Sponsorship Activation Made Simple
Sponsoring an event can be a powerful way to bring a brand to life, but it’s more complex than slapping a logo on a wall. The process of creating memorable experiences for attendees is both an art and a science. In this article, we’ll examine how sponsorship activation is crucial in this process.
What is Sponsorship Activation?
When an organization sponsors an event, it is given certain rights that it can leverage to promote its brand. For instance, it may be allowed to use the event’s name and logo in its promotions and call itself the “official event sponsor”. However, if the sponsor fails to use these rights, their brand may remain unknown to the fans. The process of making use of these rights to promote the brand is called sponsorship activation. This article aims to help you understand this process and offers tips to create successful sponsorship activations for you or your sponsor.
How to Activate a Sponsorship
Sponsorship activations increase brand visibility for the sponsor. However, the best activations engage the target audience and enhance its experience with the sponsored property. They make people at an event, like the fans at a game or concertgoers at a music festival, feel a special connection to the sponsor. In essence, the sponsorship activation makes the sponsor part of the fun.
Let’s say a car company sponsors a music festival and sets up a cool lounge area where people can relax and get a drink. That’s enhancing the festival experience with the sponsored property. Activations are about making the sponsor’s brand known and loved by the right people while making the event even more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Sponsorship Activation Strategies
Activation strategies utilize various marketing tactics to bring a sponsorship to life. Brands should choose strategies that are best suited to the target audience and the opportunities presented by the sponsored property.
For instance, if a sports event has a fan midway area, a sponsor may heavily rely on an interactive display to entertain fans. If a brand sponsors a conference in a convention hall, it may offer free WiFi, along with email marketing to reach the conference audience. The best activation strategies are only limited by budget and the brand’s creativity.
Types of Activation Strategies
Experiential marketing is an approach where brands design live events or experiences to engage consumers personally and emotionally. This marketing method aims to create memorable, immersive interactions that transcend traditional advertising. These experiences often involve hands-on participation, sensory stimulation, and a strong focus on storytelling, ultimately fostering a deeper connection between consumers and the brand. The goal is to leave a lasting impression, drive brand loyalty, and enhance brand perception through meaningful real-life encounters.
There are many ways to use this type of activation strategy. In sports, music, arts, and other sponsorships, we’ve seen experiential marketing programs used by:
- A tech brand creating a virtual reality zone for fans to play their favorite sport.
- A beverage brand providing free cold soda samples on a hot day.
- An automotive brand creating a selfie station for fans to take their photo with a race car.
- A bank brand giving away beverage can koozies at a college football tailgate.
- An insurance brand using a spin-to-win wheel display to give away prizes and build its list of consumer leads.
- A mobile service provider offering free WiFi in an NFL stadium.
- A food company promoting a cooking demonstration with a renowned chef.
Social media marketing is an approach to leverage various social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and others for the purpose of expanding their online presence, engaging with their target audience, and promoting their products or services. This involves the creation of well-crafted posts, running targeted campaigns, and actively interacting with followers to cultivate a loyal online community.
Social media has become a critical part of a sponsor’s activation strategy. Social platforms create an opportunity to reach audiences directly with sponsorship content. For instance, social media activations include:
- Promotion of the sponsorship with video, images, and hashtags.
- A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the sponsored event.
- Exclusive access to a special part of an event.
- Interactive contests or giveaways if fans share their favorite moments of an event.
- Live streaming of the event or side events.
- Direct engagement with fans at an event.
- Post-event coverage of the event that creates nostalgic moments through video or imagery.
Advertising and sponsorship are different. However, both can be used to complement the other. Advertising promotes brands with carefully crafted messages and creative content to capture consumer attention and influence consumer behavior. Ads are everywhere, and we all experience them on a daily basis.
Blending sponsorship messages into advertisements boosts the impact of an ad with the sponsorship’s target audience. It’s like an injection of credibility. For instance, if I see an ad from the sponsor of my favorite baseball team, I’m likely to pay more attention to it than any other ad.
That’s why sponsors activate through advertisement in the following ways:
- Tagging the end of an advertisement with the property’s logo and a reference to being the “official sponsor” of an event.
- An advertisement leveraging the content of an event, like an Olympic sponsor creating an ad congratulating athletes.
- Using athletes or other participants in a sponsored event in an ad.
Email and Text Marketing
Email and text marketing is a powerful digital marketing strategy that sends targeted messages and promotional content to a group of recipients via email or text. It is a cost-effective way for businesses and organizations to communicate with their customers, subscribers, or potential clients.
Brands can activate this strategy in the following ways:
- Inclusion of the sponsor’s identity and information in the property’s consumer newsletter..
- Use of the sponsorship in product updates.
- Creating special product or service offerings from the sponsor to the property’s audience.
Influencer marketing is a strategic advertising approach where brands partner with individuals, known as influencers, who have established credibility and a dedicated following in a particular niche or industry. This marketing strategy leverages the influencer’s authenticity and trustworthiness to create a more genuine connection with potential customers
To create impact for brands, here are a few ways that sponsors use influencer marketing to increase their visibility and connect with their target audience:
- Autograph sessions with celebrities related to the sponsored property.
- Encourage influencers to create content related to the sponsored property and share it on the influencer’s social media platforms.
- Celebrity endorsements related to the sponsorship and the brand.
Sponsorship Activation Examples
No article about sponsorship activation would be complete without some real-world examples.
Absolut Vodka & Coachella
- What Happened: The Official Vodka of Coachella was activated on the festival grounds. However, it created a parallel metaverse creating a “phygital” connection between concertgoers live and in the digital world.
- Why It’s Great: Coachella is a festival in the California desert. With this activation, the Absolut sponsorship was activated worldwide.
BMW & Art Basel
- What Happened: BMW, an official partner of Miami Beach’s Art Basel, provided VIP shuttle service during the event with its fully electric BMW i7 model.
- Why It’s Great: BMW got to highlight the innovation of its EV technologies by coupling it with the innovation of art exhibited at Art Basel.
Honda & INDYCAR
- What Happened: Honda sponsored a two-seat INDYCAR, called the Honda Fastest Seat in Sports. In this car, racing icon Mario Andretti drove fans, celebrities, and influencers on a high-speed race car experience, leading the cars to start the Indy 500.
- Why It’s Great: Honda demonstrated that its products are fun and exciting to drive while amplifying its message with celebrities and influencers.
Final Thoughts on Sponsorship Activation
Activating a sponsorship package involves more than just logos and billboards. It’s about creating memorable moments, ensuring brand awareness, and cultivating a deeper connection with the audience. As brands innovate, they will expand the realm of sponsorship activation ideas, offering richer experiences to audiences everywhere.