’For every pounds 1 spent on a sponsorship, pounds 2 should be
spent on exploiting it,’ insists Ardi Kolah, director of Maverick. The
author of a new report entitled Maximising the Value of Sports
Sponsorship and director of the sponsorship marketing outfit Maverick,
Kolah speaks with some experience.
Earmarking twice the amount of cash spent on an actual sponsorship deal
for marketing may seem excessive - especially if you have already
coughed up millions. Isn’t it enough to see your company name flash
across the nation’s TV screens while they’re watching Wimbledon?
No, says Kolah, and for several reasons. The predicted increase in
future sponsorships (1998’s pounds 350 million spend on sports
sponsorship alone is expected to reach pounds 500 million by 2002) will
mean a tougher time getting your sponsorship noticed. Rights fees will
rise and digital TV will fracture target audiences.
The trick, according to Kolah, is not to see sponsorship as a
stand-alone discipline to get publicity, but to use it as a strategic
business tool through which you can attract new business, schmooze
clients and strengthen relations with employees.
’A lot of companies don’t think about how they will communicate the fact
that they are the sponsor,’ says Kolah. ’It’s very important to do, not
just for the external audience, but internally, as your staff are
ambassadors for the brand. If you don’t invest in communication, you
won’t get a true return on your sponsorship investment.’
If you reach all these objectives, pounds 2 for every pounds 1 spent is
money well invested. A good example is Anderson Consulting, which
sponsors the Formula One Williams team. The company runs a Fantasy
Formula One league for staff, takes clients and contacts to the Grand
Prix and uses the Williams team’s Oxfordshire venue for conferences. ’If
used creatively, sponsorship can deliver an image that the organisation
could not achieve by other means,’ explains Kolah. ’It’s not just about
Karen Earl Consultancy has 15 years of marrying sponsorship partners and
dreaming up PR campaigns to support the deal. Clients include Coca-Cola,
for whom the agency handles UK football sponsorship, and the Whitbread
Book Awards. Managing director Karen Earl has seen sponsors change their
attitude towards PR.
’Ten years ago, clients got into sponsorship for the TV coverage,’
remembers Earl, the first Hollis Sponsorship Personality of the
’PR was seen as an added bonus, but over the last five years it’s become
much more of an important objective,’ she adds. ’We started being given
targets in terms of PR objectives to be achieved.’
According to Earl, this change of heart has been prompted by the vast
number of companies sponsoring events. It is simply not good enough to
sign the deal and sit back. The public is so used to sponsorship that
its marketing impact has lessened.
The proliferation of the media means there are opportunities for stories
to be placed about sponsors which were not there ten years ago.
When Silk Cut sponsored the only UK entry to the 1997/98 Whitbread Round
the World Race, Karen Earl played the patriotic card in getting coverage
for the ’good old Brits’ in the nationals. But she was able to get more
coverage for her client by targeting other stories at the men’s media,
talking about life on the boat and the attitudes of the crew towards
beer and women, for example.
Another campaign took Coca Cola’s association with the France ’98 World
Cup a step further when the agency teamed Coca Cola up with Asda and ran
a programme whereby families shopping at the supermarket could have
their photograph taken clutching the trophy itself. ’Football fans don’t
really care who sponsors what unless it is their team. You have to have
some kind of creative twist to avoid the ’so what?’ reaction,’ says
The media have been known to refuse to include branding or even use
computerised technology to remove logos from photographs. But one way to
guarantee a mention is to sponsor events themselves, such as the Flora
Flora has been sponsoring the London Marathon since 1996. It costs about
pounds 1 million to sponsor the event each year, but since the
sponsorship began, some pounds 10.5 million has been spent on extra
With around 30,000 runners competing in the marathon this year, ranging
from top athletes to the general public, there is a lot of scope for
human interest stories.
Flora corporate PR manager Helen Park says the in-house team works
closely with PR team Beer Davies and the London Marathon office. ’As
it’s a people-oriented event, we generate publicity by using real
people’s stories,’ she says. ’This year we had a couple who asked if
they could get married during the race.’ The story generated plenty of
coverage outside the sports pages and bulletins.
The event is also well matched with the Flora brand, which aims to
promote a good diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Similarly, Cohn and Wolfe worked with Colgate-Palmolive to create a
campaign linking its female-only deodorant brand Soft and Gentle with
pop singer Louise, who was seen to embody the brand’s values of being
’modern, fun, outgoing and accessible’.
Louise’s first tour was renamed the Soft and Gentle ’No Sweat’ Tour.
Cohn and Wolfe then embarked on a media relations and promotional drive,
linking up with Sugar magazine and Capital Radio. The sponsorship
achieved 92 items of coverage, one in five of which said: ’Soft and
Gentle is Britain’s number one female anti-perspirant deodorant.’ Market
share increased from 9.1 per cent to 14.4 per cent.
But not all sponsorships are designed to achieve such media
Agfa sponsored a new Scout’s badge called the IT badge to get 10,000
Scouts and their parents involved with its products. An article about
the sponsorship ran in the Express.
’It’s a modest sponsorship,’ says Harvard associate director Fraser
’But it gives something to the community and builds relations.’
One sponsorship undertaken by Academy Partnership Marketing (APM)
tackled three PR objectives in one go. The IT systems company EDS works
for the British Government, Army and Navy but was still perceived as
being ’American, big and impersonal.’
Apart from solving this problem, EDS also wanted APM to demonstrate its
expertise to the IT industry and recruit executives. To show its
personal side, it wanted to include its employees somehow. Research had
shown that running was a favourite hobby among staff.
The obvious answer to all three objectives was the Flora London
EDS was signed up as an IT partner working with the BBC and a company
called Champion Chip to improve the accuracy of the system used to
calculate runner’s winning times.
’Clients are more PR-educated than rights-educated nowadays, but they
don’t always know how to achieve their PR goals,’ says APM director
Once you are happy ith a sponsorship partner, it is wise to review the
relationship at least once a year to check you are still compatible. But
give it a chance: the industry consensus is to devote three years to a
partnership - one to build the association, and the next two to
strengthen it in the minds of the target audience.
But without adequate PR, there is a danger that a company will become
better known for its sponsorship than the business itself, which doesn’t
make sense when so much time and money is invested.
ARTY WORK: DENTON HALL TAKES A MODERN APPROACH
A classical music concert would be a typical sponsorship choice for many
professional services companies, but international law firm Denton Hall
wanted something more contemporary.
It sought the advice of sponsorship specialist Crowcroft and Partners
and together they decided on an association with art. Old masters were
ruled out as Denton Hall was keen not to appear ’stuffy’. Eventually, it
chose to sponsor Terence Donovan’s photography show The Eye That Never
The venue - the Museum of London - is ideal for business people, being
situated in the City. Denton Hall’s name is featured on billboard
advertising in the surrounding area and publicity material.
The main thrust of the campaign is relationship building, rather than
column inches. Until the exhibition ends in August, the company is using
the sponsorship to hold 25 private view events for graduate recruits,
the business and legal media, employees and existing and potential
’It would be very easy to spend money on conventional advertising and
marketing but when you don’t have millions for marketing, you have to
create different ways of talking to people,’ explains agency managing
director Chris Crowcroft.
’Denton Hall is strong in the energy, media and intellectual property
sectors and lawyers in these areas market themselves, but there is
rarely a company-wide statement. With sponsorship, it can push the
corporate message and bring its audiences together.’
Crowcroft and Partners tried to get coverage for the sponsorship by
supplying Donovan’s photographs and pictures of key industry players at
the exhibition to the legal trade press and business pages of the
Pieces appeared in the trade press, Financial Times and Independent on
Sunday. A lot was written on the exhibition in the arts pages and even
though Denton Hall’s name was not always mentioned, Crowcroft feels the
coverage was still valuable in terms of status, as the law firm was
associated with a ’must-see’ event. ’If clients see something on the TV
or in the press about the exhibition, they can say ’I was there last
night’,’ he says.
ALTERNATIVE KNOWLEDGE: THE FT MOUNTS A BUDGET DAY COUP
The Financial Times sponsors a fleet of 40 liveried cabs. The taxis,
which are covered in the FT’s trademark pink newsprint, are good
publicity in themselves, but when their drivers were recruited to
discuss the FT’s Budget coverage with punters, the perfect ’And finally
...’ story was born.
The newspaper had two aims: to promote its 32-page Budget supplement
which was published the day after Budget day (10 March) and highlight
the FT’s depth of coverage and expertise on the subject; and a broader
brand objective of targeting a younger audience who might see the paper
as ’a bit stodgy’.
Countrywide Communications dreamt up a PR stunt which both played on
’the knowledge’ of the taxi drivers and their tendency to natter to
On the afternoon of the Budget announcement, the drivers were briefed by
FT news editor Lionel Barber on the paper’s coverage and set loose on
Countrywide sold the story exclusively to the BBC Nine O’ Clock News,
which it ran as the final quirky story. The three-minute report featured
shots of the cabs lined up and an interview with Barber. It was shot
both inside and outside the FT’s offices.
’We wanted an idea that would appeal to the TV news so people would
watch it on the evening of the day of the Budget,’ explains Countrywide
director Nick Hindle. In a bid to get FT correspondents heard on radio,
but knowing stations would be inundated with experts anxious to comment,
Countrywide created ’electronic press kits’. They consisted of edited
versions of correspondents’ past broadcasts so radio stations could hear
that the journalists were good speakers and knew their field.
The kits were delivered in mini-Budget boxes before Budget day. As a
result of the campaign, FT commentators spoke on Radio 4 on the two days
leading up to Budget day and IRN on Budget day and the day after. The FT
editor also appeared on BBC 2’s Newsnight, analysing the budget with
Sales of the FT for the whole of Budget week rose by 14.62 per cent.