Great Partnership Ideas and Examples: Takeaways from the IEG Sponsorship Conference

By Jim Andrews Apr 9, 2014

Great Partnership Ideas and Examples: Takeaways from the IEG Sponsorship Conference

The tagline for IEG’s 31st annual sponsorship conference was “How new intents, technologies and applications are transforming partnerships.” Using that as a framework, here are some of the highlights from the many outstanding sessions at Sponsorship Cubed:

In her opening address, IEG founder Lesa Ukman identified three specific ways in which the purpose of partnerships is changing:

Prevalence to Relevance. Lesa’s point was neatly summed up by workshop leader Anthony Lim from Danish telecom Call me: “The degree of involvement is more relevant than the number of likes on Facebook.”

  • A clear-cut example of this trend is Aon’s switch from shirt sponsor of Manchester United to involvement with the club’s training complex and business network. Presenter Patrick Pierce explained this new phase of the partnership is focused on creating a greater understanding of Aon's business capabilities and helping Manchester United deliver results on and off the pitch, leveraging a wider set of team assets focused on driving improved business performance and highlighting how Aon "Empowers Results" for clients worldwide.
  • Relevant to a trend Lesa Ukman dubbed “moment marketing,” AT&T noted that as a sponsor of music, sports and other events, it makes sure to be “hyper reactive” through social and digital media, e.g., replacing a hat for a concertgoer who tweeted that they had lost theirs on site.
  • Presenter Dedra DeLilli of TD Ameritrade shared how consumer research revealed that the company “had permission” to tout its sponsorship of the U.S. Olympic Team, but also made clear that the link between managing investment gains and training for athletic achievement was not obvious and had to be explained through activation efforts such as the It Adds Up platform.
  • To reposition chocolate milk from a drink for kids to a sports recovery beverage, MilkPEP chose to target influencers such as triathletes directly through sponsorships rather than take to the airwaves with a mass advertising campaign. The strategy worked, driving significant sales increases.
  • From the property perspective, presenter Brett Yormark of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center reminded rightsholders to maintain their relevance by transforming their brands, such as the Nets did as part of the team’s move from New Jersey, including adopting a groundbreaking black-and-white color scheme. Brett also shared his philosophy of targeting prospective sponsors who are not the leaders in their category. These “scrappy Davids” not Goliaths often will do a better job of activating and helping to build the property brand, he said.

Interruption to Invention. “Think differently” was a mantra for many of the conference keynote sessions, which demonstrated the power of wildly creative approaches and creation of new solutions:

  • Vestas Wind Systems has found that “meaningful innovation” lies at the intersection of capitalism and humanism, creating programs such as Wind for Prosperity, which not only does global good, but builds the company’s business. Keynoter Morten Albaek: It’s not sponsorship. It’s not philanthropy. It’s a new business model.”
  • Global Poverty Project founder Hugh Evans explained how traditional charity alone will not end extreme poverty. Instead, it will take a movement. His Global Citizen Festival offers headliner concerts that you can’t buy a ticket for; you have to earn it through taking worthwhile actions.
  • Coca-Cola’s Emmanuel Seuge described “provoking collision” between its global partnerships and its investments in startups to drive new ideas and innovations.
  • Operating under the philosophy of “break the category,” Ogilvy Brazil broke new ground by tapping the rabid passion of fans of the Sport Club Recife soccer team to overcome reluctance to become organ donors.

Marketing to Solutions. GroupM Entertainment’s Peter Tortorici put his finger on the pulse of this trend when he said in his presentation: “The focus cannot be to dream up ideas and try to find a brand to fund them, but to understand the brand problem and find or create the content to address and solve it.

  • Justin McKinniss of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium related the story of how the property worked with a retail partner to add off-season events that would drive consumers to stores to buy zoo admission tickets. Even though the events meant considerable work for zoo personnel, it agreed to them to offer a solution to an important partner.
  • Sponsors participating in a number of sessions noted a shift from using social media strictly for brand building to providing a CRM solution. They also discussed that this could not be done automatically, but required an internal structure that allows for full cooperation between marketing, IT and other departments. Many expressed frustration that their organizations remained siloed—recognizing that full activation of partnership rights can only happen when all relevant internal parties can work together quickly and easily.

The multiple intersections of technology and partnerships were highlighted throughout the conference sessions.

  • In a head-start workshop on Sunday, Lesa Ukman identified many of the specific technologies changing how events are experienced, from wearables to RFID to augmented reality.
  • Business technology companies from Siemens to Cisco to SAP to CDW and others spoke at the conference. Many discussed the trend of consumerization—which requires them to market their products and services to end users and not just a select few corporate decision-makers—which has essentially turned them into B2C marketers as well as B2B. SAP providing player statistics that fuel fantasy leagues for its NFL and NBA partners is one example. For rightsholders, this means offering tech sponsors an entirely new suite of benefits in addition to traditional B2B offers.
  • Tech sponsors also specified that the relationship with sponsored properties is almost always a mix of cash fees, in-kind services and purchases by the property. Rightsholders must be prepared to become a customer.

Not apps in the tech sense, but how partnerships are being applied to deliver more than the usual marketing benefits and how properties’ content, channels and communities are being monetized in new ways.

  • Peter Tortorici and others noted how rightsholders are building out content assets through digital and other channels—converting themselves from membership organizations, event producers, etc. to lifestyle brands. For example, a jazz festival can now build vertical channels on its website devoted to history, fashion, food, architecture, films, etc. associated with jazz, offering richer engagement with audiences and providing digital marketing and advertising opportunities to brand partners.
  • SAP’s Dan Fleetwood noted that as a partner of Madison Square Garden, his company is helping to leverage the venue’s archives by building a new section of the Garden’s website that will allow users to see great sports and entertainment moments from its history for every day on the calendar.
  • Taco Bell’s Will Bortz demonstrated how the QSR is interested as much in accessing NBA video content for the brand’s web and social presence as it is in broadcast ad opportunities.
  • Brandon Van Dyck of the Dickies workwear brand shared how his company has created a transactional content model around sponsored properties such as the SXSW Music Festival. The brand creates a content hub page in conjunction with online retail sites that attracts consumers and drives them directly to purchase product. The 26 pieces of SXSW content—from interviews and acoustic sessions to daily recaps and mini-documentaries—increased sales by over 1,000 percent and continued to drive purchases for the following two quarters of the year.

If you’d like to see what IEG 2014 attendees took away from their experience, many of them have tweeted commentary using #IEG2014, while others—including those below—have written thoughtful blog posts:

Torque Strategies
S&E Sponsorship Group
Twentyten Group
Sport Business
Sport Business
Austin Track Club

In French:

And for a quick look at some of the conference action, check out this video from IEG 2014 exhibitor Power Tower:


IEG conference social media sponsorship strategy trends activation


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