Cisco Blogs

Sponsorship – Past Its ‘Sell By’ Date?

- October 6, 2011 - 3 Comments

In the good old days last century, global sponsorship was the preserve of a select number of companies.  Only a handful of sponsorship properties could be considered to have global reach (The Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Formula One Racing).  A similarly small number of brands were big enough to pay the premium for gaining mass market brand exposure at a fraction of the cost of a global advertising campaign.

But technology has changed all that.  Exponential growth in computing power, the internet and mobile has created a new environment.  Brands are now able to reach customers with individual conversations pretty much anywhere in the world.

So why is it that brands continue to invest sometimes seemingly ridiculous sums in sponsorship platforms?  The Rugby World Cup is currently enjoying the patronage of Mastercard, Heineken and DHL, amongst others, even though it is being hosted in a time zone that makes for late nights or early starts for the majority of rugby playing nations. 

Next summer sees the ultimate sponsorfest in London with the Olympic and Paralympic Games  coming to town.  The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) recently announced it had achieved revenues of over £700m ( that’s over 1 billion US Dollars) from its domestic sponsor programme. At a quoted £40-80 million for a Tier 1 sponsor, and something in the region of £15-25m for a Tier 2, which must then be at least doubled cover sponsorship activation, what is motivating brands to make these sorts of investments when more direct, cheaper conversations are possible?

The answer lies in objectives.  Sponsors have woken up to the fact that sponsorship has the potential to deliver so much more than mere brand exposure.  The European Sponsorship Association has identified three clusters of objectives: brand building, commercial gains and stakeholder engagement.

Given that, as a clean stadia event, the Olympics offers no old-style brand exposure, Games sponsors must have other targets in mind when contemplating an Olympics investment.

Some are focused on sales.  Coca Cola reportedly sees a global sales uplift of 40% around a Summer Games. Similarly, GE reported sales exceeding $700m from their Beijing sponsorship prior to the 2008 Games beginning.

Others have employee engagement as a priority. Lloyds TSB is one company using employee engagement to deliver brand and sales growth through its London 2012 sponsorship. Inspiring staff to be better than their best is a key pillar of Cisco’s activation programme as it re-energises its team to focus on core business.

But what binds proficient sponsors together is an understanding of how a sponsorship platform enables them to leverage fans’ interest to create brand engagement, whether that’s B2B, B2C, B2E or other stakeholders.  Their business cases are predicated on hard numbers –affinity, sales, churn, share price – that makes a global sponsorship investment a business imperative.  So sponsorship is no longer merely the Chairman’s whim.  It is a finely honed tool in a marketer’s arsenal and, at the investment levels these global platforms are commanding, not one to be treated frivolously.


In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. Those are indeed true sentiments regarding Lloyds TSB and their decision to sponsor London 2012. It’s interesting how many so called ‘big name’ competitors of well-known brand sponsors like Cisco, IBM etc. avoid taking the plunge and Cisco, as a quality driven organisation should be applauded by all sports fans for their significant financial and technological contribution to the people’s games. It’s easy for Cisco’s competitors to hide on a far flung planet in the universe called ‘Jupiter’ but fortune favours the bold and Cisco deserve to win gold. I like to think that an ideal world of closed-loop marketing can exist because ultimately there are two customer types. The first is ‘interested’ but just browsing [window shopping] and there are a multitude of marketing techniques, tracking and re-targeting tools to maintain their interest keeping them in the funnel. Secondly, there is the ‘interested, please help’ customer who is further down the sales funnel and with a fair wind become 'active customers'. The technology we have at Goallover makes the “perfect world” scenario a lot closer and whilst an advocate of brand sponsorship, I do believe quality organisations such as Cisco should aim towards the perfect world, in part to demonstrate return on investment to shareholders but equally to know their valued contribution can be measured at every marketing hurdle. Good luck.

  2. You have a very good point, David, and one I won't dispute in a perfect world. The challenge for most sponsorships is that the planning horizons are driven by the sponsored activity rather than the sponsor and therefore trade-offs sometimes have to be made - not just for lead gen but for other activites as well. Even the best planned sponsorship investments are also subject to other external factors...I greatly admire Lloyds TSB, the banking partner of London 2012, for having the vision to support their original investment (they were the first London 2012 sponsor to sign up) - but look what the economic environment did to them. They are now mostly state-owned and have to take this altered status into account in their final sponsorship executions.

  3. Sponsoring an event like the Olympics is just the start point in marketing activity that elevates the sponsors brand above all others in the customers mind. Being effective at the start point is one thing but 'effective' sponsorship marketing includes the customer journey from the myriad of the available touch points that they access the sponsored brand through. The bottom line 'sponsorship' objective is about driving business revenue but somewhere in the middle of a very complex sponsorship marketing programme will be a variety of lead generation programmes run through multiple channels. The end point in any lead generation programme is about capturing customer data, data that customers are happy to submit if taken effectively through the marketing funnel. The mistake of so many organisations involved in major sponsorship deals is to not fully consider the customer journey and data capture moments that close the marketing loop.