From Rookie to All-Star: Achieving ROI from Athlete Sponsorships

MH3 —  June 11, 2011

Three top athlete sponsorship experts – Colin Campbell from NHLPA, Chris Armstrong from Wasserman Media Group and Rick Burton from Syracuse University – came together for an interactive session moderated by TrojanOne’s Michael Weisdorf all about achieving ROI from athlete sponsorships. After a brief introduction and video that highlighted the emotional connection many Canadians have with hockey, the session was driven by audience questions.

Given the recent media coverage of athletes damaging sponsor relations because of discretions in their personal lives, many of the questions revolved around reputation management. Morality clauses, the philanthropic obligations of athletes and community involvement were all discussed, with each of the panelists providing their own perspective. Some suggested that group sponsorships, as opposed to individual endorsements, may help mitigate any issues because the success or failure doesn’t depend on any one athlete.

Questions about how athletes evaluate deals – whether it’s more about financial gain or about true interest in a product – led to a discussion about the importance of authenticity in any endorsement. With the increase of athlete-fan interaction facilitated by social media, authenticity is more important than ever.

The panelists also discussed how media has affected athlete sponsorship, including the increasing power of social media and the problems that can occur from misrepresentation in the media. In the future, Rick Burton believes that digital athletes will become the new celebrities, and the challenges and benefits that those sponsorships will offer will completely change the status quo.