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rEvolution has used its groundbreaking ROI model on hundreds of sponsorships over the past decade, including sponsors of the NFL, College Football Playoff, March Madness and NASCAR, among many others. This model serves as an amazing test lab where we isolate the hallmarks of winning – and losing – sponsorship strategies.

In most cases, sponsors begin on a relatively equal playing field in terms of the rights they acquire. These rights encompass exclusivity in their category, the ability to use respective marks and designations in advertising and packaging, and oftentimes some element of signage. Beyond that, it’s up to what else you include in the package and how cleverly you activate the sponsorship to determine its effectiveness. With major events often having over a dozen partners, here are the four winning strategies we’ve isolated to ensure you finish primus inter pares – the first among equals:

  1. A signature asset is critical. Coca-Cola was arguably the first sponsor to understand the value of a signature asset when it persuaded the IOC to allow it to present the Torch Relay prior to the Atlanta Olympics. When every sponsor has equal access to the main event, you need an element which is yours and yours alone around which to focus your activation around and make it memorable. Experience shows fans have at most three-to-four sponsors on the top of their mind, so standing out from the pack is crucial. A signature asset can be a title sponsorship (Allstate Sugar Bowl), a trophy (the Dr Pepper Championship Trophy in College Football), a satellite event (Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show) or even a broadcast feature (Buffalo Wild Wings presents Overtime in March Madness). Whatever form it takes, own it and focus on it.
  2. Use themed creative. We’ve never seen a sponsor succeed solely by running existing ads with no relation to the sponsorship during the event. It’s easy, but it’s a totally lost opportunity. Nor is just tagging an existing commercial with the marks and designation good enough. You need to create spots themed to the sponsorship. Which ones are best? The ones featuring celebrities, use humor and seem authentic and fresh. One of our all-time favorites? Nissan’s Heisman House campaign.
  3. A cross-media strategy is vital. Fans use multiple screens at once to consume sports these days. They might be watching on TV, following a Twitter feed and texting with friends at the same time. People get their sports news from Twitter and League websites. In short, you better be wherever they go. Our data shows fans that use three or more platforms to access a sports event are more than twice as likely to be aware of sponsors and be influenced by the sponsorship. Focus just on TV and you’ll miss out on these avid fans.
  4. Keep it fresh. Every sponsorship has a life cycle. Normally it takes three-to-five years to build to a peak, and then you’re going to plateau unless you freshen up things. That doesn’t mean you have to get out of the sport – just hit the refresh button. Nationwide’s relationship with NASCAR is a great example. For years the insurance company had an effective title sponsorship of NASCAR’s second-tier series, but when this began to plateau Nationwide switched to a primary sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and saw great results again.

So there you have it – check all four boxes – and you’ll be first to pass the post (though, you’ll only know if you do your research 😏).

For more insight into the successful hallmarks of sponsorship activation and/or to measure your own success, connect with Darren here