Sir Bradley Reminds Us It’s About More Than A Logo

Sir Bradley Wiggins’ comments on the eve of the Commonwealth Games that the Emirates branding on the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow might have left Sir Chris feeling a little “done over”.

For those of us in the sponsorship industry though, Wiggins’ comments provided another reminder of just how important it is for sponsors to clearly demonstrate the value they’re adding to an event.

For Emirates, who have activated their sponsorship pre-event by spreading the excitement of the Games across the Commonwealth through the Queen’s Baton Relay and unveiled a new Emirates Lounge at Glasgow Airport just in time for the Games, it will be interesting to see how the airline actively engages audiences now the Games are underway.
The recent World Cup in Brazil pushed digital and brand engagement to the fore and further supported the premise that effective sponsorship is more than just a collection of logos and branding at an event. Sponsorship should help to actively engage with consumers allowing the audience to interact and create an emotional tie with a brand.

We’ve seen major brands and sponsors bend-over-backwards at recent global sports events to use meaningful and relevant activation to bring their brands as close to the action as possible. Here’s our selection of podium placers from recent global events where engagement was king.

P&G – ‘Thank You Mom’ (London 2012 & Sochi 2014)

To much critical acclaim P&G executed a clearly defined and emotionally charged message through an integrated “Thank You Mom” campaign, encompassing a host of digital channels, athlete ambassadors including the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Ennis-Hill and the release of an app allowing over 50,000 of us to say thank you to mum too!

Beats – London 2012

Beats was just one of a number of  brands who managed, temporarily at least, to evade the brand police and creatively engage with audiences at London 2012 without sponsoring the event. Not only supplying (what seemed like) every athlete with a custom pair of Beats, they also created a pop-up space in Shoreditch House allowing 4,000 people including Olympic athletes from all over the globe to interact with the brand, watch the Games and make use of a photo booth which was used to generate content for poster shots later in the campaign.

Budweiser – ‘Rise as One’ (FIFA World Cup 2014)

Budweiser made sure to engage with its audience whether they were in Brazil or not.  Fans from all over the globe were encouraged to get involved via Twitter with users urged to tap #ManoftheMatch tweets from @FIFAcom which generated Budweiser branded player photos and a  tweet and vote mechanic. Many fans lucky enough to make the trip to Brazil were greeted with rewards in the form of the Budweiser Hotel which hosted parties and events throughout the tournament and acted as a hub for over 3000 satellite Budweiser parties all around the world.

With 1.5 billion people tuning in to the Commonwealth Games let’s hope brands involved make it equally engaging!

Why Lifestyle Brands Are Getting It Right

Our unique take on sponsorship has enabled us to work with some fantastic lifestyle brands such as Red Stripe, Majestic Athletic, Supreme Being, Monster Energy, Spotify, and New Era who are truly maximising the consumer shift towards culture brands.  In terms of sponsorship, these brands are getting it right.  They truly understand their consumer, their market, and most importantly understand how utilising effective sponsorship platforms make their marketing budgets work harder – often because their budgets are a fraction of their rivalling high street retail competitors who are vying for the same audience.

But what makes them different and why should you care?

It all boils down to engagement.  Lifestyle brands tend to have more success in engaging their market better than many other retailers.  They also know where to engage them and how to engage them.  If engagement is what brands are after because engagement sells, then this surely is something to take notice of rather than being complacent on your own brand image – even if you do only sell shoe inserts.

So here is my take on why lifestyle brands are getting it right:

  1. Challenged to be creative – smaller budgets mean you have to really think about what you are doing with them.  When lifestyle brands sponsor something, they maximise every single opportunity and asset they purchase ensuring nothing is missed.
  2. Commercially creative teams – lifestyle brands tend to have teams where everyone does a bit of everything, rather than job roles split up.  This forces individuals to be both creative and commercial – enabling people to fully understand how marketing activity drives sales, which is crucial.
  3. They are their target market – not only do they know their audience, they themselves tend to be active and avid advocates of the brand.  This saves focus groups, countless surveys, and allows them to tap into consumer insight easily.

If you want to see what we’ve done with Majestic Athletic, click here for the case study.

Slingshot Sponsorship Announced as National Business Awards Finalist for The BlackBerry Business Enabler of the Year Award

Britain’s leading businesses, business leaders and social enterprises have today been revealed as finalists for the 2014 National Business Awards and Slingshot Sponsorship is amongst them.

Slingshot Sponsorship has been shortlisted for The BlackBerry Business Enabler of the Year Award – recognising organisations that help businesses to increase profitability by improving efficiency, developing talent and implementing innovation.  This award recognises the impact of ‘enablers’ that offer value beyond services.

Commenting on the Slingshot Sponsorship award entry, Judge Simon Feary, CEO, Chartered Quality Institute said:

“Slingshot has positioned itself to address a niche market overlooked by the main providers. To do that profitably and sustainably, especially within the small business-low margin segment you really have to know your market. Small beginnings but the growth is there suggesting they have their model right.”

This year’s shortlisted businesses cover activities as diverse as retail, technology, men’s grooming products, telecoms, construction, advertising, entertainment, and publishing. Of the businesses shortlisted, 24% turnover under £5m, 26% turnover between £5m and £25m, 15% over a billion and 10% not for profit organisations. The smallest business recognised has a turnover of just £23k with the largest reaching £20 billion. Finalists collectively employ over 850,000 people, the smallest has just one member of staff while the largest employs around 165,000 people globally.

Jackie Fast, Managing Director of Slingshot Sponsorship commented:

“Having our business model recognised as a business enabler at the National Business Awards opens up a world of opportunity for our agency proposition beyond our typical market of sponsorship and marketing professionals.  As we champion the value of commercialisation in marketing, it is an honour to be recognised against some fierce competition in this category – especially from those organisations in the financial industry.”

Visit The National Business Awards for a full list of all finalists and to attend the event.


App-led Sponsorship

On Wednesday, Facebook embarked upon its latest attempt to corner the social media market with the launch of the aptly named Slingshot app.  To many, the launch was a response to Facebook’s failed bid for rival and burgeoning app Snapchat – an instant messaging app for sharing photos and videos with friends.

As of May of this year, users were sending up to 700 million photos and videos per day, while Snapchat Stories content was being viewed 50 million times per day.  The recent surge in apps such as these has engendered new opportunities for sponsors to develop more creative and diverse social media strategies. Yet despite the overwhelming usage of apps such as Snapchat, the platform is still relatively untouched by brands – as such, here is an overview of recent campaigns using these platforms.

Diet Coke & Taylor Swift

Last year, Diet Coke used the app as part of its sponsorship of Taylor Swift’s Red Tour. People who subscribed to Diet Coke’s virtual scavenger hunt received one picture a day for five days. Each picture revealed clues regarding location of that day’s item and those who collected all five items won a free concert ticket. Due to the success of this campaign, Swift was able to directly engage with Swift’s audience on a global scale.

Heineken & Coachella

More recently Heineken, through their sponsorship of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, created a Snapchat account called HeinekenSnapWho. Users received clues throughout the weekend about who would be performing and those who responded with the correct answer would get an early confirmation from Heineken.

Both of these activations demonstrate the extensive opportunity available for brands to generate their own content through these apps.  Furthermore, over two thirds of Snapchat’s 60 million users are mostly under the age of 25 meaning that Snapchat offers access to a very young demographic. This explains why Audi, through their sponsorship of Pretty Little Liars, have been Snapchatting exclusive content to users as it allows them to integrate their brand with their target demographic.


Of course, Snapchat isn’t the only app out there offering a platform for brands to get creative. Twitter’s video sharing service, Vine, has also attracted a number of sponsors due to the fact that the prerequisite of any viral video on Vine is creativity. In an article on, Meagan Cignoli, a Vine creator with over 300,000 followers, says that she is regularly courted by sponsors. Previous sponsorship deals having been agreed with Nike, Lowes and Rite Aid, allowing both the sponsors more social media coverage whilst she’s been able to extend the reach and authority of her own name by attaching herself to these brands. Therefore a ‘symbiotic relationship was created between a viral-hungry sponsor and Vine content creator’.

Vine has approximately 40 million users, 20 million less than Snapchat, however what they both share is a requirement for sponsors to be creative with their strategies. It is through apps such as these that sponsorship becomes so much more than just about the logo with more emphasis placed on integration, user generation and brand led content.

Perception Is Everything

Twelve Tomas Skuhravy’s, nine Hossam Hassan’s but not a single Steve Hodge… it was the biggest problem on my plate in the spring of 1990 and my first foray into World Cup sticker collecting.

Fast forward 25 years and buying and swapping Panini stickers is still a ritual for young supporters and misty-eyed adults.

(It’s also a source of embarrassment for some who should know better… )

So I was intrigued to read that fans have been angered in the run up to this year’s tournament in Brazil by the inclusion of stickers from Official FIFA World Cup sponsors in some markets. This time around, in amongst the shinies, teams, players and stadia, fans will need to unearth Coca Cola, adidas and VISA to complete their prized collections.

The backlash from fans is unsurprising and demonstrates that one of sponsorship’s basic principles  – putting the needs of target audiences ahead of the brand’s – is still too often overlooked.

Panini recently defended the decision by saying: “Assigning cards to the World Cup’s global sponsors allowed the free distribution of more than 6 million albums worldwide”

I’ve no doubt this is true and the message is well-intentioned but much like the argument that there would be no Olympic Games without the sponsors it’s unlikely to resonate with the public. Instead the underlying message seems to be that fans should simply tolerate brands in return for free stuff.

Sponsorship is so much more than a trade-off that asks audiences to begrudginly accept the involvement of brands in the things they love. Savvy brands recognise sponsorship offers a far more powerful platform – one that can engage fans in two-way dialogue, build relationships with target audiences and deliver positive brand and event experiences.

Sponsors wanting to get involved might have considered other avenues such as:

  • bringing fans together through a virtual swap shop
  • tying sticker giveaways and prizes into product promotions
  • helping to personalise the experience and incentivise collectors through the Panini app
  • finding creative ways to join the conversation through the #gotgotneed hashtag

Making the most of sponsorship means treading very carefully, especially when intruding on cherished traditions. It means understanding your audiences and doing much more than pushing your brand in front of them.

It means adding value.

Hill Dickinson strikes golden deal with GB Taekwondo

Leading international law firm Hill Dickinson has been appointed the official legal services supplier to GB Taekwondo.  Under the three year deal the firm will work with GB Taekwondo coaches and staff in delivering the GB Taekwondo world class performance programme and athletes, such as Olympic gold medal winner Jade Jones, training towards success at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.

As well as providing legal advice and services, the partnership between Hill Dickinson and GB Taekwondo will see both organisations working closely on grassroots CSR campaigns to benefit schools and local communities across the Northwest.

The announcement comes on the back of GB Taekwondo’s best ever finish at the recent European Championships with a haul of seven medals. Three additional medals were also won this month at the Swiss Open.

“Our preparations on the road to Rio are looking very promising after strong performances at the World Grand Prix last December and more recently at the European Championships.  We are delighted that Hill Dickinson are now on-board as a partner to GB Taekwondo to support us on the journey,” said Steve Flynn, GB Taekwondo operations director.

GB Taekwondo athletes such as Jade Jones, Lutalo Muhammad, Mahama Cho and Asia Bailey train hard on the performance programme, but they also spend considerable time in local communities and schools, helping to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Geraldine Ryan, Head of Hill Dickinson’s Manchester office, said this was an important part of their work with GB Taekwondo. “We are delighted to be working with such a successful British Olympic team, and helping them to prepare for Rio 2016.  Before Rio, however, there is a lot of work to do right here on our doorstep. Being based in Manchester, we are looking forward to partnering with GB Taekwondo in giving something back to the communities across the Northwest.”

Hill Dickinson will be providing a wide range of legal support to GB Taekwondo and the firm’s specialist sports team will also be advising individual athletes on the run up to the Olympic Games in 2016.

Ian Gillis, who heads up the Manchester corporate team at Hill Dickinson and who is the primary point of contact with GB Taekwondo, commented:

“Businesses can learn many lessons from high performance athletes, particularly martial artists, such as focus, strategy and discipline. I also have a personal interest in the partnership as I hold a fourth dan black belt in Shotokan Karate. I hope our three year relationship with GB Taekwondo brings success to the team and I am excited to be working with such a talented team of coaches and athletes.”

This deal was brokered by Slingshot Sponsorship.

‘I Will Not Bow to Any Sponsor’ – Assessing the Evolution of Product Placement

The children’s movie Finding Nemo was a box office hit. It would seem however, that it wasn’t just Disney that reaped the rewards from the film’s success.  Since the film’s release in 2003, sales for clownfish (Nemo) and Pacific regal blue tangs (Dory) have rocketed. It’s safe to say that Disney didn’t have a deal with any pet shops and this increase in fish sales wasn’t ever an objective for the film. Nevertheless, the product (fish) placed in the film had an effect on the audience, who were inspired to then go away and buy their very own Nemo and Dory.

Product placement can be an effective additional revenue stream, providing a platform for brands to showcase their products, as well as providing producers with extra capital to use towards their shows. However, for this type of marketing to be effective, for both brand and televised/cinematic production, there are some key points that need to be followed, which I will explore through examples;

  • Brands suiting the audience; if products have no relevance to the programme’s demographic,  the product placement consequently will not deliver good return.
  • Products harmonising with the production; the contribution needs to be seamless so that it is not ‘chunky’ and awkward, but well enough placed so that the product sticks in people’s minds.
  • Interacting with the audience; sales are likely to rise if viewers actually feel involved with the show and are given accessibility to the products.

Brands suiting the audience
Still a relatively new phenomenon to the world of TV, product placement has been gracing our screens in varying degrees. One example that has been criticised, is the rather abrasive approach taken by Coca Cola through their partnership with American Idol. The show is also sponsored by Ford and mobile giant AT&T, but it is Coca Cola that takes centre stage. From huge vending machines to large red branded cups on the judges’ table - their logo is unavoidable. People have argued that this relentless plug not only has no relevance to the show itself, but it is irresponsible in terms of audience demographic; consequently being inconsistent with Coca Cola’s pledge to not directly advertise unhealthy beverages to children .

Products harmonising with the Production
As well as TV shows and films, music videos are a good medium to hit audiences. Adobe suggests that video content now makes up for more than three quarters of viral media posts. Music videos have a unique way of emotionally engaging with audiences, and therefore when brands take advantage of this, their grab is much stronger. Volvo teamed up with Swedish House Mafia for their rerelease of ‘Leave the World Behind‘ with Swedish singer Lune. Not only was this collaboration a charming homage to some of Sweden’s most successful exports, but the product placement of Volvo really captures the essence of the three DJ’s escaping the city and ‘leaving the world behind’.

Interacting with the audience
Online retailer SSENSE have also joined forces with System magazine to produce a series of e-commerce music videos which give the viewers access to buy the clothing worn by artists. SSENSE & System kicked off the series with Sky Ferreira’s ‘I Blame Myself‘ with SSENSE taking full advantage of the product placement by providing a direct link so viewers can purchase all clothing worn in the video at the click of a button.

In the UK, product placement has only been legal for the last three years. Although the UK is still in its infancy, there have been a selection of campaigns that have not only professionally fitted into the programmes, but have also engaged with audiences. collaborated with Big Brother last year, which saw the brand design a click-to-buy service which allowed the public to buy items from the Big Brother house as they appeared. Any fan of Big Brother loves the quirky house and furniture and therefore this interactive system gave people the opportunity to feel further involved in the show. Similarly to SSENSE’s music videos, the ease of access to products gives the audience more incentive to consume.

Product placement is an effective marketing tool that allows brands to access audiences in a way that advertising can’t. Product placement shouldn’t be deemed as just a pay package for the production teams either. Although it is subliminal advertising in their shows, the use of real life branded products can actually add to a programme and make the experience more realistic.  It is clear, however, that product placement has a long way to go, but has a huge amount of potential.  The recent surge in second and even third screening has allowed brands an additional layer of interaction with audiences – granting them the opportunity to engage with the viewer on a more personal level.

The Sponsorship Selfie

With June just round the corner, there has been time for a bit of light reflection about what 2014 has served up so far, and what a bizarre year it’s been. The list already includes conflict, flooding, missing planes, #moyesout, little Georgie, twerking and last but certainly not least, ‘the selfie’!


However lauded the ‘selfie’ might be, it can offer quite a good starting point for rights holders looking to gain sponsorship. Such introspection should be the first port of call when beginning the process of sourcing sponsorship, rather than the immediate ‘show me the money’ approach.

Making sure you know what you want to look like before your sponsorship selfie is essential; therefore, forming goals and objectives in order to create a pre-determined strategy will be key. So, how is this broken down – what should rights holders be concentrating on?



Engagement is the acid test for any successful sponsorship. Making sure that sponsors are engaging with your audience and increasing the customer experience is essential; logo placement is never enough. This also helps drive other factors such as footfall, PR and unlocking extra assets within your platform. In recent years, O2 have been pioneers in engagement, using it to reduce churn and increase customer loyalty. This was subsequently achieved through priority moments, which amongst many things, offered fans a catalogue of benefits for being an O2 customer.


Added value

Sponsor activation and brand presence, if used strategically, should add value to your property. This has to be done with the brand image and objectives in mind, making sure that there is an authentic fit and your integrity is not challenged. Over the past twelve months integrated stadiums have been a hot topic; none showcase this more poignantly than the rise in Cisco’s investment. This activation fulfils a number of objectives, and ultimately allows the stadium to generate more revenue by offering mobile purchasing of refreshments, and the initial costs are offset by an exchange of assets in return.



Having the endorsement from a big brand can revolutionise a rights holder’s public image, and provide the credibility needed to stand in an ever cluttered market place. British Airways’ new partnership with the Rooftop Film Club has done just this; an underground and relatively unknown rights holder has the backing of partner who will add kudos and an air of reputability (watch this space for 2014).


Not being blinded by the money is key to utilising any partnership to the full; a truly successful sponsorship deal must comprise all of the benefits above. However, going against the true spirit of the selfie – try not to be vain, consider the ugly duckling partnership. By broadening your horizons and keeping an eye out for the unlikely partnership, like ‘Good Earth Teas’ have formed with music supremo EMI, can launch something new – which is what partnerships are for, right?

The 5 Myths of Sponsorship

In honour of the second favourite film from my childhood (the first is The Empire Strikes Back, thanks for asking); here are 5 myths that need busting about sponsorship.

1. Sponsorship is a numbers game

It is too easy to create a generic proposal and vet it out to every contact in your phonebook.  The best way to approach sponsorship sales is to ensure your package is tailored and your approach is considered.  It is essential to have a thorough understanding about why this is a good opportunity for your prospect, don’t just send it out to anyone.

2. We’ll be able to get sponsorship because we’re a good cause

This one is targeted primarily at the third sector.  Yes, you probably are representing a really wonderful cause, but so is every other charity out there, and guess what, they’re all going after the same prospects as you.  It is not enough, in such a saturated marketplace to just rely on being a ‘good cause’ – find your USP and create an offering that sponsors won’t be able to turn down.

3. We got this much sponsorship last year, so we should get the same again this year

In principle, this should be the case but unfortunately, it isn’t.  In such a rapidly moving market place, marketing plans change, so the brand that sponsored last year, may not want to sponsor again this year. It is essential; therefore, that you measure the success of your sponsorship, and ensure the offering for the next year is just as good, if not better than the last.

4. Sponsorship isn’t hard; it’s like sales, isn’t it?

To put it simply, no.  Sales only accounts for a tiny fraction of the sponsorship process. From asset creation to valuation, account management and measurement to project management, digital strategies and experiential – sponsorship covers it all. To be successful in sponsorship a lot of work is needed to get you up to the sale and even more work is needed once the sale is done.

5. Our event costs this much to run, so that’s what we’re going to ask for

This shouldn’t be the case at all.  Brands aren’t sponsoring your platform because they want to help you out with the costs, they’re interested because they want access to your audience, and they see synergies between you – they want to use your event as a platform to showcase themselves.  The brand needs to buy into you; they don’t want to be paying your bills.

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