Olympic Sponsors Provide Terrific Insights For Key Trends in Sponsorship

Like most people, I’ve been spending a lot of time glued to the TV watching the 2010 Winter Games, living vicariously through these tremendous athletes.  However, as someone in the business of connecting sponsors to properties, I’ve also been paying a lot attention to how companies are leveraging their involvement with this global property.

At first glance, many of you might say “what does a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal have to do with me”, but if you look at the trends closely, these Games provide real insight into what makes sponsorship so successful as a marketing medium. Here are some of my findings from this year’s global spectacle that everyone can take a lesson from:

Finding the Right Fit Between the Company’s Core Business and the Property

Finding a link between a company’s core business and the property and communicating that link is critical. Some examples include:

  • Visa – “the only card accepted at the Olympics”
  • Hudson Bay – official supplier of Canadian Team Olympic apparel
  • Rona – helping to build the Olympics – “Made in Canada”
  • Bell – phone access in over 200 countries around the world
  • Samsung – follow the Olympics on your Samsung mobile

Bringing the Brand to Life

These are great examples of companies that are leveraging their sponsorship to demonstrate their brand’s attributes in a real way:

  • Chevrolet – Official vehicle of the 2010 Games, used to transport athletes from venue to venue;
  • Loblaw – President’s Choice’s Blue Menu used to provide athletes with the nutrition they need to compete
  • Panasonic – Experience OLympics highlights in HD 3D images at David Lam Park in Vancouver

Audience Engagement

The companies have done a great job at engaging audiences and creating exciting experiences around their brands:

  • Chevrolet – Contest to Win 17 Cars in 17 Days
  • RBC – Sponsor of the Olympic / Paralympic Torch Relay with over 12,000 torchbearers in 1,000 communities from coast to coast
  • Samsung Canada – Win one of 2010 prizes

Associating Brands with Athletes and Causes

These companies are using innovative techniques to fund Canadian athletes and the global movement to get children involved in sports

  • Wrigley’s – Donation made to Canadian athletes for every package of chewing gum purchased
  • Petro Canada – Purchase commemorative glasses with almost 50% of proceeds donated Olympic and Paralympic athletes
  • Cold FX – for every Canadian medal, Cold FX will donate $1,000 to Right to Play, an international charity championed by 350 athletes from 40 countries

Unique Positioning

These companies are enjoying unique positioning at the 2010 Winter Games:

  • McDonald’s sponsorship of The Difference Makers featuring Rick Hansen
  • Visa – “the only card accepted at the Olympics”
  • Canadian Tire – Sponsor of the Hockey Report

The lesson to be learned from all of this is that effective sponsorship marketing doesn’t need to be expensive; it just needs to make sense from a branding perspective and leveraged in an innovative way to communicate product or brand attributes. So, take some of these ideas and apply them to your own environment and you’ll be on the leading edge of the sponsorship marketing industry.

Go Canada Go!



“Activation” – the key to any successful sponsorship marketing program

This past spring we conducted research on about 150 sponsorship properties from around the world to identify the types of benefits that are offered to sponsors in different environments and to no great surprise, there is little earth-shattering innovation as far as the range and nature of benefits offered.  However, one thing that became very clear is that an  activation plan that connects the brand in a meaningful way with the property or “audience experience” is essential for effective sponsorship marketing.

A properly planned and executed Activation Strategy can transform everyday benefits (i.e. visibility elements) into a dynamic cooperative marketing program. Here are some examples from Canada and around the world:

  • Whitby, Ontario – Scotiabank’s Naming Rights of Iroquois Park is supported by a Free Skate Day on Family Day and sponsorship of the Backyard Rink Program for children under 7.
  • UK – National Trust – Cadbury Trebor Bassett helped deliver over 200 Easter Egg Trails at NT park properties this Easter. The activities focused on encouraging ‘family togetherness’ and bringing a little magic back to the Easter occasion. The Trails were advertised on over 20 million Cadbury Easter eggs as well as through a dedicated website – www.eastereggtrail.com – where participants could search to find their nearest participating property. All children received a Cadbury ‘Egghead’ Easter Egg on completion of the trail and at some of the larger properties, Cadbury provided extra fun and games including space hoppers, egg and spoon races and face painters.
  • SickKids Hospital = Costco Wholesale is a strong supporter of SickKids through the Children’s Miracle Network. Costco has inspired their staff to encourage customers and vendors to give in support of their Miracle Campaign – a program that runs throughout the month of May. They have executed one of the most successful “paper icon campaigns”. Costco customers are invited to purchase a CMN paper balloon that they sign and staff display prominently in the warehouse – ultimately making a donation to SickKids.
  • South African National Park – Hi-Tee sponsors the footwear for the Hoerikwaggo Guides. Each graduate receives one pair of boots and one pair of shoes and the guides acknowledge the performance of the gear in their tours.

  • US National Parks Services – National Trust = Olympus is the sole sponsor of the “Share the Experience” Photo Contest. The contest encourages people to experience the nation’s parks and federal recreation lands and take only photos, leaving the parks’ majestic beauty untouched for future generations to enjoy. Olympus is also supporting the National Park Service’s “Air Web Camera” initiative, which tracks and analyzes air quality at 16 national park locations. Images are captured every 15 minutes throughout each and every day at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Great Smokey Mountains, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials in Washington D.C.

  • New South Wales – Foundation for Parks and Wildlife – Dymocks has the naming rights to Golden Paw Award, an annual children’s drawing competition and rewards all entries with a donation to the foundation.
  • Vancouver 2010 – Canadian citizens could apply to RBC or Coca-Cola to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay and carry the Olympic flame throughout Canada as part of the 106-day, 45,000 km Torch Relay leading up to Vancouver 2010.

The bottom line is that sponsorship activation can be as simple or complex as you want as long as it demonstrates brand relevance and/or provides value to the intentded audience.  Therefore, if you want to create more compelling sponsorship packages and ensure that sponsors reveive maximum return on objectives for their investment, you should ensure that every proposal includes a strong activation element that goes beyond visibility benefits to active engagement.



Industry Insights on Sponsorship Marketing

As sponsorship marketing becomes an increasingly important medium to help companies connect with their audiences at a meaningful level, the desire to share knowledge among industry is demonstrated through organizations such as the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada, which was created in 2004 to advance the development of best practices and accountabilities in the field of sponsorship marketing.

The mission of the SMC is to help advertisers who use sponsorships as part of their integrated marketing communications strategies get the maximum return on their investments. The council provides a resource for Canadian advertisers to enrich their understanding of sponsorship marketing as a viable and effective MARCOM tool.

The Sponsorship Marketing Council’s annual Sponsorship Marketing Awards provides terrific insight into the strategic and creative approaches that companies consider to be best practices in the sponsorship marketing discipline.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to review the winning campaigns for this year to see what’s really working from an industry perspective and how you can apply this level of thinking to your own sponsorship program.



P.S. A reminder that MARCOM 2008 (June 11-12, Ottawa) is fast approaching, so if you are thinking of attending, now is the time to act! MARCOM is Canada’s premiere national conference for public and not-for-profit sector marketing professionals and features two days of learning and networking with experts and colleagues from across Canada. For any organization that wants to take a strategic approach towards their corporate revenue generation programs, CMG Canada will be launching its Revenue Generation Boot Camp, a full-day Pre-Conference  Workshop on June 11th. Click on the link for details.