Open Goal: Publicis Media Sport
caytoo: What does Publicis Media Sport & Entertainmentdo?
James: Help brands with strategic activations of rights and intellectual property. For rights holders, we evaluate their properties, report on audience data and manage consumer research.
caytoo: What is the main purpose of your role?
James: To manage key client rights holder relationships and help drive business revenue and profile across the group for our specialised team.
caytoo: What are the main challenges rights holders face in attracting sponsorship? How can they improve in marketing themselves?
James: The sponsorship marketplace is currently a buyer’s market. There’s a lot of competition for where brands spend their budgets across categories and different platforms – particularly as brands can activate campaigns within a particular sport without any official designations or intellectual property (IP).
Consequently, rights holders need to really differentiate their offerings. This requires illustrating more bespoke solutions from a strategic perspective to a perspective specific to the brand’s products/services. Specifically, how the rights holder’s property can deliver the right type of results and return on investment (ROI) through the power of their IP, audience and assets which brands can harness and align with their wider marketing strategies.
“rights holders need to really differentiate their offerings, specifically, how their property can deliver the right type of ROI through the power of their IP”
A big factor in this is being able to demonstrate the performance of the partnership in reaching the audience more efficiently and effectively which otherwise cannot be achieved through marketing touchpoints.
caytoo: What rights holders are particularly good at marketing themselves and why?
James: Over the last 6-12 months I’ve been particularly impressed with several rights holders and their proactive offering to brands and how they’ve positioned their property. UEFA, a client of ours, is a very strong rights holder and has started to address ways in which they can better engage with a new younger audience through their content and being open to working with media owners who are able to help them engage with a younger audience through their audience understanding and the content which best resonates. They’ve displayed great flexibility and a collaborative spirit in activating with brands such as Heineken.
This is a sign of how rights holders are starting to modernise their perspective to being more open, flexible, agile and collaborative in sponsor activations that provide a benefit for both parties in using the IP and rights holder assets across both above-the-line (brand building) and below-the-line (gaining customers) marketing activities.
“rights holders are starting to modernise their perspective to being more open, flexible, agile and collaborative in sponsor activations”
caytoo: What brands do sports partnerships very well and why?
James: Naturally, it’s easy for me to call out clients who we’ve achieved results with, specifically Samsung (with the 2016 Olympics), Gillette (2017 Lions New Zealand tour), Heineken (Champions League) and EA Sports (various club partnership activations).
However, in terms of other brands activating well, I call out Nike and Adidas’ work with their respective team and player partnerships. They’re of course masters of sports marketing and sponsorship but what they do so well is being current with what the cultural relevance is each year and how their brands align and add value to the game, players and the fans.
“Nike and Adidas do so well at being current with what the cultural relevance is and how their brands align and add value”
Concerning the brand characteristics/tactics of good sports partnership executions, the first key piece is having clear objectives across the term of the agreement of what success looks like. So often a brand doesn’t put in place key performance indicators (KPIs) and, consequently, when it comes to reviewing the work completed, they don’t have clarity on the performance or success.
Other characteristics for good brand activations come from finding what the particular “Brand Truth” in their product/service authentically adds to the event and the audience’s experiences of their passion point. How is that brand aligning and interacting with the rights holder’s property and its audiences which improves their overall experiences in an authentic way (i.e. the audience can relate and want to engage with)?
We normally look at this in two ways with our clients:
- Sponsorships can be image-focused, meaning the brand in question is harnessing the ‘equity’ of the rights holder to align with its own brand values and, therefore, create a storytelling platform from which to build experiences.
- Sponsorships are functional. There is an actual need from that brand to the rights holder to supply a product or service to deliver the event – i.e. Adidas as an apparel partner, Lucozade providing product to players etc. Finding that ‘brand truth’ and understanding how this is celebrated through a sponsorship platform is what makes compelling brand activations.
caytoo: What makes a good brand/sponsor in terms of the process from a rights holder’s perspective?
James: One which has clear objectives about what they are trying to achieve through the property and partnership. A brand that has thought of the right assets within their agreement that are fit for purpose to achieve what they want and need when negotiating with a rights holder.
Good sponsors support a sponsorship above- and below-the line and across the majority of their marketing from an amplification perspective to ensure it is integrated and not standalone versus other activities they have planned in the year.
“good sponsors support a sponsorship above- and below-the line and across the majority of their marketing from an amplification perspective”
Crucially, a good brand will have thought about the activation budgets against the rights they have acquired. So often a brand feels that by just acquiring the rights that the job and value will be automatic. However, brands need activation budgets to harness and exploit the rights correctly and ensure that the results are maximised to deliver a real value exchange for both the brand and the audience.
caytoo: Are there any particular examples of deals/partnerships that delivered really well for both or either side?
James: From the work we’ve done, Europcar UK’s partnership with Arsenal which helped improve their brand awareness position within its category and illustrated Arsenal to be an open and collaborative rights holder with the type of experiences we were looking to deliver. There’s also Samsung’s partnership with the Olympic Games to address its main challenge in driving consideration and differentiation from its competitors through its storytelling and product solutions to athletes and fans alike.
caytoo: Are there any particular examples of interesting activations that stand out within a particular partnership/deal?
James: Outside of the work we’ve done (in particular, Samsung’s #DoWhatYouCan’t campaign) the ones which stand out from an official partnership would be the work Adidas do with Manchester United – especially around kit launches – and most recently the Liverpool FC #ThisMeansMore campaign.
I’d also call out Channel 4’s ‘We’re the Superhumans’ campaign for their Paralympics broadcast sponsorship.
caytoo: What would be the best and worst examples of sponsorship partnerships in sport?
James: In a sentence, the best sponsorships are the ones which authentically find their brand truth which can be brought to life via a sponsorship property through multiple touchpoints.
The bad ones are what I like to call “old school” sponsorship, or just a badging exercise, where you enter into a sponsorship but don’t activate properly and just place your logo on as many formats as possible. Fans are far more aware in this day and age and have the tech and platform to express their feelings. Brands and rights holders who do not think audience/fan first will pay the price in the long term.
“the best sponsorships are the ones which authentically find their brand truth which can be brought to life via a sponsorship property through multiple touchpoints”
caytoo: Are there any key lessons from your experience for sponsors and rights holders?
James: In order to create a positive, long term partnership between parties, there are three key lessons:
- Establish clear objectives / KPIs from the outset with a strategy to deliver against this through the IP, assets and activations
- Work in full collaboration and transparency with each other to the greater benefit of the audience’s enjoyment of their passions
- Clarity is so important in understating what can and cannot be done and achieving positive results for both parties for the benefit of long term partnerships.
caytoo: Do you have any thoughts on how sports sponsorship and partnerships between brands and rights holders will change going forward?
James: I’d like to see rights holders collaborate more with some of the key unofficial channels and platforms such as Copa90, where like-minded fans congregate in communities at scale across shared passions to have conversations and engage with each other. This is how rights holders and brands can take learnings and harness the type of content fans wish to align themselves with, and naturally share, to articulate themselves and their culture more clearly.
So often there are barriers with official and unofficial coming together but there is a massive opportunity here in order to better service fans. Fans don’t necessarily care what channel or source but do care about the breadth of content and information available to them to better express and align themselves with.
Through working more collaboratively and in the spirit of true partnerships, we’re starting to see a more agile way of working when it comes to ideation and speed of approvals in order to harness real-time content. I see this trend continuing in the coming years.
“in some cases, sponsors are including a guarantee of certain spend against the IP and assets which then reduces the sponsorship fee”
We are also seeing a change in the traditional model of paying for a rights fee and then having an incremental activation budget, whereby, in some cases, sponsors in their negotiations are including a guarantee of certain spend against the IP and assets which then reduces the sponsorship fee due to the value exchange back from the brand to the rights holder. This way there are guarantees that the sponsorship is being harnessed correctly from the rights holder side and the brand is getting the value in the reduction of sponsorship fee which has been offset by activation budget.
We would also like to see more transparent research metrics put in place from both sides so that the objectives and ROI can clearly be measured and reported on for the benefit of both parties – and in the interest of a long partnership when it comes to renewals. Furthermore, there is an argument to suggest that performance metrics can be put in place, as we see in digital, whereby there are certain guarantees which need to be achieved before the budget is released.