Buying sponsorship: is it the best job in the world?

I wonder what’s the best job in the world? After the career options of chocolate taste tester or lifeguard at the Playboy Mansion, Mike Simon’s gig is right up there. Imagine sitting in your office, and being able to think to yourself. “I know. Today, we’ll sponsor the World Cup.” Then you settle into your airline’s first class flatbed and whizz off to the venue, where you’ll watch the game from one of the best seats in the house, with someone like Pelé sitting next to you.I might be slightly oversimplifying the decision-making process in the Emirates corporate communications department, but you get the picture.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  April 23, 2006

|~||~||~|I wonder what’s the best job in the world? After the career options of chocolate taste tester or lifeguard at the Playboy Mansion, Mike Simon’s gig is right up there. Imagine sitting in your office, and being able to think to yourself. “I know. Today, we’ll sponsor the World Cup.” Then you settle into your airline’s first class flatbed and whizz off to the venue, where you’ll watch the game from one of the best seats in the house, with someone like Pelé sitting next to you. I might be slightly oversimplifying the decision-making process in the Emirates corporate communications department, but you get the picture. This week, we look at the art of sports sponsorship in our main feature on page 18. It’s good timing — on Tuesday, Emirates announced it was extending its sponsorship of the World Cup through to 2014. I’d by lying if I said this was deliberate planning on our part, but there again, it’s a rare week where there isn’t a big Emirates sponsorship announced. But the big question is, is it worth it? Does a sponsor get better value from the hundreds of millions of dollars they spend on sports sponsorship than they do by investing the money in straightforward advertising? After all, if you do little more than have your name on the hoarding, why not just buy a billboard? And there appear to be some golden rules to make it pay. First, there’s no point doing it in the short term. Whatever benefit you derive gradually builds over time. There’s clearly a multiplier effect going on. Second, do it big. The very ubiquity of Emirates’ sponsorships is one of the things that are making the strategy work for the airline. And third, make the most of it. That means using the events to invite key contacts, build relationships and tailor messages. This should be a sophisticated operation in its own right. Again, Emirates does this well — for instance, it is currently offering free World Cup tickets to customers who book certain flights. It’s something that helps differentiate itself as the World Cup’s airline. Another example of this being done well is that of retailer The One, sponsor of Robbie Williams’ gig in Dubai. Rather than simply being a sponsor, the shop took a large block of tickets as part of the deal. After the initial public tranche sold out to massive local media hoop-la, The One put its own block on sale, ostensibly to meet public demand. Cynics (myself included) may have seen it as media manipulation, but it worked . Queues were orderly, letters appeared in local newspapers praising The One’s organisation (again, am I being cynical in wondering about the origin of those letters?) and the brand has successfully become much more closely linked with the event than many sponsors ever achieve. The process even continued the morning after the gig with a special One-sponsored souvenir edition of 7Days. Not everybody is as good at maximising the return on their sponsorship. (And this is the point at which I start sounding like the spoilt and ungrateful hack I clearly am. ) Take Nokia’s sponsorship of the Jamiroquai concert. By the time invitations went out a day or two before the event, those who were keen to go would have already bought tickets, leaving only those who hadn’t been bothered available to come. Now, I had a marvellous night, not least because of the free-flowing hospitality in the Nokia stand, but I picked up no key messages from the sponsor all night. The brands were low profile, I didn’t have any direct contact with the sponsor, and I have to question what value they got out of having me along. I’m certainly no more knowledgeable about their products. But the demand for sponsorship opportunities is obvious - look at the current wrangling between MasterCard, Visa and FIFA over future World Cup sponsorship. Mind you, at least the winning marketing manager will get to go to the World Cup. What a job.||**||

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