Naming Rights Activation – The Changing Landscape

On June 17th, the Ottawa Senators announced a new naming rights deal with Canadian Tire for the soon-to-expire Scotiabank Place agreement. The complexity of the eight-year deal (with 10 year renewal option) really illustrates how sponsorship activation is playing centrestage vs. the traditional “let’s just put a sign on the building” approach.

The new arena deal (Canadian Tire Centre) will be used to promote more than just the flagship brand. It will also involve other companies under the Canadian Tire umbrella. Activation elements planned as part of the naming rights agreement include:

  • One restaurant in the facility will be renamed the Sport Chek Sports Pub and Grill;
  • The 800 arena staff members will be outfitted in clothing from Mark’s Work Warehouse;
  • The parking lot will be used as an advertising venue for Canadian Tire’s automotive business, including promotional offers printed on the back of parking stubs.
  • The 10,000-square-foot kitchen will be renamed the Canadian Tire Kitchen, and will be the setting of online videos and commercials to promote the retailer’s housewares.
  • Rink boards will include advertising for store brands such as Mastercraft and Denver Hayes.
  • Advertising time during games broadcasts, which will now be called Canadian Tire Ottawa Senators on Sportsnet;
  • Players who do interviews between periods will have towels around their necks with the Sport Chek brand on them.

As one can see, the span of the agreement and level of marketing integration is far broader than naming-rights deals of the past. However, it is indicative of marketers’ changing demands when it comes to sponsorship. According to Cyril Leeder, President of Senators Sport and Entertainment “There’s been a shift coming for a number of years now, and it’s intensifying. They’re not just branding any more with teams.… Marketers want more from their dollar that they’re investing with teams”.

For anyone seeking sponsorship of any kind, this provides a great example of the creativity  and thought that needs to go into successful sponsorship or naming rights proposals. The old days of banners and signs are going the way of the dodo bird and anyone not on board will soon find themselves on the outside looking in.

Later, BC



Explaining Sponsorship Activation

A lot of professionals who attend my sponsorship workshops or conference presentations ask about sponsorship activation. The Oxford Dictionary states that to activate is to make (something) active or operative or in other words “to set in motion”.

From a sponsorship perspective, activation is any activity that a sponsor undertakes to leverage the sponsorship opportunity to achieve some desired result. When a company sponsors your organization, program or event, they typically are paying for the right to be associated with your property and the opportunity to market to your audience. And typically, the sponsor property provides a range of baseline benefits that generally increase awareness of the sponsor’s association with the property. The problem is that awareness is only a small piece of the puzzle.

It is becoming widely acknowledged that a sponsorship without an activation program is most often a waste of money. A sponsorship without activation is a passive “marketing event” where the audience says “they paid money to have their logo in front of us”. Whereas, a sponsorship with some level of activation either engages the audience in a unique way or adds value to the audience experience, thereby enhancing the relationship between the sponsor, the property and the audience.

In other words, sponsorship without activation is like a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal without the milk. As a stand-alone product, Rice Krispies are quite bland in appearance and really not that exciting. However, just add add milk and all of a sudden, the cereal starts fizzing and popping and comes alive!

Sponsorship activation does not need to be complicated. It can be as simple as a company conducting a mailing to event registrants to announce their association with the activity or placing ad ad to support the sponsorship. Other simple activation programs include:

  • An automotive dealer conducting “test drives” at an event location;
  • A manufacturer showcasing their tools as part of a skills competition;
  • A professional services firm conducting an on site survey to assess trends in a particular industry;
  • A bank hosting key clients at a sporting event;
  • A specialty food retailer offering product samples at an event reception.

All of these examples have some common elements –  they visibly demonstrate brand attributes and somehow engage the target audience in an activity where they gain a better understanding of the company or product and how it can benefit them.

The bottom line is that a sponsorship without an activation strategy is simply not going to generate meaningful results, unless a company’s primary objective is to increase brand awareness. And in today’s complicated marketing environment, most companies are looking way beyond brand awareness in order to rationalize their sponsorship investment.

Sponsorship professionals should include activation ideas in their proposals. They should also insist on an activation strategy and be prepared to invest a little to make it easier for a sponsor to implement the program. In the end, it’s pretty simple – a strong activation program will yield better results; which will ultimately lead to stronger renewal rates and more corporate investment.

Later, BC

5 Game Changers in Marketing and Sponsorship…and why you need to pay attention

As a fan of marketing and sponsorship, I’m amazed how quickly these environments (and disciplines) have changed in the last few years. Some of the changes have happened overnight, while others seem like they’ve been more gradual. In any case, we’re working with a new set of rules and if you’re focusing on a marketing or sponsorship model that’s 5 or 6 years old, you’re likely considered “old school” (scary, isn’t it?).

Here are five key “game changers” that are influencing the way we market our organizations or products or the way we recruit sponsors.

Impact of Technology and Social Media

Simply put, social media and other collaborative technologies have changed everything, from the way we connect with colleagues and friends to how we purchase goods and services to how we build our business. Today’s smart marketers realize that to build online awareness and brand equity, your presence needs to go way beyond your web site. As an example, when’s the last time you typed in a web site address? The simple fact is that if you are not building social media and other digital engagement strategies into your marketing or sponsorship plans, you are missing a key ingredient in your marketing mix and one of the main elements that sponsors look for in benefits packages.

The Power of the Customer

The balance of power has shifted from governments, corporations and other organizations to where it belongs – with the customer. As consumers, we have more choices than ever before on almost every aspect of our lives. Just look at the choices you have on where/how to shop, get an education or loan, spend our leisure dollars or even receive health care. What this means for most organizations is that we now have to EARN the business and loyalty of our customers.

The Importance of Branding and Positioning

With all the competition for “mind-share”, every organization needs to stand out favourably from the competition. Articulating what makes you different (positioning) and reinforcing your organization’s or product’s attributes (branding) day-to-day is paramount to your customers finding you and sticking with you. Despite this, many organizations are stuck on “being everything to everyone” and wonder why they don’t appeal to anyone; and many organizations are still stuck on their logo vs. what effective branding is all about. In short, your brand defines you in the market and if you are not being proactive in this area, someone else will influence your brand for you.

The Selling Cycle

In the “old days”, when someone wanted to buy from you, they looked up your name in the phone book (remember?) and called you or visited your place of business to learn more about what you had to offer and you usually started by providing basic information about your program, product or service. Today, they know a lot about you before they contact you. The problem is that you don’t know what they know (or believe) when they initially contact you and this complicates the selling process significantly. For example, if someone contacts your organization about a sponsorship opportunity, chance are that they’ve done their homework through online or social media channels and already have a preconceived notion of what they’re getting into. To be effective, you need to quickly understand where they are in the decision-making process and adapt your presentation to their needs, otherwise you risk losing them.

The Need to Re-Position Sponsorships

All of the above factors have created a need to re-position sponsorships from the traditional “awareness” benefits to a more sophisticated marketing medium. Marketing has changed dramatically and what companies are looking for in a sponsorship environment has also changed. In order to recruit the kinds of sponsors you want or need, you need to help them address the challenges they’re facing in today’s highly competitive and complex marketing environment.This means demonstrating how your sponsorships can help them build brand equity and connect with their customers in real ways.

I’ll be discussing these and other “game changers” in my upcoming fall Sponsorship Workshop Program. Click on Upcoming Workshops at the top of the page for more details.

Later,                                                                                                                                                     BC