FOCUS: SPONSORSHIP - Make the most out of being a sponsor/Just sponsoring events is no longer enough to keep the public interested in a brand. To get the most out of their investment, companies are turning to PR to create a spin-off attraction

’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.

’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

giving money.’

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

London Marathon.

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

brand support.

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

Jeremy Bourke.

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.


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

future clients.

’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.


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

the public.

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

Jeremy Paxman.

Sales of the FT for the whole of Budget week rose by 14.62 per cent.

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