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.

Slingshot Sponsorship Appoints New Account Director to Launch Sport Division

Slingshot Sponsorship announces that Alex Howells will be joining its London office as an Account Director to head up the agency’s new sport division, as it seeks to drive its ‘creative commercialisation’ concept to rights-owners within the sports industry.


Howells takes up the position at Slingshot with over 9 years of experience across the sports marketing and sponsorship sectors, with previous roles at the Football Association and E.ON.  Most recently he has been a key member of the Partnerships team at Sport England where he was responsible for growing Sport England’s portfolio of partners and providing specialist commercial support to national governing bodies of sport.


Jackie Fast, Managing Director at Slingshot Sponsorship, said: “We have been on the hunt for a new Director of Sport for some time as it is incredibly difficult to find senior people who have a combination of strong creativity and commercial acumen. Combining that with proven account management, Alex’s breadth of experience with both influential brands and sporting bodies was an ideal fit for our agency as we look to bring our sponsorship concept to the sporting industry.”


The new Sport Division will deliver fresh insight through the agency’s previous success developing unique commercial strategies and brand campaigns in music, arts and the charity sector.


Slingshot Sponsorship has developed a bespoke sport offering to the industry at a defining time in sports marketing.  Sports with smaller audiences are all too often overlooked for their partnership potential because of the lack of television reach, while mass market sports largely sell their sponsorship based on these figures.  Slingshot works with both brands and rights owners to look beyond the logo, aided by the advance of technology which is driving both innovation and speed.  Jackie Fast states that, “It is now the perfect opportunity to maximise the true potential of sport campaigns that drive engagement – rather than just brand awareness.”


Alex Howells, Account Director, Slingshot Sponsorship stated: “It’s a privilege to join the team at Slingshot.  Slingshot do things differently and the agency’s accomplishments in such a short space of time are an indication of the commitment, drive and energy of Jackie and her team.  I’m excited to be a part of it and help bring Slingshot’s creativity to sport.”


Howells will carry on the work with Slingshot’s current sport clients, while creating tailored offerings to the industry as a whole with a focus on maximising both participants and commercial revenue streams through effective marketing partnerships.  He will also be responsible for building the profile of smaller sports and women’s sport within the sponsorship industry as a whole.

Much Taboo About Nothing – Engaging new theatre fans through sponsorship

An emphatic drop in arts funding over the last decade has forced public funded organisations to re-think their commercial strategies in a bid to remain profitable. The ever increasing pull of the purse strings, combined with an overcrowded marketplace has lead theatres across the land to seek sponsorship in order to keep up. Yet with most discerning customers around who cannot be fooled or cajoled, the trick it seems, is bagging the right sponsor.


Barriers to entry for sponsors within theatreland have come from different directions; firstly, many see sponsorship as a taboo that can drive away the younger audience, and therefore brands trying to reach this demographic. Secondly, scepticism from the industry plays a vital role, with many wishing to retain ‘artistic independence’ from sponsors, choosing ones which don’t undermine the ethics they promote. However, over the past ten years with the ever increasing need to adjust, and with the need to attract new audiences, there has been an increase in more corporate sponsorships – has this brought the right brands in and has it benefitted the industry?


Subsiding theatre tickets in order to bring in a younger, and larger crowd has been the corner stone of many partnerships in recent years. Travelex’s sponsorship of the National Theatre has lasted for over ten years, offering over 2 million reduced priced tickets, 360,000 of these have been to first time theatre goers. Travelex themselves may not be recognised as the most  desirable sponsor, if you only remember them as taking a large commission off your holiday money at the departure lounge; they do, however, offer a break from a corporate dominated market. Whether you like it, don’t like it or are ambivalent, there is no denying that PWC’s investment in The Old Vic has had a considerable impact on the theatre, especially their investment which focusses upon nurturing young talent. Accenture have also been big supporters of the National, choosing to support more grass roots theatre, and showcasing their tech credentials by designing a touch screen behind the scenes tour of the theatre.


Sponsorship by corporates such as Shell and BP, have attracted plenty of criticism over the years with the feeling that this positive publicity is only there to service their corporate image, shining the spotlight away from their environmental records . BP has come under considerable criticism with their sponsorship of the Globe, which has famously been undermined by the Reclaim Shakespeare Company who regularly publicise BP’s global mishaps.


Sponsorship is part of today’s theatre makeup, and its clearly better off for it financially; however, if their objectives are to be attracting new, younger or more customers then surely they should be looking for brands which represent this. Travelex is a step in the right direction, and shows this can be built by creating more engaging campaigns.

It’s Not Who You Know

Three questions you should be asking your sponsorship sales person before you hire them

I have been in far too many pitches where I dread the question and answer period at the end.  This is not because I don’t like answering questions, it’s because the questions are always the wrong ones.  It never fails that when people are looking to hire a sponsorship sales person (regardless of whether it’s an internal hire or contracted external agency) the questions they always ask are the same and include a variation of the following:

“How many brands do you know that you’ll be able to get to sponsor our platform?”

Sometimes the person in question is slyer and the question comes across as:

“In terms of relationships you currently have, how many of those do you think you would be able to approach on our behalf?”

It always comes down to the black book.

Now in theory this makes a lot of sense.  Obviously the more brands they know personally, the easier it will be for that sponsorship salesperson to put your platform in front of them.  However, this doesn’t address the whole point of sponsorship sales.  Sponsorship sales are not transactional – unlike selling socks or vacuum cleaners, you have to understand how to derive value from set assets to drive brand objectives.  Creative thinking is vital.  Sponsorship sales are specific and not all sponsorship platforms are the best fit for all brands.  As such, it becomes less about the relationship and more about how the platform can help the brand meet certain objectives.  Even though I have drinks with the Marketing Director from Pampers, but that doesn’t mean they are going to sponsor Tough Mudder just because I asked politely over cocktails.

In addition, any sponsorship sales person or sponsorship sales agency who has lasted longer than 1 year will inevitably have a good black book. And even if they don’t have a strong black book in your specific sector, they will know quite easily how to build one quickly.  That is after all, what they do and why there are at the pitch to begin with.

So rather than waste time on answers that really won’t make too much of a difference to your end result, here are the top 3 questions you should be asking:

  1. How long is your longest running client and why have they stayed with you for so long?
  2. Have you ever lost a client because of not meeting your sales targets?  *To note, there are many variables that can affect sponsorship sales so if someone hasn’t met targets I wouldn’t write them off.  Instead, try to understand whether they took on the project without being transparent to their client about their own concerns such as pricing that is overvalued or timing that is unrealistic.
  3. What do you think the key USP of our platform is and what type of brands do you think it would attract?

Happy hiring!

Slingshot Sponsorship signs Warranty Direct as Headline Sponsor of the What Car? Awards for a third consecutive year

For a third consecutive year What Car? has announced that Warranty Direct will again act as Headline Partner for the What Car? Awards –  Europe’s leading and most prestigious automotive awards programme showcasing the best new car releases from that year.


The What Car? Car of the Year Awards are the most coveted accolades in the automotive industry. The Awards are presented to cars that set the highest standards in their sector after being put through the toughest, most rigorous tests by the most experienced team in the business.


The benefits of the sponsorship deal includes the alignment with the most authoritative and trusted brand in motoring, brand positioning and awareness, extensive PR opportunities, networking  and brand association to the awards via a multi-channel promotional campaign.


Chris Lowe, What Car? ‘Publisher’ said: “We are delighted to be working with Warranty Direct for the third consecutive year, which is the industry’s leading provider of direct consumer warranties.”


Duncan McClure Fisher, managing director of Warranty Direct Ltd, said: “We are looking forward to working alongside What Car? as headline partner for another year of the awards.  The Awards themselves set a benchmark within the industry and it is an honour to be a part of such a prestigious event.  We also hope car buyers investing in these award winning cars will want to look after them and that Warranty Direct warranties will be their first port of call.”


Chris Lowe continued: “Winning a What Car? Award is good for a car maker’s business. The authority of the What Car? brand sells cars, plain and simple. It adds power to advertising and marketing campaigns and is a huge draw for customers.”


The What Car? Car of the Year Awards event is attended by more than 1,400 leading industry figureheads alongside the most influential motoring correspondents from the wider media.


The event is to be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on January 7, 2015 with top-class entertainment yet to be announced. Previous headline acts have included Jonathan Ross, Jimmy Carr, Al Murray, Jo Brand and last year Jack Whitehall.

Hammerson shopping centres to host national sustainability roadshow – The Big Positive Weekend

Hammerson, the owner of some of the UK’s best known shopping centres, is launching a nationwide sustainability roadshow called The Big Positive Weekend.


Aiming to reach 2 million customers and inspire 200,000 positive pledges, The Big Positive Weekend celebrates the great things people and brands are doing for our communities and our environment.  The roadshow is designed to leave visitors inspired and motivated to take small actions that add up to a big positive impact.


The first road show of its kind to be staged by a retail property owner will visit nine of Hammerson’s shopping centres across the country throughout June, July and August, which attract over 200 million consumers a year. The Roadshow will start at West Quay in Southampton and include London’s Brent Cross and Bullring in Birmingham. With a combined  audience of over 6 million people, The Big Positive Weekend promises to give great ideas and advice on how to not only be more sustainable but also save money.


The headline sponsor for the Roadshow is Nationwide Building Society. Nationwide has been working hard to reduce its environmental impact and is keen to help individuals do the same, through its Green Homes Guide, which provides practical tips for sustainable homes. E.ON, the energy partner sponsoring the event, will have advisors on hand to help people use no more energy than they need by sharing energy-saving tips, demonstrating smart meters, and discussing free and discounted energy efficient measures which shoppers may be entitled to.


Shoppers will be able to engage with an array of different sustainability focussed activities and displays at each centre, all manned by our Big Positive Ambassadors.  As well as activities from our partners, shoppers can become part of a digital photo gallery of ‘positive people’ created live during the event and look at some of the most ‘positive products’ available from Hammerson retailers.


Louise Ellison, Hammerson’s Head of Sustainability, commented, “Our shopping centres present a fantastic opportunity to connect with millions of people; using that platform to raise awareness of sustainability in a fun way that inspires positive action, is a logical step for a responsible business.”


Stephen Uden, Nationwide’s Head of Citizenship said, “We are delighted to be the lead partner of the Big Positive Weekend and hope that it can inspire people to change their lives and their communities for the better. Nationwide has already engaged over two million of its members in its sustainability work over the last year and the Big Positive project will build on this.”


Hammerson is working in partnership with print, logistics and design companies piloting new techniques in order to deliver The Big Positive Weekend as sustainable as possible. Seacourt Printers will be providing print support, and Slingshot Sponsorship is working with Hammerson to source partners that will create a new event on the sustainability calendar.


The Big Positive event will be taking place at:

  • WestQuay, Southampton on 14th – 15th June;
  • Brent Cross, London on 21st – 22nd June;
  • Centrale, Croydon on 28th – 29th June;
  • The Oracle, Reading on 5th – 6th July;
  • Highcross, Leicester on 12th – 13th July;
  • Bullring, Birmingham on 19th – 20th July;
  • Union Square, Aberdeen on 26th – 27th July;
  • Silverburn, Glasgow on 2nd – 3rd August.

What’s in our shop? Charity Sponsorship

At Slingshot, we work with and hear from a lot of charities seeking sponsorship; all of which represent great causes and carry out vital work in communities and across the world.  More often than not, many charities that get in touch fall at the first hurdle. When asked: ‘why do you think a brand would be interested in sponsoring you?’ they respond: ‘because we’re a charity’. In an increasingly saturated market, where genuine exposure is hard to come by, this is not a viable response. Instead, the key is to find something that makes you stand out, something that gives brands a reason to want to work with you.  So, here are 4 points that we always highlight when evaluating charity based propositions.

Understand and promote your USP

However reputable the charitable cause may be, having a clear USP is vital to standing out from the crowd. The charity Movember has managed this seamlessly with their support of testicular cancer in promoting the idea of not shaving for one month. Offering sponsors this content, has allowed the charity to engage consumers with a more personalised approach, helping brands develop a story around Movember’s USP. In this case, the likes of Gillette and Penhaligons were able to monopolise on the overwhelming public affinity to the campaign which lead them to promote the campaign through their shaving products – drawing a natural synergy to the campaign and the charity.


Public voice and celebrity endorsement (preferably not Scarlett Johansson)  can help to raise a charities profile and exposure. We Day, the educational event which promotes young people leading global change, has managed to do this through adopting Richard & Holly Branson as patrons, and signing Virgin as headline partner. Having a celebrity bring a sponsor on board, or visa versa complements the partnership, and in this case, offers a familiar face and greater recognition. For Virgin, their sponsorship gives them the opportunity to link in their brand figureheads, helping gain more recognition, and as a result show more commitment to a great cause.

Giving brands the PR they strive for

On top of goodwill, brands will look for ways in which they can clearly communicate where their money is going to shareholders and the public alike. Land Rover has done this effectively in their partnership with the Red Cross where they have pledged £15 mill over the next five years with a view to helping people across the globe. Highlighting clearly the financial investment, and subsequent results of what this money does, helps brands communicate their success through their PR and marketing channels more effectively.

Being bold with your messaging

Marketing budgets within charities tend to be limited – therefore, it becomes so important for them to be creative with campaigns  In some cases, the choice is to be provocative with their messaging – which provides charities the opportunity to attract the public’s, and potential sponsor’s attention.  Pancreatic Cancer Action has done just this with their ‘I wish I had breast cancer’ camping which plays on the idea that the low survival rate Pancreatic cancer will leave you wishing for breast cancer. Shocking I know, however the public reaction saw a spike in coverage giving them some well needed publicity. This controversial statement helped create an emotional reaction amongst consumers, something which brands would struggle to re-create – and therefore an invaluable asset.

Summing up

Having a successful sponsorship starts through active engagement and offering content or access which would otherwise be unattainable. This is no different within the charity space, and when putting together a list of prospective sponsors you should be asking ‘what can we offer that’s different?’


Bank of America restoring faith in Super Bowl mania

Ah, the Super Bowl – the time of the year that makes little to no difference to my life, apart from on Monday, when Adweek provides us with the glory of the previous evening’s ad-off; with the added bonus of no touchdowns in between.

This year, we bore witness to a Clydesdale horse falling in love with a puppy and (to many people’s dismay) another showing of Bob Dylan selling a car.  Dylan sticking it to the man aside, the ad that struck me most was that of Bank of America.  The Bank used its prized slot as an opportunity to launch the company’s partnership with AIDS charity (RED).  The 60 second slot showcased U2 with the release of their first track in 5 years, ‘Invisible’  and directed fans to download the track for free off iTunes for 24 hours after the ad’s airing, with Bank of America donating $1 for every download (up to $2 million).

The showcasing of this partnership leads perfectly from the piece Patrick Nally wrote last week for #Synergy30.   Within the article, Nally makes the crucial argument that for the sponsorship industry to progress, it ‘needs to be directly involved in the debate and examination of the relationships between sports and the worlds of commerce, education, technology, governments and politics and society in general.’  For me, this 60 second ad did just that.  The Super Bowl had the world at their feet on Sunday (well, until the second half) and granted Bank of America, U2 and (RED) a platform not only to gain global exposure, but to raise awareness and funds for the charity.

What is emphasised through this partnership is the endless opportunity for corporates to use sponsorship/advertising at global sporting events as a platform for greater good.  Through the ad slot, over 3 million free downloads were purchased on iTunes – reaching the $2 million mark within hours, encouraging Bank of America to continue donating further into the night.  Such an overwhelming response to this partnership emphasises the influence corporates, global sporting events and even aging Irish rock stars can generate when given the right opportunity.  Of course, the Super Bowl is at the highest end of the spectrum, but what we need now is for more rights holders to offer platforms that can facilitate these partnerships, and for sponsors to recognise the undeniable value in them.

Is this not old news? The Evening Standard’s article: Goalposts shift as sponsorship game turns more complex?

It was refreshing to read a sponsorship article in a national paper that did not have to do with how much a brand paid for their recent premier league football kit deal.  However what surprised me was not the content of the article in question, but the amount of tweets that included the words “fascinating” and “amazing” from those working in the sponsorship industry that followed.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the article outlines how the advancement of marketing technology has shifted how brands communicate to their audiences.  With Barclays pulling out of Boris Bikes and Vodaphone’s recent announcement of dropping F1 to launch their Firsts programme, this is clearly becoming big news. However, this should not be a surprise to those in the industry as it has been going on (albeit in smaller incubator-type projects) for awhile.

This shift is the reason I launched Slingshot and despite these large budgets being pulled out of single properties, I echo chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment Steve Martin’s comment as we too, “have never been busier”.  This is because sponsorship still remains the best way to engage with audiences by creating emotional engagement beyond traditional advertising.

In the past four years, Slingshot has worked with a number of brands who have slowly been siphoning budget out of their larger media–based sponsorships into tester projects that have deeper engagement, allowing their internal teams the opportunity to become more creative with the rights they purchase.  Our results have enabled our clients to prove the value of this type of sponsorship (away from badging into engagement) against what they have previously been doing, driving larger budgets into more innovative projects year on year.

The drive for brands to innovate is leading this shift and in reference to the article’s ‘earned’ vs ‘paid’ media argument, there remains a great opportunity for the sponsorship industry.  As noted in the article, it is now becoming easier for brands to create their own platforms; however, the cost and typically the lack of direct knowledge in these areas significantly increases the risk.  Sponsorship can support this drive and really is what sponsorship should be about – working collaboratively to create something unique through the synergy of two of more organisations. With these types of sponsorships, the lines between rights holder and sponsor become blurred as the benefits derived from both are not just equal, but significant.

This is only the beginning of what will inevitably become a major shift in the traditional sponsorship model.

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