Sponsorship, like the other Marketing-Mix tools, also faces some powerful challenges in the face of the digital transformation which we are immersed in.
Because of the great changes that we are experiencing in terms of how we communicate and stay informed about sporting events, sponsorship may be at a difficult crossroads, because, unlike in the past, calculating your ROI (Return on Investment) has become an enormously complex task.
Although a good sponsorship strategy requires it to affect all the strategic communication elements of the company, traditionally it was mainly supported as an alternative to conventional advertising.
“I’ll put my advertising on the shirt of a football team, a stadium or a racing car and I’ll be seen by more people than if I put an ad in the press or on TV.” This was the basic reasoning that was made when contemplating an investment in a sponsorship. All this has ceased to be valid, as it is well known that both through the written press and conventional television that today it is impossible to concentrate placement while garnering massive visibility as was achieved in the past.
At first, the appearance of digital media as well as social networks was conceivably going to give more reliable numbers thanks to technology. But reality has become misleading, more well put than ever, because of the fraud that accompanies all the data in this environment, also because of artificial generators of ‘clicks’, bots, false followers, etc, etc, generating great confusion and skepticism about the real impact that sponsorship renders.
Because of this, it may seem that sponsorship has ceased to be as useful of a tool as it was in the past. However, the reality is that a well managed sponsorship can be more effective than ever in enabling a company to communicate with its target audiences.
The digital change, therefore, permanently buries the formula of putting a logo on a platform and later waiting to see audience figures. But advertisers, forced by this drastic change of model in which we find ourselves in, can find within sponsorship the ideal environment and circumstances to accomplish one of the magic concepts of this era: Engagement. Get to the ‘heart’ instead of going for the ‘eyes’.
It’s true that the currently available technology allows you to reach your customers in digital advertising (at least those of the online environment) with unusual precision, but it’s also true that, simplifying it greatly, we’re speaking of tactical marketing, Not strategic marketing.
In this sense, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, geolocation, holograms, augmented reality, virtual reality, etc. also allow sponsorship to provide an extension impossible to achieve in the past. This digital opportunity is applied to the world of sponsorship as an open door to establish emotional connections with the target audience to which the communication is directed.
Let’s think about just the interaction that occurs between traditional sports and e-sports, with tools such as virtual reality. The viewer is part of the experience, not only enjoying the experience as it happened as in the past, where the role of the viewer was passive.
If in the past one of the attractive features of a sponsorship versus conventional advertising was the possibility of offering unique experiences, experiences that money can not buy, with technological advances these possibilities are no longer confined to the physical/off-line environment, They can also be brought anywhere and anytime thanks to smartphones and other electronic devices.
The great challenge to overcome is the measuring this very impact, because if it’s complicated nowadays to analyze follow-up data, what about the difficulty of evaluating a sponsorship by measuring the satisfaction of current clients and the degree of attraction of potential clients? What about employee commitment, or how favorably investors or institutions view our company, or the sympathy with which our CSR is perceived by society?
I am a strong supporter of market research and surveys. This data can certainly be imperfect, but no less imperfect I think is are the data we take as television audience stats or Google Analytics.
To give an example of these imperfections, of what use is it for us to have some data on reactions, likes and retweets on twitter if we have no way of knowing what happens on WhatsApp, the largest social network of all? Although being a private platform this isn’t taken into account.
WhatsApp groups are usually the platform where the greatest exchanges of files and comments related to sports take place, yet however it is as if it were nonexistent in terms of available data. A solution will come about in the end, but this example serves to remind us that we are barely in the early stages of change in this digital transformation in the world of sponsorship and of the immense field of possibilities that lie ahead.
Pablo de Villota
Director of Sports & Entertainment at Proa Comunicación