12.06.2017

Regional Sponsoring – Activation Is What Sponsorship Is All About

Sponsorship can effectively connect your brand with people's passions and engage your audience in ways other forms of marketing could never achieve. Fortune 500 companies and global brands often get it right, investing millions of dollars into sponsorships to create exciting marketing platforms that allow them to promote their brands consistently and effectively. Done right, a sponsorship will deliver a tangible benefit, usually of commercial significance. Unfortunately, sponsorships by local and regional companies often resemble a form of patronage rather than a 'reciprocal relationship' between the sponsor and the sponsored entity, which is what a sponsorship should always be about. An understanding of the acquired rights, a plan that integrates the sponsorship into the company's marketing mix, and an activation strategy are important elements needed for a successful sponsorship.

Stadtwerke Bad Nauheim's sponsorship of the Bad Nauheim Red Devils, a locally based second division hockey team, is an excellent example of a successful sponsorship at the regional level. The city's public utility company is in the process of transforming its corporate image and targeting different target groups in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Region with a forward-looking, modern service portfolio that includes e-mobility and fiber optic internet. The municipal energy supplier engaged ITMS at the start of 2017 to help it achieve its ambitious goals and to integrate the sponsorship of the prominent hockey team into its overall marketing. The results are telling. In addition to developing hip marketing material, brochures and advertising, the agency has been busy developing and implementing diverse activations for the newly formed partnership. By creating a layer of initiatives around the sponsorship, the agency has successfully connected the sponsor's products and services with the target audience's fiery enthusiasm for the team and the fast-paced game of hockey.

When it comes to sports marketing, ITMS really knows its game. The agency's clients benefit from 25-plus years of experience in building brands and relationships with sponsorships in sports such as golf, baseball, tennis, football, hockey and figure skating. Among the recent successes - ITMS managed a successful campaign during the 2014 FIFA World Cup featuring major soccer stars Andrea Pirlo, Jakub Błaszczykowski, and Philipp Lahm for a leading European manufacturers of high-quality windows. The internationally active agency not only specializes in developing strong brand positioning strategies but also provides clients with a full spectrum of marketing services in advertising, public relations, sponsoring and events.

Hockey is a very fast-moving and dynamic team sport. Fans can have a hard time following the hard rubber puck flying at high-speeds across the slippery ice which makes it particularly challenging for marketers to draw the audience's attention to the brands on the stadium signage. Stadtwerke's branding rights to the center ice face-off circle were creatively used by the agency's designers to place the company's logo in a circular form by pushing the limits of the brand's style guidelines. The result is impressive and gives fans a great view of the brand from every corner of the arena. The newly installed oversized LED screen and free fan Wi-Fi throughout the arena, branded and sponsored by Stadtwerke Bad Nauheim, are further facets that keep the sponsor's brand top-of-mind during home games.

ITMS created diverse video spots to promote the sponsorship that continually play on the stadium's LED screen during game breaks, in the VIP area, and across diverse social media channels. The short clips titled "high-speed sport meets high-speed internet" successfully position the company's modern services with fans. A special branded mobile landing page for Wi-Fi users was developed to welcome fans to the free internet service during home games. The multifaceted activations and a plethora of views of Stadtweke's clips on social media are testaments to a highly successful sponsorship. The spot also serves as a commercial bumper on YouTube and Facebook shown whenever the club posts scores, game highlights and news to its many followers.

The agency created an effective, well-rounded campaign for Stadtwerke Bad Nauheim by integrating the sponsorship in the company's strategic marketing and new positioning. The energy supplier's high-speed campaign and hockey link, the world's fastest team sport, perfectly convey the phenomenal speed of the new glass fiber internet service, and positions the formerly antiquated city company as high-tech and trendy, and at the same time as sporty and fun. Beyond the sponsorship, visual advertising and diverse marketing collateral designed by the agency's creatives, vividly highlight the company's new brand positioning and identity. Sponsorship offers the possibility of achieving several goals at once. Sponsoring teams and events that appeal to their market are likely to shape buying attitudes and help generate a positive reaction.

Sponsorship can also be geared to drive sales and can be an extremely potent promotional tool. And just the mere act of sponsoring an event, especially an exclusive sponsorship, is a significant way to create competitor differentiation. Every sponsor can profit from the wide media exposure in both electronic and print media. Positive publicity helps create heightened visibility of the sponsor's products and services. Another powerful sponsorship objective allows companies to be viewed as being a "good neighbor."

So what steps should a regional company consider to maximize its sponsorship? Inexperience can often lead to wanting to do too much and result in overreaching in terms of what is needed in order to guarantee success of your sponsorship. This may lead to, among other things, inconsistent messaging or overloading advertising placements, such as those seen on the playing field. During a fast-moving sporting event, too much information on field signage can hinder an audience's ability to even recognize the brand let alone take in the ad's message. The shorter and clearer your message is, the greater its chances of success. The sponsorship on its own can never be enough - activation plays an instrumental part no matter what role the engagement plays in your overall marketing strategy. It is important to have a comprehensive media campaign to augment the regular media coverage generated by the event. Sponsorship can often generate media coverage for your brand that might otherwise not have been available.

As a rule, the sponsorship should always be in line with your company, brand, its positioning and values, and it must be credibly integrated into your overall marketing strategy. Without a powerful activation strategy, even the greatest cooperation cannot be fully effective.

Mario Hess