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.


Football Clubs: getting the most out of gambling sponsorship 25th September, 2017

There has been a large increase in the amount of betting companies sponsoring football clubs in the top two tiers of English football. And for clubs looking to improve and maybe mount a challenge in their respective leagues, looking for bookies to sponsor your club may actually be step one into doing so. But beware, time is running out, as it is only a matter of time before regulatory bodies intervene.

Betting is now the latest industry to monopolise the sponsorship sector of the footballing world, with match and training kits being sponsored by many gambling companies across the world. However, for clubs and rights holders, your time is running out as authorities will soon put a stop to this, just like in 2003 the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act caused tobacco advertisement to be prohibited. 2005 saw the ‘Gambling Act’ passed, allowing domestic and offshore gambling companies to advertise on TV. In 2007, 4 out of the 44 clubs in premier league and championship had kit sponsors pertaining to gambling. Over the years, this figure has dramatically grown, and now out of the 44 clubs in the top two leagues, 22 clubs are sponsored by gambling companies.

The takeover of betting companies

If we take away the top 6 clubs, because they are separate entities from the rest of the top two tiers of English football, over half of the clubs are sponsored by betting companies. Betting companies in 2007 took up just under 10% of the market share or kit sponsors, but 10 years later, it is now at 50%, but what effect does this have on the future of football?

More competition in the Premier League

With the rise of gambling companies, clubs are now able to challenge the top six more than ever before. With an increase in sponsorship money, clubs can inject that money into new players and new infrastructure, giving them a better chance of winning. As a gambling company, sponsoring a club is a win-win. They not only gain more awareness, but if they are giving clubs more money, with the industry spending £47.3 million this causes the gap between the top six and the rest of the Premier League and Championship to shrink as clubs are able to afford more. The quality of players and facilities will improve which makes games much more even, thus containing much more upsets which is beneficial for gambling companies as there is now much more of a chance for favourites to lose.

What does this mean for betting companies, and how to make the most of it?

Football is the largest sport betted on in the world, and with the increase of gambling companies sponsoring football clubs, sports betting will become even more prevalent. With this being said, due to the ethical issues that come with gambling, such as addiction and the breaking up of families, it’s only a matter of time before there is some sort of regulation causing gambling companies to refrain from being the shirt sponsors of clubs in England. Just like with tobacco, gambling advertising in the premier league will become extinct. So in order to get the best out of gambling advertisement, gambling companies need to act now as opposed to in five or ten years’ time.


How eSports are Shaking up Sponsorships for Brands and Mainstream Sport Rights Holders 18th July, 2018

It’s time to cast aside any predispositions you may have about competitive gaming or the people involved in them: eSports are now very much a force to be reckoned with and are not going away any time soon.

The scale of eSports’ audience growth in recent years is simply quite staggering to get your head around. Right now, a brand could potentially be put in front of up to 320 million consumer eyeballs, should they take up the option of sponsorship within eSports.

Current estimations value this market at a whopping £1bn, with audiences set to double to over 600 million by 2020. Proof, if ever it were needed, that the elite professional gaming industry is beginning to take over the world at an ever-increasing rate!

How is this happening so rapidly?

As you perhaps can imagine, eSports tap into a more youthful demographic. It is these Millennials who are now coming of age and becoming ever more influential in this space; it’s estimated eSports’ core audience of approximately 145 million people is largely made of this demographic.

A prime example of this would be the League of Legends’ University eSports Masters, a hugely popular competition which pits teams representing universities and national leagues against their European rivals to compete for an overall title.

This technologically savvy demographic is increasingly relying on online entertainment, in turn helping to fuel eSports’ wild growth. As a result, eSports offer considerable instant value to brands looking for sponsorship opportunities, given its product is essentially available on tap 24/7 across the globe.

Case Study: Twitch in eSports vs live sport

Back in 2016, live video platform Twitch became the official streaming partner of eSports gaming events for immensely popular multiplayer games League of Legends, Call of Duty and Counter Strike. This agreement ensured Twitch are able to stream coverage of these tournaments to 100 million people instantaneously, completely free of charge.

To put this into perspective, more people in the United States watched watched the League of Legends Championship final than the NBA Finals, golf’s Masters Tournament or the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s fair to say eSports have made their mark – and are only going to get bigger.

What this means for mainstream rights holders – and what they can do about it

eSports are already selling out stadiums, commanding giant audiences online around the clock and attracting major brand sponsorships from the likes of Orange, Apple and Samsung. This means traditional mainstream sports rights holders are now faced with the challenge of deciding how to compete with eSports for global brands’ sponsorship budgets – or whether they should even take them on at all.

Indeed, some of these rights holders have already embraced this new industry by not viewing eSports as a competitor, but rather as another vehicle to grow their own brand. Paris Saint-Germain – one of Europe’s elite football clubs – decided in 2016 to create their own dedicated eSports team for League of Legends, for example. Although this team only ran for a year, it’s important to note this particular game is in no way linked to football; it simply helped the club to spread awareness and tap into an entirely new fanbase.

Key takeaway

Quite what are the correct strategies for mainstream sport rights holders to take on or co-opt this new market presence is yet to be seen. However, one thing is for certain: eSports are fast disrupting the landscape beyond recognition and they are here to stay.

They will not spell the end of mainstream sports sponsorship, but sensible commercial teams in this sphere will need to seriously review their proposition and strategy within the market – or risk being left behind altogether.


Long Live the King! Fast Food Brand Ambassadors Return Following Hiatus 7th September, 2015

Brand ambassadors have long been used by brands, however it is the return of a larger than life King that has drawn attention across the globe in recent months. Once over shadowed by the might of McDonalds’ Ronald McDonald character (named after former CEO and inventor of the wildly loved chicken nugget) the Burger King, King has returned!

Distinctive and instantly recognisable, standing at over 6 feet tall ‘The King’ has been sighted at various high profile events this summer including the 147th Belmont Stakes where he appeared with Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Bafferrt.

The King’s resurrection began at the start of the summer forming part of the entourage which escorted Floyd Mayweather to the ring during the ‘fight of the century’ against Manny Pacquiao in May this year.

Due to the furor of offenses and negative publicity following Floyd Mayweather in recent years, brands have been cautious to not align with the star; however reports have sited that Burger King purchased the rights for $1 million, becoming one of Mayweather’s first sponsors for some years (having topped the Sport Illustrated Fortune 50 athletes with $0 endorsement deals three times).

The mere sight of the brand ambassador in this setting created mass attention around Burger King. Social media interaction increased significantly creating over 1,343% growth interest for the brand. Yet not all interest was positive with many criticising Burger King for supporting the convicted domestic abuser across Twitter.

With Adweek reporting The King created over a weeks’ worth of publicity for Burger King simply by appearing in coverage of the ring walk with Floyd Mayweather perhaps this is the first in line for the fast food ambassadors – beware the return of The King, Ronald, and The Colonel.


How Sponsorship Impacts Sport Participation in the UK 11th August, 2015

After the 2008 Beijing Games and the backdrop of London 2012 there was a dramatic policy change by the new Conservative government. The Department for Culture, Media & Sport changed their focus from sport as a social intervention to that of a performance and excellence goal. Entitled ‘Game Plan’, a strategy for delivering the governments sport and physical activity objectives saw a policy named ‘Playing to Win’ introduced. This created a new era in British sport and looked to redefine it. Instead of creating success through mass participation of sport in the country, ‘Playing to Win’ looked to increase participation through success for top level elite athletes. Funding was redirected from lower level and grassroots sport to fewer but higher level athletes. The next superstars of British sport. This decrease in funding saw the reduction of sports being available to the average child.

Sport in a young person’s life is vital, it can enable a healthy lifestyle and plays a vital role in gaining social skills. Sports that have had a funding cut need to find resources from elsewhere in order to continue providing opportunities for young people. Sponsorship is not only crucial, but innovatively at the forefront of enabling grassroots sport to be made possible.

The Laureus Project, a foundation that looks to use sport to engage youth is a great example. In some of central London’s most violent areas they run The Midnight Basketball League. Held from 10pm – 6am, the aim is to use sport to reduce social issues such as conflict and crime. In order for the program to continue, Laureus use large corporate sponsors to fund coaches, venue hire and equipment. Mercedes-Benz and IWC Schaffhausen are the global partners and have both provided funding in excess of €60 million since the foundation began.

Another example can be seen with Street League, a football program that uses sport to engage youth in education, training and work. Youths from 16 – 24 attend the program which requires each individual to complete two hours in the classroom and two hours on the football field. The program has several partners such as Barclays, Capital One and Hyundai, helping support the interaction with over 1,000 young people each year.

Corporate sponsorship is demonstrating the substantial value and potential to the economy this platform can deliver, over and above traditional motivational aims. Nowhere is this more prominent than with grassroots sport. Due to the government’s policy change and grassroots funding cut, sponsorship is displaying a stark example of how it is bridging the gap where the government has left. If sponsorship wasn’t providing these resources and subsequent opportunities, young people would not take part in sport.


The Happy Gilmore Approach to Brand Ambassadorship 21st January, 2014

For every effective brand ambassador deal that adorns the pages of Marketing Week, much of the time I’m left thinking: ‘why is Rory Mcillroy talking to me about mortgages?’ or ’what is Pele doing in a fast-food sandwich chain eating a foot-long sub?’

The point being that I don’t believe that:

The result: a contrived set of dialogue that doesn’t add any weight to convincing me to bank with Santander or to buy a Subway sandwich.

For me, the best endorsement deals are natural ones, a.k.a. the Happy Gilmore approach (as shall become apparent later). When you believe that the athlete or artist in question feels passionately about the brand they’re promoting, it illustrates the quality of the product to the consumer and makes them feel the desired way towards it. For example, if Gordon Brown bored me to death about the validity of Royal Bank of Scotland’s fixed-rate mortgage rates vs their tracker ones, or James Corden waxed lyrical about how he eats a six-inch Meatball Marinara sub ‘as a snack’ I’d be more inclined to believe them and thus, trust and feel positively toward the service or product that they were promoting.

In order to showcase what I mean by a natural brand ambassador, I’ve compiled five of my favourite brand ambassador deals – all of which came about due to the ambassador’s existing passion for a product, before the sponsor and their cheque books came knocking.

  • 1. Mo Farah and Quorn

Tasked with changing the perception of Quorn from a ‘veggie’ food to a nutritional alternative to meat, the company needed a brand ambassador that was strong and athletic but was also a genuine eater of Quorn. Once the company’s researchers found that Mo Farah had used Quorn as part of the training regime that saw him win two gold medals at the London Olympics – they jumped at the opportunity.  Quorn invested significant funds into the campaign to highlight how effective Quorn can be as part of the average (and the not so average) person’s diet. The partnership worked so well that they plan to use Mo in a series of television adverts throughout 2014. The first release, which came out on New Year’s Day, is a fantastic showcase of how Mo uses Quorn in his diet to beat the rest of the field.

 

  • 2. George Foreman and the George Foreman Grill

Contrary to public belief, George Foreman did not actually invent the ‘lean, mean, fat grilling machine.’ Rather, he was approached in the earliest stages of design and was partly responsible for the machine’s thirty degree tilt – a technique his wife used to reduce the amount of fat consumed during the family’s weekly burger nights. Foreman was also infamous for eating two reduced-fat hamburgers before each fight, including his comeback in 1994, aged 45, in which he retained the World Heavy-weight World Championship, making him the ideal ambassador to promote the machine’s ‘miraculous’ fat-reducing capabilities.

 

  • 3. Run DMC and Adidas

Hip-hop music arguably has a stronger links to fashion than any other musical genre, with numerous tracks named after artist’s favourite footwear, hat or sunglasses. Indeed, no partnership was more iconic than Adidas’ sponsorship of the Queens’ based trio: Run DMC. Initially borrowed from prison ‘fashion’, the group became famous for wearing Adidas sneakers without shoelaces. This was followed up with ‘My Adidas’ – the first single of their third album: Raising Hell. With the group firmly established as one of the best-selling hip hop groups of all time, Adidas partnered with Run DMC for $1.6million and made a long-term strategic allegiance both to Run-DMC and hip-hop throughout the 90s.

 

  • 4. Example and Nandos

Following a tongue in cheek video professing his love for the Portguese food chain’s peri-peri chicken, back in 2010, Nando’s created a special black loyalty card that gave Example the spicy chicken goodness whenever he feels like it. In order to repay what most inner-city dwellers would give their left ear for, Example performed four acoustic sets at carefully selected restaurants across London. Since 2010, Example has continued to tweet his stalker-like devotion for his favourite chicken eatery, acting as priceless, genuine promotion of the now universal restaurant chain.

 

  • 5. Happy Gilmore and Subway

Lastly, and arguably the most natural endorsement deal to date: the Happy Gilmore and Subway partnership. The eagerness in his voice, the knowing look of excitement in his eyes as to what awaits and his delicate grasp of his treasure, all show that there is no greater fan of Subway’s Turkey Club sandwich. In direct contrast to Pele’s rather awkward Subway deal, you believe that Happy Gilmore would stroll into a Subway on a Monday afternoon and demolish a foot-long Turkey sandwich… and that makes me want a Turkey Sub.


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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.