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April 4, 2008

Stuart Bradbury: Activating sponsorship the experiential way

The days of brands looking at sponsorship in terms of just having their logos placed as prominently as possible are long gone. Companies are now under huge pressure to show return on their investments and are seeking more and more effective ways of exploiting what this sponsorship has to offer.

It’s no longer a case of investing a few quid in the chairman’s favourite team, sponsorship, particularly in the sporting arena, has become a multi-million pound business, and companies want to ensure that their brands are getting the most out of any deal. On top of this, sponsorship is an incredibly cluttered market space, which makes it all the more important to deliver something that can achieve cut through. As such, the use of experiential activity in activating sponsorship is becoming increasingly popular.

Making it work for the brand
For us it’s important that we make sure we exploit the sponsorship as much as possible and really make it work for the brand. But this is an extremely fast-moving sector of the marketing mix and we are constantly looking at new ways of achieving cut through.

One recent activity we ran for a Vodafone product launch involved turning Brunswick Square in London into go-kart track. We then had Lewis Hamilton race a go-kart around the square in front of key journalists and PR people, leveraging their McLaren sponsorship while launching a new product. Sometimes fate transpires in your favour, and on this particular occasion Lewis crashed the go-kart, to that date the only time he had crashed all season, so we achieved huge amounts of publicity, which in turn increased the exposure of the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes brand.

Other popular sponsorship activation events are along the lines of the events we created around the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour campaign and Coca-cola Olympic torch relay. We have been using the latter over the last Winter and Summer Olympics, and they follow what is a hugely successful formula: as the Olympic torch goes from place to place, we work within the marketing team from each region, and we’ll create an experience for groups ranging of all different sizes. We employ the same process with the real World Cup.

Leveraging maximum coverage

Increasingly, companies are also looking to wholly owned events to leverage maximum brand coverage. Nokia New Year’s Eve was an incredibly successful example of this. Nokia came to us and said we want to try and take ownership of some part of a celebration and New Year’s Eve was the obvious choice – connecting with friends and family are very much in Nokia’s brand values. Five concerts were then produced around the globe – in Rio, New York, Mumbai, Berlin and Hong Kong – to run on New Year’s Eve. The event was hugely successful: 2.5 million viewers live at the time, 5.4 million unique visitors to Nokia New Year’s Eve websites, PR reach is 115 million to date, and it was the number one rated TV show in Hong Kong, China, India and USA.

Activating sponsorship through experiential activities is all about creativity, delivering great production values and attention to detail. On top of this you need to not only engage your audience and grab their attention, but make sure that you hang on to it.

This is a rapidly evolving and already over-crowded area, so you need to be constantly rejuvenating your ideas. There is no room for complacency. There’s not one way to maximise the memorability of your events, but essentially it’s about creating an interesting experience for those that are involved, something that plays to people’s emotions: make them laugh; or make them passionate about whatever it is you are doing. Tap into this and your brand messages will stand a good chance of getting the cut through you require.

Stuart Bradbury is business development director for global marketing solutions agency, ignition

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