Bill’ FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke could not have been clearer on the importance of this sponsorship to the event and the need for the hosting country to acquiesce; ‘Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound arrogant, but that’s something we won’t negotiate’.

As each event passes the importance of sponsorship to both bidding cities/countries and governing bodies will only grow as the revenue provided by sponsorship becomes even more central in funding the creation of the vast infrastructure needed. As this happens, the ability to both attract national sponsorship and work well with the events official partners, will increasingly be at the heart of all successful bids for these major sporting events.

Has sport sponsorship finally come of age? 20th December, 2012

Sport is the best known platform for sponsorship, and sadly often the least inventive –money exchanged for logo awareness on kits, stadia and perimeter boards. However, the recent £150 million sponsorship deal between Emirates and Arsenal F.C. is a great example of a shift from traditional sponsorship to a relationship where shared resources drive mutual benefits – what all sponsorship should be aiming for. Is this creation of a genuine partnership a one-off or might we be seeing a wider move in this direction across sport?

Arsenal & Fly Emirates

Arsenal’s agreement to share its advanced CRM system with the Dubai based airline was integral to the sponsorship deal going ahead. Head of Communications at Emirates Boutros Boutros outlined the importance of this saying:

‘Data on customers is important to us… detailed data on customers allows us to work out where we spend our ad budgets and who we target as well as what markets we focus on.’

While Emirates did purchase kit and stadium rights the CRM data deal constructed a two way channel of exchange that benefits both parties. This new approach to sponsorship is by no means exclusive to Arsenal; other Premier League clubs have also moved towards this model .

Manchester City/EA Sports – Finding a fit

Since its takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group Manchester City has led the football world in creating meaningful partnerships through sponsorship – the creation of a Head of Partnerships role at the club in 2009 signalling this. Luis Vicente – the man holding this role – outlines the clubs belief:

‘(…)for us it is not about where you place the logo of your partner. It is not about the size of the financial commitment with us. It is about how we can find a fit.’

A great example of the club finding a fit is its partnership with EA sports, a relationship so integrated the gaming company employs two people solely to produce content for the club. The partnership has led to permanent gaming installations put inside the Etihad for fans, the team’s kit being launched virtually by EA and exclusive and in depth club content for City fans. In the last few days the club has extended this through the creation of branded corporate boxes and non-matchday events.

Formula 1

It is not just football within the world of sport that has moved in this way. The deal struck between Infiniti cars and the leading F1 team Red Bull Racing mentioned by Ben Fuchs is another example. As part of the deal Infiniti are assisting the F1 team in the development of its Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), along with the team using Infiniti’s Scratch Heal paint for aerodynamic purposes. In return Red Bull is helping Infiniti in the creation of a new High Performance road car to follow the Infiniti FX Sebastian Vettel. Chelsea FC’s unconventional partnership with the F1 team Sauber is another example. While output has been minimal so far the two are promising to embark on the next stage of their partnership very soon.


As the value of sponsorship deals continues to grow within sport the expectation from brands will only increase that sponsorship partnerships will become exactly that, partnerships. Luis Vicente highlights this as something that sport should embrace, saying:

‘Sponsorship in its traditional form is dead. You have to come up with something that is an embedded, engaging experience with your partners.’

This desire to create an engaging experience through a genuine partnership is a model that is becoming increasingly popular, suggesting sport as a platform for sponsorship is finally coming of age.

Brentford Football Club Appoints Slingshot Sponsorship as Exclusive Sponsorship Agency 23rd October, 2012

Brentford Football Club, home of the Bees, has appointed Slingshot Sponsorship as their exclusive sponsorship agency.

Slingshot Sponsorship’s initial objective will be focused on securing partners for the Club’s prime advertising sites and developing opportunities at the new stadium.  Slingshot will be working alongside the club not only to acquire new commercial partners but also to create more diverse partnerships for the club as a whole with the aim of enhancing the club’s appeal to a younger audience. The team will be moving to their new stadium at Lionel Road in 2016 and are looking to facilitate new brand relationships in the run up to the move.  The new stadium will provide a wealth of opportunities further enhancing the club’s appeal.

Mark Devlin, Chief Executive of Brentford Football Club commented:

The stadium roofs at Griffin Park offer a truly unique advertising or sponsorship opportunity, and we are delighted to appoint Slingshot as our Sponsorship agency. They have a very successful background in creating diverse sponsorship properties which can capitalise on the Brentford brand and our active fan base. Slingshot’s experience and creative skills are exactly what the Club is looking for at this exciting stage of its development.

The team’s ground at Griffin Park in London is directly under the Heathrow flight path and the stadium provides two of the biggest aerial advertising sites in the country which have seen branding in the past from the likes of Qatar Airways, Atari, KLM, EasyJet, Sabena and Ericsson.

Jackie Fast Managing Director of Slingshot Sponsorship commented:

We are thrilled to be working with Brentford Football Club. Slingshot’s partnership with the club is about so much more than sponsorship for the roof and we plan to work alongside the club to create new partnerships and increase Brentford’s appeal to a wider audience. We are delighted that our objectives run parallel to those of the club and are very excited to be part of Brentford FC’s journey into their new stadium and beyond.

Brentford FC’s next game at Griffin Park is Tuesday, October 23rd versus Coventry City.

The Olympic Legacy 17th September, 2012

Within the sponsorship arena there has been much discussion about how worthwhile short-term partnerships such as the Olympics are in terms of a return on investment for sponsors. As the excitement surrounding the Olympics and Paralympics begins to fade, attention has moved away from what sponsors are doing in terms of activation surrounding the games to how they will move forward and look to maintain the legacies of their Olympic involvement.

Olympic sponsors who have achieved their short term goals of an increase in revenue should now look to consider how they can maintain an Olympic association in the future. A continued involvement with the development of sport in the Olympic aftermath will show that these brands were not just involved with the Olympics solely to profit financially, but as a commitment to a longer journey.

Gillette’s ‘Great Start’ campaign is an example of Olympic sponsor Procter & Gamble’s determination to maintain Olympic association through a commitment to sport. Their ‘Great Start’ campaign aims to inspire the younger generation of Olympic athletes by encouraging young people to pursue careers in coaching. With six time gold medallist Chris Hoy as one of the brand ambassadors for the campaign they have partnered with ‘sports coach fund UK’ to fund coaching qualifications by awarding ‘Great Start’ grants. Existing and new coaches can apply via http://www.facebook.com/GilletteUK.

The improvements the Olympics have bought to less prosperous areas of London are an example in itself of how the games have had the capacity to change the lives not only of those competing but also of local communities. With continued involvement in sport and the community brands have the chance to play a vital role in maintaining the legacy of London 2012 through helping people to continue to enjoy and take part in sport. This in turn will maintain awareness of involvement with the iconic event whilst increasing brand loyalty on a long term scale.

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 Age of Digital Sponsorship 26th June, 2012

Media platforms are becoming increasingly fragmented and consumers are able now more than ever to control how they get their information and how they engage with brands. This has led to digital media becoming the driving force in the implementation of many of the most successful sponsorship campaigns. Digital media provides a means for brands to reach out to the widest possible audience whilst engaging with them across new levels not previously available.

IBM brings digital to Wimbledon

IBM through their partnership with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships have created an augmented reality phone application. The app acts as an onsite guide and interactive map for Wimbledon, allowing users to simply point their phone to navigate around the Wimbledon site as well as allowing users to stream live feeds. The IBM Seer Aggregator enables fans to receive Wimbledon tweets to their phones from sources including players, commentators and a team of IBM scouts. Fans can also keep up-to-date with live feeds and information about matches played on any court transforming how fans can keep up with the action as it happens and enriching their experience of Wimbledon.

Johnnie Walker invites fans to ‘Step Inside the Circuit’

Johnnie Walker joined forces with McLaren in 2005 and have since created the innovative ‘Step Inside the Circuit’ campaign via Facebook. The campaign invites consumers to go behind the scenes and follow the progress of Lewis and Jenson on the track as well as their lives away from it. The campaign includes an online video ‘Drive of a Lifetime’ on the company’s Facebook page. The video puts users in the shoes of the drivers taking them from pre-race activities to stepping into the car before the start of the race. The Facebook connect function then personalises the film using photos and details from the user’s Facebook account, together with text-to-speech technology and video input from the user’s webcam transporting fans into the glamorous world of F1.

Digital media has become the most successful means with which to make sponsorship campaigns more interactive and to create a deeper relationship with consumers. With so many innovative digital campaigns already paving the way within sponsorship, it is inevitable that campaigns will continue to become more exciting and interactive as brands strive to stand apart from their competitors.