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The headline of ‘B2B brands launching sponsorship marketing programmes and campaigns’ isn’t exactly new.

From Cognizant’s partnership with the Aston Martin Formula One Team to TeamViewer’s collaboration with Manchester United, sponsorship across sports, entertainment or gaming provides B2B brands with the opportunity to reach, engage and convert new audiences in new ways than they might have ever experienced before.

But is it time for B2B brands to break the mould? And play their power card – direct access to engaged fans that are inherently emotionally connected to the sponsored property – to engage people on a more human level?

AND THE NEW Co-Founder Ryan Tinslay discusses his thoughts on the topic of B2B brand sponsorships in sport – the opportunities, the mistakes and AND THE NEW’s approach.

Why do B2B brands look to sport, and particularly global sports events, for sponsorship opportunities?

The most obvious answer is because of the sheer reach and awareness these events bring. Look no further than the estimated 1.5 billion viewers who tuned in for the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup.

Beyond that, there are many reasons why sponsorship marketing can work for B2B brands. Whether it’s as part of a big splash around the launch of a new product or service, strengthening local community ties with a CSR initiative or the kick-starting of a new area of the business, sport allows you to cut through the noise with a message that people care about.

For some, especially those hyper growth tech start-ups going through latter-stage Series funding, sponsorship can also generate hype and excitement – something often overlooked.

The key thing, however, is the hook. With content and social media marketing becoming increasingly more important in any B2B brands’ playbook, everything now is about capturing your audience’s attention in the first two seconds. Creating content and campaigns with a team, a league or even a person that your audience is already engaged with, when used correctly, can help B2B brands stand out.

What’s your take on the traditional sponsorship activation versus modern sponsorship marketing?

The first question always to ask is: “What is it we’re trying to achieve from this?”

Traditional sponsorship activation in the form of VIP client hospitality or physical experiential builds still have their place and can be incredibly successful if aligned with the brand’s goals.

However, the truly successful B2B sponsors will be the ones that see beyond the small pool of valuable clients and leads they can invite to events and turn towards digital channels to grow the size of the pool, engage new prospects and shorten the sales cycle. They will be the ones that embrace content marketing to build a connection with their audiences. They will successfully utilise their sponsorship across all areas of their marketing mix from email and paid advertising through to customer retention strategies, loyalty programmes, product launches and more.

How do brands successfully integrate a sponsorship into all areas of their marketing mix?

There are two ways brands can approach this: either integrate the sponsorship into existing campaigns or create a whole new standalone campaign (or series of campaigns) with the partnership.

For the former, start by looking at the marketing data that’s important to the business and spotting areas for improvement. This could be as simple as changing your lead generation paid advertising creatives across channels to lead with the sponsorship and hook your audience, or as complex as reshaping your entire employer branding strategy with the sponsorship at the forefront to attract new potential employees.

On the other hand, a strategy of multiple standalone campaigns and sponsorship activations help create several key milestones and engagement spikes throughout the year. This is where creative thinking is crucial to make the most of these. A great example of this is the campaign we delivered for TECNO Mobile for their partnership with Manchester City, to positively engage and target middle classes in emerging global markets.

The key to all of this, however, is content. Depending on the tone and brand strategy, B2B brands can (and should!) create content that engages and entertains the audience, and then that starts to trickle the audience down the marketing funnel towards a point of conversion.

In the B2B space it’s often said you need to engage a potential customer five to eight times before they even look to enter that buying phase. So, with brands, we look at how we can start to create those five to eight touchpoints through their sponsorship.

What’s the process of how AND THE NEW works with brands on activating their sponsorships?

We always start with the core objective. You must have clarity on this from the very beginning, even before a brand signs a sponsorship.

For a B2B brand with a unicorn status and growth hype momentum investors, an example could be: We want to drive more lead generation and more demo sign ups so that we can ultimately fulfil the revenue funnel and keep driving forward.

On the flip side, we've also worked with brands like SAP, and in their case it’s: We want to use an esports partnership to engage and appeal to the next generation of young, tech-focused potential SAP employees.

Obviously those two objectives will differ hugely in terms of how you tackle them, although they are both B2B brands sponsoring a sports event or team.

Here’s the process we go through:

1. First of all, we build an understanding of what it is the brand is trying to achieve

2. From there, we focus on the target audience and who we’re trying to engage

3. Then we analyse the inventory of assets and the access that you have as part of the sponsorship

4. Then our team comes to life with a strategy, creating best-in-class content to build out the campaign and deliver results

We’re a creative digital marketing agency, and we've purposely positioned ourselves as that, rather than as a sports marketing agency. With us, you get the creative side: how do we make people care? And then the digital side: how do we make them do something about the fact that they care?

And with all our clients we work across three stages of inspire, engage and convert.

Because we see it very much as a funnel towards success, towards trackable results, which is what we're trying to implement every single stage of what we do.

From our perspective, we want to create the campaigns that others wish they dreamt of. That’s important because for that to make sense, it can’t just be an out-there campaign – it must truly work in the eyes of everybody that sees it.

So, if you’re an insurance brand, and you see another insurance brand do an incredible campaign, we want you to think: ‘I wish we did that’.

What are the most common mistakes you see B2B brands making when it comes to sponsorship?

The most common mistake I see brands making is treating content as an afterthought.

Let’s say you're sponsoring the upcoming British & Irish Lions tour of Australia. You’ve got 20 VIP guests that you can invite to the game, and they’ll have an incredible time that might lead to a 50% conversion rate. You've got 10 new deals. Brilliant. But there's so much left on the table that you're not tapping into.

There are so many potential customers that aren't in that exact territory or aren't available on those days; so many people that you’re not developing a relationship with because they’re not quite at the stage to invite them to a VIP experience.

But you can use the partnership to tell stories and create content to reach and engage those people through LinkedIn content, through Instagram ads, through programmatic, display and native ads, and serve them several types of content at different touchpoints, to get them to that warm position.

And it doesn’t have to be just paid content. Creating content as part of an organic strategy to build trust, thought leadership and customer education can be just as powerful.


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