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The Future of Sponsorship

If you dissect any sponsorship, from FMCG to technology, the big question should be if that brand wasn’t involved, what difference would it make? True and legitimate sponsors are integral to that sport or event - without them it simply would not take place.

Red Bull’s sponsorship of Felix Baumgartner’s attempt to jump from the edge of space earlier in the year was the perfect example of a sponsorship that fitted seamlessly. If you break it down, the two key themes, partnership and relevance interlink faultlessly. Red Bull’s sponsorship of Felix, and other extreme sporting activity such as Formula One and Flugtag has permanently cemented the brands’ ethos in the public’s psyche and I don’t believe anyone would question or fail to understand the connection. A high energy drink goes hand in hand with events that define speed and adrenaline.

For B2B brands it can seem more difficult. However, they can certainly learn a great deal from this type of sponsorship. It supports my belief that we’re confusing ourselves with language and it’s time to completely remove the word ‘sponsorship’ from marketing vernacular in favour of ‘partnership’. A world in which true partnership exists allows a unique value exchange to occur, one where the audience, partner and rights holder become completely interdependent over a sustained period of time.

There has to be evidence that the sponsorship means more than just money spent; it is involvement, participation and above all else co-creation.  There must be a belief that without the brand, it would never happen.

There was a backlash around many of the Olympic sponsors this year over their relevance. It seemed that there was so much excitement and eagerness to be involved in the event that their role was not carefully considered. Some B2B brands performed well, but they were in the minority. The ones with a robust sponsorship deal, where their involvement was completely justified, were those where their participation was integral to the games and a simple extension of the brand offering.

It is fine for brands to sponsor something if they feel it will help to raise their profile, however, in the current climate where businesses and consumers are far more switched on they need to be prepared for the inevitable examination and criticism that may follow. In the future, brands are increasingly going to need to demonstrate their involvement and what the value-exchange is between the ‘sponsor’ and ‘sponsored’ if they want to form a true and meaningful ‘partnership’ that will deliver.