In the world of sponsorship, bigger isn’t always better

Throughout the year there have once again been rumblings that the NBA (United States National Basketball Association) are set to announce the opportunity for sponsors to appear on team jerseys for the first time. The cost of this 2½ inch by 2½ inch spot – an estimated $100 million. Whilst this might appear to be an excellent opportunity for sponsors there is the potential for oversight. Brands often strive for the largest assets with a ‘bigger the better’ focus without fully equating how this will impact the brand or the potential response from the public, instead of looking to maximise their current rights.

Rarely do sponsors fully utilise the assets available to them. There are a wealth of activations available to engage with their audience yet for many these remain unused, mostly due to a lack of creativity.

The All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team was at the centre of a similar occurrence in recent years. As the most successful national rugby team on the planet with perhaps the most iconic jersey, which has always been sponsor clean (barring the small placement of Stienlager during part of the 90’s); a fact that filled fans with immense pride.

However this all changed in 2012 when AIG confirmed its place as Major Global Sponsor of the All Blacks. Included within this multi-million pound deal was the prime of place upon the legendary All Blacks shirt for the first time ever. On the one hand a ground breaking coup for AIG, yet the public outcry was huge with many New Zealanders speaking of boycotting AIG’s services, creating substantial adverse PR for the brand globally. This was not seen as a sponsor utilising an asset but instead a brand defacing that famous jersey.

Despite the fact that AIG used a logo 2/3 smaller than the norm this was not enough to dissipate the fallout. If the badging was crucial to AIG’s sponsorship (almost all other All Black’s sponsors have managed without this) they may have done more to quell the public’s uproar. They had the opportunity to engage with fans and to ask them how best the logo might be displayed on the jersey – allowing the fans to feel as though they were consulted on the matter, sparing some of the fallout.

One of the most severe effects from this may well have been the effect on AIG’s revenue. Not considering the additional sponsor fee for the badging opportunity, the impact from the boycotting of services and negative PR will have taken an impact on the businesses bottom line – one of the very things the sponsorship aimed to increase.

Ironically, the All Blacks was also one of the best utilisation of assets provided – by cereal brand Weet-Bix. As a long standing sponsor of the New Zealand rugby team (12 years), Weet-Bix took the opportunity to be creative with the assets they held rights to instead of opening the cheque book to acquire more branding.  Parents were encouraged to visit the Weet-Bix website and enter their child’s birth date.  Birthday cards were sent to the children with personalised messages ‘signed’ by the New Zealand players.

Weet-bix provides a prime example for how a sponsor can maximise the rights available to them. Electing to take a creative approach instead of opting for a badging the brand engaged emotionally with over two million people in New Zealand building the brand message, providing emotive moments for children and parents alike.

Whilst the drivers behind each brands’ sponsorship of the All Blacks may have been different, Weet-Bix shows how creatively utilising sponsorship rights can maximum emotional benefit instead of seeking bigger brand visibility and badging.

For all brands that are considering that $100 million NBA outlay, more consideration needs to be made on maximising current rights available, better engagement with a fanatical audience, and how to truly align with the sport to drive emotional buy-in.

Identifying Potential in the Barclays Premier League’s Transfer Window

It’s not even December and the rumour mill is in full flow regarding the opening of the Barclays Premier League’s January transfer window. Already dominating football-related conversations in pubs and bars across the UK, can we take a leaf out of our American counterparts’ book and capitalise on this excitement?  

Football is right at the epicentre of British culture. With revenue reaching €3 billion last year in the UK alone, it comes as no surprise that brands have attached themselves to every perceived point of value, from stadium naming rights to TV ad spots.

The Potential

With speculation rising as to how teams are aiming to strengthen through the mid-season transfer window, it seems an apt time to discuss the potential of the transfer market as a whole. As of the launch of Sky Sports News HQ in August this year, ‘Deadline Day’ is gaining traction and fast becoming a staple in the diets of football fans across the UK. As we saw last autumn, the transfer window offers a unique opportunity for brands to both reach and engage with their core audience in the off-season.

Furthermore, transfer deadline day is impossible to miss on social media. This year, Radamel Falcao’s switch from Monaco to Manchester United sparked a surge on Twitter with his name being mentioned over 1.6 million times before the window had even closed. Above all else, this clearly demonstrates the active participation of viewers.

The market is growing too, in just the last decade, due to the influx of wealthy overseas owners, English clubs have increased their spending in the transfer market from a combined £265million to £835million.

One of the challenges that we face is that in its current form, transfer deadline day is actually pretty dull; moments of excitement are surrounded with hours of ‘dead time’ and speculation. Whilst advertisers are aware of the increased interest on news outlets on deadline day, as yet none have been bold enough to do more than pay a premium for advertising space.

It’s Not Impossible

The NFL – America’s most watched sport on TV, and one that is making real progress in terms of successfully opening a London-based franchise, has proved that the transfer market is an area that holds great potential for the sponsorship industry. Their incredibly strong commercial strategy has contributed to their increasing success in the UK, having sold out Wembley for the Dallas Cowboys vs Jacksonville Jaguars game earlier this month.

Bud Light signed on as the official beer of the NFL in 2011 and has since adopted the NFL draft (a once-a-year event in which NFL teams select eligible college football players to add to their rosters) as a core aspect of their strategy. According to Mike Sundet, senior director at Bud Light, “the NFL Draft has become an unofficial holiday for fans – something they begin looking forward to almost as soon as the previous season ends.”

This year Bud Light is offering 32 fans, one representing each NFL team, an opportunity to be directly involved in the second-round draft, aired live on primetime US TV. Bud Light not only provides a channel for fans to directly connect and interact with their favourite teams, but also engages with fans increasing both brand advocacy and awareness.

The Opportunity

If a brand were to take total ownership of transfer deadline day with a clear strategy on how best to exploit the vast interest from the fan-base, there are huge potential gains for both the brand and the English Football Leagues.

If cooperation from the Premier League Football Association and Sky Sports could be secured, the space would be a blank canvas for a brand to create something both memorable and incredibly effective. The only part of the equation missing is the brand that’s willing to think outside of the perceived limits of the existing area.

Slingshot’s MD Jackie Fast Takes Home Two Awards at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards

Jackie Fast, MD of Slingshot Sponsorship was awarded with two awards for the Media Disruptor Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, held at Old Billingsgate in London on November 19th, 2014.  In association with NatWest, the awards celebrated entrepreneurs who embody a spirit of disruption, innovation and enterprise.  Regarded as the new benchmark for entrepreneurial success in the UK, the awards celebrated the contributions and innovations of British entrepreneurs and their impact on the economy.

With some extremely talent nominations (see full list of nominations for the category here) within the Media Disruptor of the Year Award, Jackie Fast was given Bronze in the overall category losing to Shane Lake from HungryHouse who took home Gold.

In addition, Jackie was given the NatWest Special Merit Award beating out Sarah Wood, Founder of Unruly and Jay Radia, Founder of Yieldify.

To see the full list of winners from the Great British Entrepreneur Awards click here.



Creating Transformational Moments Through Location Technology

The development of location technology is growing fast and has major implication to sponsorship – especially when considering location services to engage brands to their customers onsite at the events that they sponsor.  Understandably, Apple was the first to launch with the Apple iBeacon.  Shortly after Samsung launched Proximity as the “mobile marketing platform that connects consumers with places via cutting-edge Samsung location and context-aware technology.”

The potential of this technology is limitless, but made essentially relevant for retail sales.  Imagine you are in M&S to purchase yourself a cashmere scarf.  If M&S employed location technology via in-store transmitters, upon arrival the store could tell not only tell you what cashmere scarves are available, but also what gloves might match and where they can be found.  Upselling in-store no longer needs to be done by the sales people on the ground, but applied in your hand.

The influence on sponsorship and the physical space

The development of this type of technology further erodes the traditional sponsorship model, making way for a new breed of thinking driving effective, collaborative partnerships that demand a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour and engagement.  This potential need not only be applied to Westfield, but also within football stadiums, music festivals, science museums and children’s museums – allowing sponsors and rights holder to effectively influence and engage with their audiences.

The intriguing aspect of this technology which isn’t particularly new, is deciphering the data location technology generates. Rewarding loyal, frequent shoppers with unique events or rewards offers brands an extended and tangible asset to target and communicate a specific demographic.

Smartphones making us work smarter

Brands want to take greater ownership in the festivals and events they support to the dislike of some event organisers. However, turning this insight into commercial solutions that ultimately drive sales is what excites top level marketers (and Slingshot employees!).

Marketers are driven by media content because it works – it’s that simple.  However our sponsorship solutions shouldn’t be limited by this alone.  Instead, sponsorship professionals need to start questioning the true value of collective goals – ensuring involvement and activation drives purpose beyond the traditional.  Utilising location services not only helps sponsorship professionals do their jobs better, but more importantly adds significant value to the customer’s experience, which is what matters most.

Richard Branson Asks Me About Collaboration

You are reading an article from Virgin’s Entrepreneur series.  You can read the full article here.

I am a champion for collaboration – I built a business on it.  However, it seems more and more recently this isn’t becoming new news.  Successful companies in today’s landscape are taking notice and driving their business forward through partnerships by uncovering business synergies.  In the business world, this is collaboration; however, most of the time – the partnership is a reflection of what a good sponsorship strategy can do for a business.

Sponsorship is finally moving away from the pitch.

I recently spoke at the Western Canada Sponsorship Congress on how to create sponsorship strategies that provide real business value rather than just marketing value.  However, it’s impossible to start considering sponsorship as a framework to provide core business value when conversations are initiated around different objectives at the outset – most often focused on reach and demographic.  However, integrating a sponsorship strategy into a business can drive more than brand awareness and we should be championing this as an effective use, considering the value sponsorship can deliver when worked that little bit harder.

The current economy is finally shifting towards understanding and utilising collaboration as a business driver, and sponsorship professionals are often the best placed people to integrate this effectively based on their significant experience and expertise.  Which is why it always surprises me when sponsorship agencies are so focused on their competitor’s client roster, when the world really is their oyster.


Swift vs. Spotify – An insight into the Future of the Music Industry

With Taylor Swift’s recent decision to remove all of her music from Spotify, opinions have been forming as to whether this is a taster of things to come for the music industry.


In line with the release of her new album, 1989, Taylor Swift decided she no longer wanted any presence on the music streaming platform – Spotify. For years, Swift has been open in her opinions about music piracy and streaming stating ‘It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is.’


In response to Swift’s decision, Spotify released the following statement: ‘We believe that fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.’


Despite Spotify’s insistence that nearly 70% of their revenue goes back to the ‘music community’ – it is estimated that artists only receive $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream in royalties.


Most significantly, however, Swift’s newly released album ‘1989’ debuted at No.1 in the US and claimed the largest sales week for an album since 2002.


Impact on the Sponsorship Industry

It is worth noting, that Swift is one of the highest earning artists globally and has the ability to sidestep platforms such as Spotify, which is not an option for many artists.


This case however highlights two key things:

  1. The music industry is finally seeking alternative methods to overcome the issues faced through piracy and streaming
  2. Fans are still willing to purchase music and spend money on artists they admire – indicating that with the right model, the industry can be profitable


The state of the current music industry poses an interesting model for the sponsorship industry. In the past ten years, the commercial departments in record labels have increased two-fold. Gone are the days where a Number 1. slot goes to the individual selling 100,000 records, now, it’s more like 10,000 (see Rhianna in 2012). Sponsorship, it seems, has become a revenue stream to fill the gaping hole that has appeared through the decline in record sales.


Not only do brand partnerships generate additional revenue, but they offer artists a unique way to engage with their audience. Alongside brands, opportunities arise for artists to challenge their creativity and create products, design fashion lines and direct music videos (see the video FKA Twigs recently directed for Google Glass or one of the Slingshot team’s favourites Nas, Rakim, Kanye West and KRS One’s partnership with Nike’s Air Force One).


As an industry, there’s a huge amount of potential for artists and brands to collaborate across a plethora of mediums. In time, this will ensure that the music industry remains profitable for all parties involved and ultimately creates something truly unique for fans to enjoy.

Flexibility: The Key to Driving the Sponsorship Industry

Great sponsorship is borne from collaborative flexibility. The industry revolves around the ability to adapt and create innovative sponsorships that engage with consumers. An open-minded approach is a pre-requisite, the challenge for sponsorship agencies lies in absorbing brand anxiety and persuading them that sponsorship, strategised and executed correctly, is an incredibly diverse marketing platform that has the capacity to produce great return on investment.

The sponsorship industry has a level of flexibility that is unrivalled in the marketing world; where there’s sufficient synergy, activations can be created at any level of financial investment.

Three core considerations:

  1. Mindset: rights-holders have to understand the value that a brand can add to an event or product beyond financial investment. A certain level of flexibility needs to be retained by rights-holders to accommodate appropriate sponsors and their objectives.
  2. Budget Planning: brands need to be open-minded when planning budgets – an explorative and inquisitive mind-set is integral when considering properties they perhaps would normally overlook. Marketing objectives change and with it comes new opportunities for brands to interact with new audiences and events.
  3. Strategy: both parties need to accommodate the other’s objectives from the sponsorship – in most instances, both parties will need to be flexible when it comes to the actual delivery of the sponsorship.

Moving Forward

Flexibility is the key to delivering a successful sponsorship – the industry needs to not be constrained by pricing or bureaucracy, instead understanding how freedom of variance is required to create the most beneficial strategy for all parties involved. Clever sponsorship is able to deliver on virtually any marketing objective a brand might have, and so it should be doing so at every chance it can. The challenge is to look beyond the traditional benefits that any old marketing platform can provide brands, and delve deeper into other achievable objectives.

Think Bigger

The success or failure of a sponsorship should not be based purely upon ticking the boxes of each asset, but rather based upon the factors that emanated further down the line, the insight that evolves as a result of the synergies formed between both parties working collaboratively.

Being able to directly interact with a brand’s core audience is something that sets sponsorship apart from TV, radio, and outdoor advertising. If we can persuade brand managers to see the bigger picture in terms of the possibilities within sponsorship, the flexibility of the industry means that campaigns can be 100% individual. One of the most unique and exciting aspects of sponsorship is the endless opportunity; a little bit of creativity, vision, and desire, even if the investment is small, can lead to disproportionate benefits for everyone involved.

Slingshot Sponsorship Appointed as Sponsorship Agency for Wales Rally GB 2015


The UK round of the world’s leading Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, has appointed Slingshot Sponsorship as their dedicated sponsorship agency for the 2015s event. With only two weeks to go until Wales Rally GB 2014, the routes are being cleared across various locations in North Wales for the climax of this year’s Championship.

The FIA World Rally Championship comprises rounds in 13 different countries around the world and covers four continents in 11 months, culminating with a Champion Driver and Champion Manufacturer at the end of the season. Widely regarded as one of the most challenging motor sport competitions on the planet, the UK leg takes place in the forests and parks of mid and North Wales, providing the sternest test of both man and machine.

As well as the popular forest stages, the rally weekend will feature a whole host of additional events for ticket holders, ranging from the brand new family friendly Service Park in Deeside as well as Spectator Stages at Chirk Castle and Kinmel Park. More that 70,000 attendees will enjoy day long entertainment, catering and big screens in celebration of the Rally.

Ben Taylor, Managing Director, Wales Rally GB stated “We have big plans for the development of Wales Rally GB in the coming years and we are delighted to have identified Slingshot Sponsorship as the perfect sponsorship agency our event. We will be working collaboratively to establish Wales Rally GB – known as the ‘Rally of Legends’ – as one of the prominent sporting events in the UK calendar.”

Integrated and tailored in its approach, Slingshot Sponsorship has evolved as an agency to develop and deliver inspired partnership opportunities for high profile clients.

Jackie Fast, Managing Director, Slingshot Sponsorship explains “Wales Rally GB stands as one of the premier motor sport events in the world – working with the event is a very exciting opportunity for us to showcase the commercial potential of this platform.”

Sponsorship opportunities for the Wales Rally GB 2015 are currently available.

Selling Ice to Eskimos

If you are in sponsorship sales you want people to say ‘you can sell Ice to Eskimos’ – it is that personal achievement, the moment the salesperson becomes a Spartan.

Through time and experience you learn that selling ice to an Eskimo is relatively easy – they know it, they understand it, and even though they might have way too much of it, it is still easy to show they need it. The Spartan hits his stride, and sales keep flowing in.

Such is the state of traditional sponsorship.  Picture an Eskimo in front of his igloo with the most picturesque icy background you can imagine – blank canvas – get to work, what do you sell?

Leading up to this point the typical sponsorship sales person would categorise the premium located igloo building blocks as worth more than the lessor prestigious placed foundation blocks. The possibility of a flag with a logo, the kit he is wearing, some added hoarding, banner flags and a big screen streaming videos and twitter feeds – #nICE to feel like you are really getting integrated. Taking it further, let’s throw in backdrops and lanyards for the VIP’s; and of course, don’t forget the car they arrive in. Ticketing, collateral, post event photos and highlights reels can be used to extend the memory of this great moment and really maximise exposure.

Done, this is Sparta!

Unfortunately that is also the problem.  This is just selling ice to Eskimos.  It is what the sponsorship industry has done for so many years, it’s traditional and predictable.  Furthermore, Eskimos now have gadgets, gizmos and can travel – making ice potentially less valuable to them then what it once was.

As with Eskimos, brands are also failing to realise the value of a logo and badging.  This is compounded by rights-holders increasing the cost of their sponsorship rights to sustain their growth (rather than increasing the value), whilst brands are reducing their spend to sustain the same.

It is clear there is need for a shift in the sponsorship approach.

Unlike Zerksis, the brave 300 shouldn’t be your stumbling blocks, rather the number of ways you should look at your proposition to really unlock true potential.  Traditional sponsorship is a good start; however this should only be that, the start. To really maximise the potential of both rights-holders and brands, we all need to work harder at uncover rights beyond the straightforward ‘ice assets’ our industry keeps flogging.

The Changing Influence of Celebrities in Sponsorship

 ‘Celebrities’ – denounced by sceptics as irrelevant, yet worshiped by so many of the younger generation. How can a seemingly inconsequential topic become such a contentious talking point?

Celebrity Culture

Modern society’s imitation-based obsession with what celebrities are wearing, or where they are eating, has led to a booming ‘celebrity-centric’ industry. Whether we like it or not, the front pages of red-tops worldwide are covered with famous faces accompanied by relatively inane stories. It’s hardly a red-letter day when a humanitarian disaster is relegated from the front pages at the hands of Justin Bieber’s most recent run in with the law.

The Problem

The incredibly awkward Iceland adverts currently on-air featuring Peter Andre prove that celebrity ambassadors are often willing to do anything to keep their bank managers happy. Poorly integrated, short-term celebrity ambassadorships are perhaps indicative of the ’15 minutes of fame’ mentality now commonplace in the entertainment industry.

This being said, the power of celebrities should not be underestimated; they can dramatically affect the success or failure of online campaigns. You only have to look as far as the #icebucketchallenge for ALS, the #makeupfreeselfie in aid of Cancer Research UK, and #stephensstory for the Teenage Cancer Trust (recently surpassing the £5million mark at the Pride of Britain Awards) to see the benefits of having a celebrity voice on-board.

The Solution

We must innovate further than simply paying celebrities to tweet or Instagram about a product, service, or event. It must be more integrated, more believable. Whilst this is not a new idea, its implementation requires creativity and investment of time and money. Objectives must be aligned and mutual benefit must be expected, not desired. Tenuous or superficial links between brands and celebrities simply no longer cut the mustard.

When it works, it WORKS

Nike has time and again proved itself as a forward-thinking company signing deals with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer. These endorsement deals are original and innovative due to their collaborative nature. Whilst the real extent of the input Michael Jordan actually has in the design of Air Jordan trainers may be debatable, the bilateral achievement of objectives is unquestionable. They are all winners. The Nike brand is a global powerhouse, and the athletes become more than sportsmen – they become brands in their own right.

Similarly, the music industry is no slouch when it comes to innovative sponsorships that positively engage with consumers. Jay-Z’s partnership with Bing in 2010 could be seen as somewhat of a pioneer, but the music industry has not slowed since. Beats by Dr Dre, purchased by Apple for $3 billion on August 1st this year, has proved that artist collaboration coupled with clever marketing and branding can create a solid foundation for extremely fast and sustainable growth.

To Conclude

Celebrity culture has undeniably had an effect on the need to redefine traditional conceptualisations of sponsorship. There are no longer set rules in the sponsorship arena; innovation pays. With the pull that celebrities have on modern-day buying trends, they should not be seen merely as an arrow to a brand’s quiver, but rather as an incredible opportunity to connect with consumers. If both parties are on the same page regarding direction, the partnership immediately gains believability. Believability directly correlates with desirability which, in turn, boosts sales. Social media has brought consumers closer than ever to their idols – surely this is an opportunity that the sponsorship industry cannot afford to take for granted.

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