Is experiential the new sponsorship?

In today's cluttered media environment and with the slow death of the 30-second advert as we know it, sponsorship and events are gaining increasing popularity with brand marketers. Having recently attended sponsorship conferences in both London and Chicago, the message is loud and clear that brands are looking beyond traditional media to reach and engage their target markets.
Is experiential the new sponsorship? - EXPBut has this message truly reached SA yet?

While it might be an exaggeration to say the 30-second advert is dead, there is no question that brands need to go well beyond traditional adverts to reach and truly engage with (as opposed to interrupt!) their target market. And even though South Africans seem not to have heard this message, the rest of the world has already moved on and the era of experiential marketing is the next phase of sponsorship.

Using sponsorship as an integrated marketing platform is something that has been around for years. However, a select few brands have always 'gotten it' like Absa, MTN, Coca-Cola and Vodacom, while others still see it as a branding opportunity only.

Medium for integrating

But there is another vastly underutilised role that sponsorship can play in the marketing mix: as a medium for integrating the brand into an overall brand experience. It can be a very relevant contact point for targets that are not reached or engaged through a traditional ad buy, that is, a physical manifestation of the brand.

For example, this past weekend during the Absa Cup Final, Absa was able to tap into the emotions of millions of fans and create a unique experience that through its sponsorship only it could deliver.

Not only did it deliver a 'dream final' but it also made the dreams of various consumers come to life [rather than 'true'?] through various promotions that were held over the duration of the tournament - dreams that reached a finale on the pitch at the stadium before kick-off.

Experience of a lifetime

This in itself allowed these lucky consumers an experience of a lifetime, with the big winner on the day walking away with a dream prize consisting of a car, R50 000 and two tickets to the FIFA World Cup in Germany.

The sponsorship was able to communicate much more than what would have been achieved in a 30-second ad and importantly in an environment free of clutter - Absa owned the market for the duration of this game but on its terms as it chose to be part of the Absa Cup Final experience.

What is the moral of the story? Whenever possible, integrate, activate and create a unique experience to get the maximum ROI (or ROO) out of your sponsorship rands. Sponsorship as a platform can deliver a lot more than the traditional 30-second ad and experiential marketing can 'burn a memory path' that will never be forgotten.

13 Jun 2006 09:00


About the author

Justin Sampson is MD of Exp. Sponsorship, a division of Exp. Momentum (, part of the Exp. Africa group. Justin () has extensive knowledge of the sponsorship industry, having worked on several blue chip accounts and won a number of awards for his work.

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