In the driving seat

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Working closely with your sponsor can bring great rewards…

Newcastle United Football Club has made the headlines just recently… not because of its performance on the pitch. Instead it has agreed a deal with Northern Rock, which is to become main sponsor of the club from 2010/11 – a new contract with a maximum sponsorship potential of £10 million, phased over four years.

As you can imagine, the Magpies’ managing director is delighted, yet fans of the opposition are less than enamoured with the team’s choice of shirt sponsor, as they say it is taxpayers’ money that rescued the beleaguered financial institution.

Now that the bank is spending millions on sports sponsorship, it has left a bitter taste in the mouths of former shareholders.

Reap great rewards

A recent Ipsos Mori report entitled Backing the Right Horse? closely questions whether the profile of sports fans matches that of a brand’s target audience. Its Sponsortest tool tracks the differences between the demographic make up of some of the mainstream sports in this country. Football is ubiquitous with the broadest appeal: Rugby appeals to the oldest audience, with football and F1 appealing to the youngest.

The report suggests that brands achieve much more with their sponsorships when they support them with sufficient activation, and that the rewards are far greater when you communicate more than just your association.

 

“Football sponsorship is a different business model,” says James Southerland of McLaren Marketing. “It is weighted towards more brand exposure. At McLaren, we are far more wide ranging in terms of the business opportunities we present our partners. For example, in December we celebrated our 25-year partnership with Tag Heuer, which also coincided with its 150th anniversary. Tag hosted a dinner for 150 people on the boulevard in our McLaren Technology Centre. Lewis [Hamilton] drove last season’s Formula One car down the lake road, pulled up outside the doors and welcomed guests.”

Southerland explains that access to McLaren drivers is determined within a sponsors’ contract. The McLaren Technology Centre, an incredible brand centre and the Formula One team HQ, is an extension of the McLaren brand: “It’s important for people to see the facility and for sponsors to showcase themselves with the backdrop of McLaren,” continues Southerland, who works with sponsors to implement sponsorship strategies and communication. “Mercedes Benz, for example, bring dealers, customers and competition winners to the facility as a thank you or as a motivational tool. Guests then get an introduction to Formula One and a flavour of who we are, and people are astonished.

“Guests get closer to the brand and taken into race bays. We convey the feeling of teamwork and the level of activity going on just to put two cars on a grid every two weeks. It’s not a case of unloading two cars on a Sunday afternoon and away we go. People genuinely leave astonished and amazed.

“As a company we facilitate in excess of 150 visits a year, across all of our 30 partners, but not all partners choose to bring guests here. Event activity plays a significant part in what we do. We can’t take the brand centre to the race so we have a three-storey mobile unit, a brand centre that we transport to European races so that we can deliver the same high standard and consistent look and feel.”

Close partners

Dermot Kelly, managing director of Mercedes Benz, mirrors Southerland’s sentiment – events are an important tool if the public, customers and dealers are to get a better understanding of the brand.

Mobile Promotions facilitates Mercedes Benz when it utilises McLaren’s Technology Centre to motivate dealers or say thank you to customers. Mobile Promotions hosts guests on behalf of Mercedes Benz, ensuring the slick operation of any partner activity with regard to aiding competition winners, dealers and private customers.

While the upcoming Formula One season will prove interesting, given Mercedes Benz announcement that it will now directly compete against McLaren, the two parties remain close partners, each capitalising on the others brand exposure. Mercedes Benz will continue to supply motor engines to McLaren until 2015, says Kelly, who revealed plans to develop its own Formula One and Grand Prix afternoons at its own Mercedes Benz World facility to make them more unique.

Mercedes’ own brand centre can cater to 1,000 people and looks to sponsors of other Formula One teams, such as Force India, to use its facilities. Pirelli, Coca Cola, Barclaycard, IBM and Dell have all used the centre to host events, whilst the first Powered by Mercedes Benz Live event held in November at Mercedes Benz World saw Mobile Promotions, which is also heavily involved in the Smart Festival, supply branded event trailers and mobile units to be used as a backdrop and platform for interviews with Formula One’s biggest ambassadors.