Kim Skildum-Reid heads up Power Sponsorship and is one of the world's top corporate sponsorship consultants, trainers, speakers, and authors, with 22 years experience across the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Australasia.
Kim will be presenting a keynote speech on Last Generation Sponsorship at the African Experiential Marketing Summit on 3 September 2008, in Johannesburg. Marketing Mix managed to catch up with her for an interview.
Marketing Mix: Why is sponsorship so important in the marketing mix?
Kim Skildum-Reid: While other media are essentially one-way communications, best practice has gone beyond that, and beyond two-way communications, to become a true collaboration with and reflection of the sponsor's target market. It has a degree of relevance and resonance that no other marketing media has or could have.
The reasoning is that a best practice sponsor understands, honours, and respects their target markets' event experience and seeks to add value to that experience in a range of ways, thus becoming a valued and appreciated part of an experience that target market cares about. Contrasting that with traditional sponsorship, which is largely based on wallpapering logos all over the events and organisation these target markets have decided they care about, and disrespecting that experience with intrusive promotions and branding - electronic signage right next to the pitch, anyone? - and the value of best practice sponsorship becomes crystal clear.
MMX: How do you 'measure' ROI on sponsorships?
KSR: The short answer is, ‘you don't'. Of course, that doesn't mean you don't measure the results; it simply means that the results will never be accurately measured using some kind of arbitrary dollar-value ratio.
The operative term for best practice sponsors is ROO - or Return-on-Objectives. This approach leaves behind the old-school approach of logo counting, media equivalencies, impressions, ‘good corporate citizenship', and my personal favourite, ‘the halo effect' and all of the hot air that goes into putting some kind of dollar value on these areas, and focuses on measuring strictly against objectives.
Seriously, what does it matter if a million people saw your logo if not one of them changes their perception or behaviour around you brand? It doesn't. Not at all. Best practice is all about measuring changes in perceptions and behaviours. This is accomplished using two strategies:
Using your internal experts - Your sales department has a myriad of ways to measure sales, incremental sales, reorders, promotional support at retail, merchandising, promotional participation, coupon redemptions, and many dozens more objective-driven, benchmarked indicators. So do your PR, HR, loyalty marketing, electronic marketing, media, and other departments. Let the experts set the objectives and let them measure. You will get figures that will stand up to scrutiny against your company's accepted benchmarks.
Research existing questions - Invest in some good research, but don't invent questions. Use a selection of the same question that you are asking in your ongoing or most recent target market research, and then ask those questions of people with varying degrees of involvement with the event and your leverage program (eg event attendees, watch it on television, fans of the team, promotional participants, people who signed up for your event-driven web content, etc). The results will give you apples-to-apples comparisons against perception indicators your company has already decided are important.
MMX: How should a marketer go about initiating and maintaining a sponsorship?
KSR: The most important thing, going in, is to know exactly what you plan to do with it - how you are going to leverage it to achieve your objectives - and have the buy-in to make that happen.
If you sort that out before negotiation, you will negotiate for more strategic benefits and will fly out of the starting gate with your leverage programs. Plus, it is much easier to manage a sponsorship and keep internal stakeholders committed to leverage when you have buy-in before the commitment.
MMX: How can you make a sponsorship work with regards to integrating it with traditional and non-traditional media, or should it be standalone?
KSR: Buying sponsorship and not integrating it across all, or at least some, of your other marketing activities is like buying a ladder and never using it. Sponsorship is an opportunity. Leverage creates the results, and leverage starts with integration.
The only benefit a sponsor will get if they don't integrate it across other marketing activities is a big fat ego trip.
MMX: How do you make a sponsorship really work for your brand - are there key elements that must exist for example?
KSR: It's all about leverage, baby!
When a sponsor invests in a sponsorship, they are investing in opportunity. Leverage is what a sponsor does with the sponsorship, and that is what provides the results. There are no hard-and-fast rules for what a leverage program should look like, but there certainly is a new order of priorities.
First priority: Target market needs
If you ignore, or worse yet, disrespect, a target market's needs, the sponsorship will not work for your brand. Your first priority is to understand those needs, wants, and challenges and then devise ways that you can help the target market to get what they want. If getting tickets is going to be nearly impossible, can you get early ticketing for your customers? If the ground is hard at the event, can you loan people cushions to sit on? This isn't rocket science, yet sponsors rarely get it right.
Second priority: Internal buy-in
You can't integrate sponsorship across other marketing activities unless you get buy-in and active involvement from a range of internal decision-makers. If you don't have buy-in, your sponsorship will be much less effective and cost a lot more to leverage.
Third priority: Brand needs
Brand needs aren't third because they're unimportant. They're third because you won't get your target markets to change their perceptions and behaviours (in other words, to do what your marketing is trying to make them do) unless you meet their needs first. And you won't be effective at leverage unless you get buy in.
Brand needs are important, you just have two critical hurdles to get over before you will be able to address them.
MMX: With respect to the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup and the fact that ambush marketing (should be) clamped down on, is there any advice?
KSR: No ‘shoulds'. It is impossible to ‘clamp down' on ambush marketing. You can clamp down on people using IP illegally and you can inconvenience people who inadvertently wear a t-shirt with a non-sponsor logo on it to a game, but that's not ambush marketing.
Ambush marketing is legal and there are no laws that can be passed to stop a committed strategic ambusher from gaining a marketing advantage and hurting a sponsor.
Strategic ambush is not about pretending you're a sponsor. Frankly, consumers don't really care who is and isn't the sponsor. What they care about is who is making the event experience better, easier, or more enjoyable for them. Who understands and respects their event experience. If an ambusher does a better job at adding value to the event experience - understanding that the event experience doesn't just happen when you're sitting in a stadium - they will be successful.
That said, ambush marketing is easy to control, but the World Cup and laws aren't going to do it. The only ones who can stop ambushers are the sponsors themselves. If they ensure that their programs are fully leveraged and that those leverage programs have been developed in such a way that real, meaningful benefits flow to the target markets and that their event experience is valued and respected.
Sponsors who expect laws and events to protect them from ambush marketing need education and they need to raise their game. If they aren't interested in that, they're lazy and deserve to be ambushed.
The 2008 African Experiential Marketing Summit - 3rd September 2008 - will take delegates on a sensorial journey, exploring food, technology and innovation in an entertaining and engaging way that is bound to keep delegates entertained as they see how experiential marketing can be used to truly build connections with their customers. As John Keats once said, "Nothing ever become real until it is experienced.”
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