The Dos & Don’ts of Sponsorship Activation- Steven Falk

February 8, 2012


Sponsorship Rationale

Effective sponsorship activation is more of an art than a science. Some relationships are crafted as great masterpieces, others appear as a primitive daub. We all know why sports organisations solicit new sponsors – they seek the revenue that profitable relationships can bring. But why do brand owners look to associate themselves with the sports sector? The answer can be found in the 6Es. Sports sponsorship can:-

Expose a sponsor’s brand image to a wider audience or a demographic different to that available from current marketing channels.

Express sponsors’ brand values to this wider audience by capitalising on the increase in reach and scale.

Enhance the relationship between the sponsors and their customers through the association with a credible and popular sports brand.

Energise a sponsor’s promotional campaigns by including offers and benefits to excite existing and prospective new customers alike.

Encourage profitable behaviour in customers through calibrating incentives to reward engagement in ways that meet business goals.

Enrich brand communications by adding an element of glamour and excitement to what may otherwise be perceived by customers as prosaic.


Activation Strategy

As with any commercial relationship, value can be delivered through sponsorship activation only by thoroughly researching, analysing, understanding, planning and implementing campaigns designed to meet customer needs. Here are some broad guidelines to help with developing such a strategy:-

Establish and communicate the relationship between the two brands so that both sets of customers understand and can identify the advantages to them personally of the brands coming together.

Develop a compelling and sustainable rewards/benefits hierarchy to be used in promotional campaigns. This may involve money-can’t-buy offers and should be accessible to all customer segments.

Integrate these promotional offers consistently into all marketing campaigns using a creative platform that captures and brings together the values and essence of both brands.

Reserve some of the promotional inventory to incentivise the sponsors’ sales staff. This can be especially effective where it involves rewards with a high perceived value/low cost such as ‘watch the team train’ events.

Consider developing the relationship into non-commercial areas by devising and implementing suitable CSR initiatives consistent with the parties’ brand values.


The 4Ds

Having identified some best practice above, here is some well-intended advice of what not to do when implementing a sponsorship programme:-

Don’t use a sponsor’s brand or crest as some sort of official stamp to endorse an existing generic promotional campaign or proposition unless it has some genuine relevance to the offer.

Don’t apply or use a partner’s brand inappropriately or in a manner which devalues its integrity in any way for example by changing its colour, style or presentation without permission.

Don’t forget that sponsorship activation needs investment of finance, time and people like any other effective marketing campaign. Allow at least 50% of the sponsorship fee as a working budget.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the work is done once the contract is signed. Effective and successful sponsorship activation is like a good marriage. It needs commitment, hard work and lots of tender care to thrive.

Star Sports Marketing can help you to devise and implement an effective and robust sponsorship relationship management strategy. Visit or email for an informal discussion on the possibilities for your business

From 2001 to 2009, Steven was Marketing Director at Manchester United Football Club. Steven served as a member of the Executive Committee of Manchester United and a board director of Manchester United Foundation, the club’s charitable trading arm. In January 2010, he launched Star Sports Marketing, a specialist sports marketing consultancy. For more information, please visit

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