Wayne Rooney in action at Old Trafford. Picture: REUTERS/CARL RECINE LIVEPIC
Wayne Rooney in action at Old Trafford. Picture: REUTERS/CARL RECINE LIVEPIC

The rapidly evolving world of broadcast and the way consumers engage with the medium is forcing marketers and advertisers to redefine how they talk to their audiences, and what they say.

One of the categories within this mix that has the potential to benefit most from this disruption is sponsorship. However, brand custodians appear to have been caught off guard – either they don’t know how to adapt, or they simply don’t want to. Whatever the reason, they’re missing the boat, says Ryan McFadyen, co-founder and strategic head of HaveYouHeard.

“Everyone knows that the days of simply slapping your logo onto a property and expecting consumers to fall in love with your brand and race off to buy whatever you are trying to sell them are gone. Today’s consumer expects more. But where is the reaction, the response, the new thinking around the paradigm shift?” he asks.

“Put another way, where are our brand custodians’ wings when it comes to sponsorship?” McFadyen’s reference to wings is a play on Red Bull’s payoff line, “Red Bull gives you wings”, and it’s a nod to that brand’s unprecedented response to the disruption.

Ryan McFadyen. Picture: Supplied
Ryan McFadyen. Picture: Supplied

“Since its launch, Red Bull has tapped into the power of community [and has] created value within these communities by gaining insights into the culture of that community, then creating authentic reasons for this community to incorporate the brand into their lifestyles,” he said.

“It is the golden thread that runs through everything Red Bull does, starting with the events it creates and owns – think Culture Clash, Red Bull Cliff Diving, King of the Air – to the media it has created – think of the Red Bull Media House – to its oh-so-clever platform called the Red Bull High Performance Centre.

“Led by physiologist Andy Walshe, this uses the latest scientific techniques in sports and physically active pursuits to increase performance in motor racing, cycling, fencing, big-wave surfing and so on, and effectively links Red Bull to popular or fringe adrenaline activities without the brand shelling out shekels to the association that owns the franchise.”

He concedes that the list of brands as successful in the sponsorship space as Red Bull is a short one. “I’d suggest adidas globally, with its layers of sponsorship within its sporting cultures, as well as Heineken’s sponsorship of the Champions League. Locally, Old Mutual has stepped up its game with the launch of AMPD Studios in Newtown, one of the first activities identified in its revamped sponsorship strategy,” he says.

McFadyen says brand custodians struggling with moving forward with new sponsorship strategies should consider relevance as a starting point. “More and more clients say to us: ‘We don’t have a problem with awareness, but we do have a major problem with relevance.’ Relevance is the key … the answer to the question of why anyone would care about what you’re trying to tell them about you. It’s even more critical when all they want to do is consume their favourite sport or passion on whatever medium they are able to do so.”

To get to the nub of the matter, McFadyen suggests the following questions when considering a sponsoring platform:·

  • Does the sponsorship property align to my brand essence and am I able to communicate this in a meaningful way to my audience through a channel they consume?·
  • Who is the community I’m speaking to within this sponsorship property and how relevant is my brand to them?·
  • How do I add meaningful value to this community and therein create an emotional connection?·
  • Am I able to authentically become a part of the culture of this community?·
  • Am I able to create a meaningful link to purchase through this sponsorship platform?·
  • Can I effectively measure the impact on sales that this sponsorship platform has?·
  • How does this opportunity allow me to take sponsorship beyond potential eyes on the logo, rights management and broadcast?

the big take-out

A sponsorship strategy needs to be relevant for the brand.