3rd Sports marketing 360 conference took place today in London. One of the most popular words was Olympic Games London 2012 which is totally understandable as it’s main purpose is to educate, inform and share the best practices of sports marketing and sponsorships for the oncoming OI 2012 in London.
I attended Sports marketing 360 two years ago in London, but this year I decided to participate on-line. The delegate fee was really inexpensive, but afterall Sports marketing 360 delegate fee was never high. Yesterday I told myself that I want to have the same feeling at home as if I was in London at BT Centre where Sports marketing 360 took place. Therefore I went to the grocery in the morning and bought chocolate cookies and muffins (for me and my boyfriend who otherwise is not a fan of sports marketing and sponsorships as I am, but it is better if you share English vibrations in Slovenia :)).
At the opening session Suzi Williams (Director, BT Group Marketing & Brand) said something that in my opinion is the hardest thing to understand in sports marketing and sponsorships: that these two fields are a mix of art and science. But when you talk to a straight marketing professional who is dedicated to numbers and analytics you will never persuade him with art. However fans – otherwise in marketing language known as consumers – want art. They really don’t care about science. It’s too complicated to understand. At the end of the second panel Charlie Dundas (Global Director – Sports & Entertainment sponsorship, Mediacom) said that translation of marketing goals into action takes longer. But fans won’t wait for brands to explain them what their marketing wanted to say.
Interaction with fans is the most frequent goal of sponsorships deals. And sport enhances a lot of interactions if handled properly. Jeff Nathenson (Head of Partner Management for YouTube in Northern Europe, Google) said that companies make most mistakes thinking they can interact through social media by up-dating statuses and posting photos and videos. He mentioned a special trend on YouTube: people posting videos of them playing on-line games. And others are watching that. It sounds strange, but this is the reality of on-line activities. On-line gaming is one of the new media and a very powerful platform that enhances interaction and entertainment with brands.
Sport as a pure sport is becoming more and more complex and it needs a wide range of professionals to be lead properly. Patrick Nally (Chief Executive, West Nally Ltd), the father of sports marketing as Kevin Roberts introduces him, inspired me with a short but clear and simple introduction of sports marketing history which was mainly created by him and his colleagues. They started with sports marketing because it was (and still is) a successful means of communication. That was the main reason why the first companies started with sponsorships. I was most impressed by the fact that already in 1980 Canon, as one of FIFA sponsors, tracked that the sponsorship of the World Cup resulted in 70 % increase of sales. Today in the 21st century many companies don’t believe that efficiency of sponsorships is measurable (sure, if you just put 10 logos all around the playground it is hard to measure anything) and it was really inspiring to see how Nally and his colleagues set the basics of sports marketing and sponsorships which are still in use today.
He was also critical of FIFA and IOC in the field of packaging. This is also the most often heard critique of federations from the sponsors. The industry of sports marketing and sponsorships is on a way to higher development, said David Stubley (Managing Partner, Sportent), although advertising has been severely hit by the economic crisis. But sponsorships are an industry which is based on longterm partnerships and is not just media buying – it is a business development creating new content for a sport and a sponsor.
I deeply believe in sponsorships (either in sports, culture, science, music, social etc.) because it is not just communication. It is about cooperation and improving our living conditions for a better world. Developing new business models is widely written in DNA of small businesses because they have to be efficient if they want to prosper. And the same business principles should be considered for sponsorships.
This year Sports marketing 360 also invited many sportsmen who from their own perspective introduced how they see sports marketing and sponsorships programs. Mark Foster, British swimmer, 5-times Olympian told the story about how he was thrown out of the Olympic village in 2000 because of his swimming suits. He was loyal to his sponsor Speedo and forgot to remove it’s logo from the swimming suites.
My favorite statement (told by Robbie Paul, professional Rugby League Player and communications consultant) was: as humans we admire other humans and aspire to be like them. I could never find a more proper wording to express how I feel when I work in the field of sponsorships, sports marketing, social marketing, etc. And those words express my inspiration and faith that one day all the obstacles which today derive from the lack of knowledge will challenge us to focus more on how to achieve sponsorship ROI.