In the time Usain Bolt clocked up 9 Olympic gold medals he has become an icon of sports, and of sports sponsorship. Since those record-breaking Olympic victories in Beijing 2008, when Bolt’s only sponsors were Puma and Jamaican mobile phone company Digital, things have changed rapidly –  8 years of incredible sporting performance, global fame and branded impact.

Gatorade, Hublot and Virgin Media quickly snapped up the world’s fastest man to pitch their wares. Gatorade introduced Gatorade Bolt, a new lemon ice-flavored drink. Visa linked him to a deal and used him in ad campaigns extensively in Europe, where athletics has a much higher profile than in the USA. His current endorsement portfolio now includes 10 global partners, ranging in value from $1-4 million annually with Puma being in a class by itself at eight-figures (he also has seven regional partners). Bolt even has his own character in the Temple Run gaming franchise. The game has been downloaded more than one billion times.

Bolt has also been busy off the track in 2016 leading up to the Rio Olympics. He signed deals at the beginning of the year with Japan’s ANA airline and Australian phone company Optus. He signed a deal with Enertor to be the face of the upstart sports insole brand, receiving an equity stake in the business. Bolt launched his new shaving company, Champion Shave, a week ahead of the opening ceremonies. And then he sprinted to immortality – the triple, double Olympic champion.

Sports are like nothing else. The unreserved passion of athletes competing, and fans supporting. The unprecedented performances of human speed, strength and spectacle. There is rarely a better way to add passion and performance to your brand attributes, than to connect with sports.

However, with so many investment opportunities – from sports teams to individuals, sports events and activities, stadia and media programs – to choose from, how do brands ensure their sponsorship portfolio enables them to reach the right people within their target markets for the most effective investment?

The traditional starting point is to look at how many people can be reached. This is where the plan can go wrong.

In effect sponsors get obsessed with maximising logo awareness, and then having a good time in the corporate hospitality tent. Yet we all know that simply seeing a brand’s image, or having a good time, is no longer enough to cut-through the proliferation of marketing messages, and to engage the right clients or consumers in an impactful way.

Instead, the starting points should be the audience:

  • Who is the target audience we really want to engage, and what matters most to them?
  • How is our brand relevant, and how does it add value to what the audience cares about?
  • What associations do we seek to make between our brand and the sponsored entity?
  • How is this different and better than before? What is the change we seek to achieve?
  • What new innovations or activities do we seek to introduce to the market alongside it?
  • How can the audience help to amplify the impact, peer to peer, as brand ambassadors?
  • What is the strategic plan, to sustain the story, and the relationship, over time?
  • How will this drive incremental, profitable business for the brand short and longer-term?

Sport sponsorship can be an incredibly effective marketing tool – strategically in building brands and launching innovations, and building deeper relationships with target audiences – and also in driving sales promotional activity, in more topical and relevant ways.

My experience is diverse – from helping brands like Coca Cola and Visa to use their mega-sponsorships of the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup to transform perceptions of their brand and engage target business partners and consumers in a vision of the future – through to brands like VB Beer, P&G and Tata to embrace the values of sports affiliation to create a brand personality and empathy that resonates with its target drinkers.

With a range of masterclasses and consulting projects, I help brands to connect in the right way with sports, and more importantly the right audiences. To create win wins. To create new levels of passion and performance for your brand, and the sport too.

Here are the key modules, which are customisable in content and duration to your needs and aspiration:

  • The Brand: Why are we doing this, how the best companies build brands more successfully, by embracing sponsorship to engage their target audiences in deeper, more relevant, more topical and more effective ways.
  • The Audience: Who the audience for sponsorship really is, business or consumer, employee or partner, and what they want. Tapping into their passions so that the brand adds relevance and enhances what they love.
  • The Activation: How to bring brands and sponsorship programs in highly creative, practical and profitable ways. Thinking long before, during and beyond the engagement, to build relationships and community.
  • The Impact: What is the real impact of sponsorship – in changing attitudes and behaviours towards the brand, exploring new innovations and solutions, driving trial and purchase – the business case, the metrics ROI, and impact on brand value.

And some useful background articles: