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Coke Outlines Sponsorship Challenges

Warc, May 01, 2015

CHICAGO: Sponsorship rights holders need to help their brand partners unlock creativity and embrace real-time marketing to maximise the value of these investments, an executive from The Coca-Cola Company has argued.

Thierry Borra, the firm's director/Olympic Games management, looked beyond Coca-Cola's relationship with the iconic sporting event to address issues of importance to sponsorship efforts in almost any category.

"The reality is that the digital world is a bit of a challenge, because there is a risk of dilution of the value of our rights. It's easier to be hijacked by non-official partners," Borra said at IEG's 2015 Sponsorship conference. (For more, including how the brand's strategy is evolving, read Warc's exclusive report: Coca-Cola's road to Rio 2016.)

In recognition of this fact, he added, rights holders should "step up" their capabilities, especially when it comes to enabling responsive marketing.

"The rights holder needs to be equipped to respond to real time – meaning, how you get approvals. It used to take a week to get approvals," said Borra.

"We need to get approval quickly, because we want to go there in a few seconds. As partners, we want to leverage the emerging capabilities that are there, so rights holders need to adapt themselves to this."

A second issue incorporates supplying more than simple exposure – say, a logo on a football – so that rights holders more effectively "help us create stories," Borra said.

"The reality is, today, there is a challenge, because rights holders have sold most of their rights to access [and] content to broadcasters.

"So there is a need eventually to reinvent the relationship between these parties: between the rights holders, the brands and the broadcasters.

"We need to find another model. Otherwise, I don't know, things will happen. We will have to change, we will have to evolve to stay relevant, because story matters. Content matters."

A similar theme covered by Borra involved identifying the correct balance between assets which brands "rent" – that is, official sponsorship programs that are subject to certain restrictions – and those they "own".

By way of example, Coca-Cola FM – an online entertainment venture active in around a dozen Latin American nations, and over which the brand has complete control – provides more flexibility than most rented properties.

"So the question in the future – as we are looking for story, as we are looking for content – is: how much we are going to balance our portfolio of assets between owning and renting?" said Borra.