There is a shift in the sponsorship industry which has been slowly taking place since the economic recession. This shift has subsequently been combined with the influx of new marketing channels. What used to reign supreme with the one-way communication channels of Mad Men advertising have been replaced with integrated marketing, digital activation, online engagement, and ‘Big Data’. Reaching consumers has become more complex and competitive, made even more difficult with the increased scrutiny over marketing budgets.
In terms of marketplace, the UK further extrapolates this shift with our ‘Big Society’ lead by the coalition government - forcing change and transformation in often stagnant industries such as the charitable and non-profit sector. Public funding cuts have led to a further need of commercial change in order for organisations to remain afloat (let alone remain profitable).
In my view, the phoenix out of the ashes is sponsorship. It is the one platform that actively integrates all marketing platforms, but more importantly is one of the few channels which forces in-house organisational departments to work collaboratively. Furthermore, in light of the economic recession, understanding how to truly work partnerships for mutual benefit becomes less of a goodwill gesture and Chairman’s whim into something of a necessity. Sponsorship is the key to unlocking a sustainable and growing business – not solely because of its platform capabilities, but also because the platform forces integration and shared vision of goals. Businesses will start to recognise that sponsorship has a greater purpose beyond driving marketing functions. If done well, it can drive the overall business objectives.
This is the next generation of marketing.
The reason this is still not apparent to many is because we are in the process of the shift and a significant amount of education is required to understanding what the true benefits of sponsorship are. This is not just within marketing and media agencies, but also exists within sponsorship agencies themselves. And that's the first rung of the ladder. After the professionals who are actually doing sponsorship realise its true potential, we then need to educate brands and, perhaps the hardest of all, consumers.
This is clearly no mean feat, but it is starting to happen and the conversation is changing. It is no wonder creative, media and PR agencies have all started touting their new sponsorship offerings. However, their involvement further complicates the problem because these types of agencies still have overall media buying objectives, which remain core to their own business.
In such a changing climate, marketers have had to become more clever, more agile, and quicker to act in order to stay ahead of the curve. As such, I believe that smaller agencies will have more flexibility and opportunity to take advantage of this shift in order to pave new routes for what we coin 'commercialised marketing'. This is not to say that bigger agencies do not fill an important role, but I think the domination of marketing budgets will play into new hands in the future.
It is no coincidence that Slingshot is so aptly named.
Jackie Fast is the Managing Director of Slingshot Sponsorship.