Sponsorship will often be a brand marketing director’s first thought when considering a sports-related campaign. Thankfully, the old school "brand slap" model is dying a death and the sponsorships of today tend to be significantly more sophisticated than those we used to see in the "Noughties" and before. Companies seek increased authenticity and better connections with their ever more fickle and savvy target audience. And so the partnerships themselves have become subtler, deeper and more cleverly activated.
Some brands, rather than seeking an association with someone else's event, bravely decide to run their own. The advantages are clear. Much greater control of the event and the branding associated with it, better access to the data generated and the increased sense of authenticity that comes from running the event rather than linking a brand to it.
But there are also significant challenges. For the most part, the planning and execution of a sporting event requires specialist skills, knowledge and contacts. These can all be hired in but good advice does not come cheap. Even if volunteers can be used to help “on the ground”, they need to be identified, trained, kitted out and managed.
Venue is of course a key issue too. Deals may need to be done with the owner of a stadium or with a host city or local authority. Roads may need to be closed and traffic plans drawn up and implemented. With some events, the police may need to be consulted.
There may be a need to confer with the relevant sports governing body too, for example to secure official sanction for the event.
Away from the operational nitty gritty, there are IP issues to consider too. What will the event be called? Is the name capable of trade mark protection and if so, in what territories should filings be made? Trade mark searches may be necessary to see what prior marks are on the register that may cause problems. Even generic sounding terms like “WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS” or “10K” may be incorporated into third party registrations.
Customer data is likely to be another vital issue. How is the business to go about obtaining the details of new potential customers? With respect to those already on its marketing database, does the business have the necessary freedom under its privacy policies and under electronic marketing laws to promote the event to them?
Any brand running its own sports event will want to maximise media coverage. Some companies may have the facilities and skills in house to arrange their own audio visual production. For many though, it will be necessary to appoint a specialist production company or, if more appropriate, a host broadcaster. The question of distribution must then be tackled. For bigger events, deals may need to be negotiated with broadcasters, potentially internationally as well as locally. Alternatively, the organisers may prefer to stream the event online, either through their own media player and website or potentially through a third party site like YouTube or Facebook.
In a short blog post like this it is hard to do much more than touch on a handful of the key issues a brand must consider and address in order to run its own successful sports event. There is a huge amount to be taken into account and the challenges can be immense for a business whose core focus is in another area, be it selling soft drinks, cars or insurance. Many a wise person, though, has found an eloquent way of making this point: Nothing truly valuable was ever easy.