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

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.

Lessons From Beer: The Era of Discovery Marketing

Michael Browne has worked for a number of different industries, but today at the Canadian Sponsorship Forum, he was presenting information he gained from marketing beer.

“In beer, you’re dealing with people’s lives,” Michael began, commenting on the great deal of brand loyalty and connection people have with their alcoholic beverage of choice. Over time, the industry has become incredibly segmented as it has grown, which is important because many beer marketers have cut their teeth doing mass marketing, but they need a different playbook – discovery marketing. This includes niche beers, like Hoegaarden, Mill St. and Stella Artois.

And discovery marketing works. Every year, the Harris polling company provides a brand equity study, interviewing 20,000 consumers across the U.S. asking about brand advocacy, commitment, reputation and respect. In most segments, the results are fairly predictable: the largest advertiser has the greatest equity. But in beer, the rankings are different – the top three beers in terms of equity in the U.S. are Blue Moon Beer, Samuel Adams Lager and Guinness Stout. Blue Moon has 1/100th the advertising budget of the big spenders, yet has considerably better brand equity.

According to Michael, the four steps of discovery marketing are:

  • define and target only the best fit locations
  • create brand meaning with every contact point
  • create execution plans that optimize impact and ROI
  • measure the inputs and outputs and adapt execution – repeat

He then compared some key features of marketing 1.0 or discovery marketing, or marketing 2.0:

  • 1.0  Method: The funnel (go from mass awareness to a narrow number of consumers)
  • 2.0  Method: The ramp (start with the narrowest target, the advocates that you use as spokespeople for your brand, and then expand)
  • 1.0  Lifespan: The 25-year cycle
  • 2.0  Lifespan: The slow build
  • 1.0 Toolbox: Blanket the media landscape
  • 2.0 Toolbox: Focus on the influencer, select specific placement, plan and execute every consumer contact, and use social media for reputation instead of image.
  • 1.0  Creative content: Deep and broad using advertising, media, interactive, sponsorship, retail programming, innovation, packaging
  • 2.0  Creative content: Organized around a single, memorable experience
  • 1.0  Alliances: Aim for relevance – “everyone likes me”
  • 2.0  Alliances: Deepen the brand
  • 1.0  ROI: More investment good; less investment bad
  • 2.0  ROI: Measure brand as an asset and consider net present value

Sponsorship Reality: Cut to the Core of Sponsorship

As Labatt’s manager of sponsorship and marketing integration, Scott Thompson understands how to use consumer insights to drive a brand, partnership strategy, and marketplace activities. In his presentation, he went through Labatt’s current strategy, what they’ve done in the past and where they’re going in the future.

Labatt’s goal is to move their partnership towards activating properties and partnerships, sponsorsing consumer-centric properties, making tough choices about what to sponsor and what not to sponsor, achieving branded engagement and, most significantly, getting one-on-one access to consumers instead of awareness.

One of the ways that Labatt has been achieving these goals is by connecting with consumers digitally. Scott showed a video of Canada’s first interactive beer cans, with cans of Kokanee featuring trail maps of various Canadian mountains. Using a smart phone and scan codes, consumers can play a game tracking the iconic Kokanee-stealing Sasquatch. By creating a one-on-one experience with consumers, Labatt was able to achieve incredible short- and long-term results that quadrupled expectations.

Another way of forming consumer connections is through 360-degree execution, such as the partnership developed between Budweiser and the Heritage Classic. It began with commercials, which then led to activation on premise, at retail, on Facebook and on packaging to have the maximum impact. Then, as the hockey season transitioned into the playoffs, they focused on the emotional connection many Canadians have with the Stanley Cup. They launched a series of commercials featuring the Cup, and included Stanley Cup USB keys in packaging to build on the success of the mini Stanley Cups they gave away in packaging in the ‘80s. When consumers plugged the USB key into their computer, it prompted a splash page that pushed consumers to Facebook, unlocking bonus interactive team content and a ballot to win a trip to the playoffs. This giveaway resonated with consumers, who traded keys with each other on the Facebook page and showed off their collections online.

Finally, Scott reviewed the incredible execution that Bud Light has had during Formula 1, which has been built using radio, Facebook, out-of-home, on-trade, packaging and retail tools. They also have a Bud Light Zone on site – featuring prizes, golf cart rides, a VIP section and a branded dance floor – and prizing and a VIP party on Crescent Street, the epicenter of the Formula 1 Montreal party. This has all been possible because of the partnerships they’ve formed.

Overall, Scott said, “We don’t see ourselves as a beer company anymore… we’re selling fast moving goods.” He’s rewritten the value equation through innovation, such as phone gaming, a mobile app that helps sport-lovers find nearby sport bar, and the Budweiser Big Rig, a beer garden on wheels.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Scott presented a series of challenges to property delegates that acted as key takeaways: always put yourself in the company’s consumers’ shoes (when trying to sell a sponsorship); seek to understand where the brand is going and not where it is; and think big by presenting one big concept.

What’s It All Worth?: Measuring Return on B2B Investment

An expert in conference management, Ian MacGillvray at OOMPH! Events brings out the best in every conference he’s helped organize. Today, Ian helped guide delegates through the process of measuring ROI on B2B investment and demonstrated how they can achieve a high ROI by streamlining and automating their operations to increase efficiency while simultaneously reducing costs and cycle time. Along some with some examples of B2B sponsorship in unlikely places, Ian provided delegates with tangible lessons that will help put the OOMPH! into their B2B investments.

1. Map the full network — and connect it! (Think partner orgs, parent orgs, media partners, suppliers, etc…)Sponsor Council

  • Advisrory board meetings
  • Speaking Opportunities/co-presenting
  • At pre-events, press conferences
  • Host at other events
  • Good old fashioned introductions

2. Facilitate Sales (Branding/Exposure is not good enough)

  • Provide delegate list
  • Direct 1-1 introductions at events
  • Ask sponsors “who are the top 5 companies you’d like to meet during the event?”
  • Business Development Match-Making (but establish criteria and ensure buyers don’t feel like fish among sharks!)

3. Network in Relevant B2B Circles

4. Exclusive Hosting/Sub-event Branding

  • B2B :branding is about professional positioning
  • Hosting exclusively sponsored keynotes, panels, receptions etc
  • Intro speaking opps are very important

5.  Mine the Data/Identify Key Connections

6. Align with a B2B Media Partner

  • While a thank-you ad in the newspaper is nice, B2B publications offer more value to B2B sponsors

7. Create Unique, Custom Hosting & Entertainment Experiences

  • Hosting & entertainment is BIG business in B2B compnies
  • Great opportunity for non-business properties
  • CSF this weekend is a GREAT example (Thanks, Ian!!)

8. Pay Attention to MULTIPLE Objectives of B2B Sponsors

9. Integrate Projects/Initiatives (in addition of one-off events)

10. Integrate Online Marketing

Fifth Annual Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study

A fixture of the Canadian Sponsorship Forum since 2007, the Canadian Sponsorship Landscape Study (CSLS) provides the most comprehensive analysis of the Canadian sponsorship industry available. This year, the Study shines a light on hot-topic trends in the entertainment industry, while also examining how the 2010 Olympics affected the sponsorship landscape. Dr. Norm O’Reilly, professor at the  and senior adviser to TrojanOne, opened the day to discuss how this valuable data on industry size, spending by sector, activation trends, evaluation practices, strategic priorities and future outlook can be used to back up your sponsorship decisions.

I’ll start out with the good news Norm shared: Based on our sampling process and conservative assumptions, we estimate that $1.55 BILLION was the industry size in Canada in 2010. This represents an 8.5% increase from 2009 and nearly a 40% increase since 2006.

The not-so-good news? With over 400 responses, the Study found ROI from sponsorship improved in 2010, but there is considerable room for greater improvement. Fewer sponsors are very satisfied with ROI from sponsorship and more are dissatisfied. Given this and the theme of this year’s Forum, rev up you ROI, Norm cut the data of the three studies (sponsor, sponsee and agency) to provide delegates with suggestions to rev up their ROI*:

  1. It is time to forget about Vancouver 2010
  2. Go Digital
  3. Reconsider your targets for sponsorship
  4. Be creative and always on the lookout for new opportunities
  5. Have a year-round sponsorship strategy
  6. Develop a balanced strategic mix
  7. Do not overlook the role of value in-kind sponsorship
  8. Do not underestimate the not-for-profit sector
  9. Note that sponsors (and not just sponsees and agencies) have a positive outlook again
  10. Put yourself in the shoes of other stakeholders
  11. Activate!
  12. Remember the little guy!
  13. Evaluate!
  14. Focus on renewal from day one
  15. Sponsees and their agencies need to step up and service their sponsorships and sponsors need to hold them to it
  16. If you don’t have the capacity and expertise, get help
  17. Take advantage of a tool that works and is growing in absolute size and relative proportion of marketing budgets

*Each of Norm’s suggestions were supported by detailed key findings that will be made available to delegates after the conference. Make sure you’re a subscriber to our weekly newsletter (subscribe on to receive details on how you can download Norm’s presentation. And here’s the great news: All delegates of the 2011 Canadian Sponsorship Forum will automatically receive a digital copy of the Final Report that they can implement into their FY12 planning!

Research: The Key to Maximizing Your ROI

One of the Forum’s most popular return speakers, Don Mayo from IMI International, wrapped up the first day of CSF 2011 with a keynote presentation on using research to maximize ROI.

One of the first steps to engaging consumers is to research their passions and interests to understand what excites them. The fact is that 30% of the population isn’t passionate about anything – forget about them. Focus on the people who do care, and figure out what it is that they care about. Don’t rely on the media to inform you about what people think – according to media coverage, hockey is too violent and it’s in trouble, but the truth is that violent sport is not dead. In fact, it’s seeing tremendous growth. So don’t listen to the opinions of the media, coworkers, or bosses – take the time to conduct the research and arm yourself with facts.

Before the presentation, Don and the IMI International team explored Montreal’s Crescent St, which is a hub of Formula 1 activity, to see how sponsorships are being activated at this highly visible national event by a variety of companies, from Sirius Radio to Dr. Pepper, Smirnoff to Ford. Their observations revealed that Formula 1 has effectively incorporated sponsors into the event to entertain tourists and ultimately integrate assets and passions. The most effective of these activations entertained consumers, remained consistent with the company’s brand messaging and engaged the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time.

Don wrapped up with a discussion of how the magic number for maximizing sponsorship ROI is three. No more than three objectives. Three properties and three seasons. Three measures, three-year contracts, and a maximum of three tactics.

Don’s real-time data analysis, backed up with his years of research experience with IMI International, were a great way to cap off a fantastic first day of CSF 2011.

Stop Thinking With Half a Brain: Rediscover Your Creative Side

Delegates arriving at the presentation from Chuck Phillips and Kyle Romaniuk of Cocoon Branding were greeted with a single yellow slide reading: “Before we begin, write down as many uses for a paper clip as you can.” What followed was an interactive workshop with delegates getting hands-on tips on how to be creative and generate new ideas, which inspired creativity, allowed delegates to go home to foster a more creative working environment, and contributed to the development of a more creative world.

In addition to the paper clip brainstorm, delegates participated in a number of exercises to get the creativity flowing and their brains working. They formed into pairs and created one-minute portraits of their partner, which demonstrated how we’ve all been taught to be embarrassed about our creativity. At the end of the presentation, delegates got into groups to revisit the idea of the different uses of the paper clip, demonstrating that openness to new ideas and collaboration can lead to incredible creativity. These interactive exercises created a fun environment with lots of interaction between delegates.

Each of the delegates were given laser pointers, which Chuck and Kyle used to engage the audience and get  feedback throughout the presentation. For example, most of the delegates rated themselves on the higher end of a creative scale from 0-10, but many believe that their organizations are not performing at their creative peak, while ratings of creativity in the work environment were all across the scale.

The presentation was divided into four sections to guide delegates through discovering their creativity.

Why does creativity matter? Creativity pushes innovation and pushes companies to the next level. It can widen the competition gap much better than other techniques, like price drops, which can be easily matched. Creativity taps into emotions, and leads the decision-making process – 95% of decisions are actually made by the emotional brain. Ultimately, creativity can help protect or overtake the leadership position, create a higher impact, and improve your ROI.

Why is creativity such a challenge? People think of creativity as only belonging to artists or musicians, as something that we feel pressured to be as opposed to something that we should enjoy and all be natural at. They believe that everyone is born creative, but over time, we develop filters and barriers that limit our creativity. Why did this happen? We’ve become too entrenched in the way things are and have always been. “The new status quo should be challenging the status quo,” said Kyle Romaniuk.

How do we kill creativity? The devil’s advocate rule is one of the biggest killers of creativity, as it stifles the positive energy of creativity. Fear is the greatest barrier to creativity, especially the fear of appearing dumb or having your idea get rejected. “A lot of great stupid ideas… can lead to great ideas,” encouraged Chuck. Finally, placing too much weight on pre-conceived notions and the way things have always been done stifles creativity.

How do we inspire creativity? Divergent thinking allows you to see different routes to ideas and other ways to interpret the questions. Forget about your pre-conceived notions – free your mind and change the way you look at things. Design thinking takes everything from the current state and redesigns it to a better state – from manufacturing to accounting, every department can benefit from continuous improvement. Awareness of the outside world can help you go beyond your usual thinking, while collaborating and allowing team members to put on different “thinking hats” can inspire new ideas. Chuck and Kyle also recommend always limiting brainstorming sessions to under an hour, as the best ideas come out of short creative bursts.

Overall, this excellent workshop could be summed up with one quote from the presentation: “If you want to play in the game, then do what everyone else is doing. If you want to win, then you will have to change the game.”

Follow Chuck Phillips (@chuckcocoon), Kyle Romaniuk (@KyleRomaniuk) and Cocoon Branding (@CocoonBranding) on Twitter.

From Start to Finish: Strategic Approaches to Sponsorship ROI

David Corelli from TrojanOne is truly passionate about sponsorship and how it is an important business tool that can solve problems throughout an organization. In one of the first sessions of the day, he spoke to a full room about the five business priorities that can be advanced using strategic sponsorships: consumer perception, employee engagement, earned media, new business relationships and community engagement.

Sponsorship can be used to improve consumer perception, whether you’re launching a new product (like Gatorade did when they established G Series as a performance enhancing product) or trying to establish a new positioning (like RONA’s partnership with the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, which established them as a company that cares about Canadians). Employee engagement is also a key problem that sponsorship can help solve, as examples from CIBC and AON demonstrate. These two organizations were both able to use sponsorship to transcend cultural and geographic boundaries and unite their employees. Earned media impacts a company’s bottom line more than advertising ever could, and can also provide one of the fastest returns, as Red Bull and Speed Skating Canada have proven with their sponsorship programs. New business relationships can also be formed through partnerships, as GE learned when they entered China for the Beijing Olympics. Finally, grassroots community engagement is one of the most important ways to maximize ROI – companies can make themselves locally relevant by becoming a part of the important moments in their community. Macy’s localization initiative, My Macy’s, is a great example of engaging communities.

During the question period, David discussed ROI measurement and how to prove the value of your sponsorship investment.

Listen, Measure & Engage in Social Media

Social media is an important tool that companies and properties alike can use to connect with their audience, but engagement is about much more than simply being present. Dave Thomas from Radian6 took the stage today to discuss the importance of listening, measuring and participating in a social media program.

If Dave could leave delegates with only one thing to take away from his presentation today, he’d hope it would be to focus on the fundamentals. Lucky for me, I took away a little more and would love to share it with you.

“Only you understand your business,” says Dave. Everyone has an opinion about social media and it is important to figure out what works for you and your business. Social media has forever changed the way people and companies communicate. Speaking through press releases is no longer enough; people expect to communicate with human beings and as human beings.

Below are the top key learnings that resonated with me from David’s presentation and will help you “rev up” your social media ROI:

Number one: Listen. You need to know how to make it about “them,” not you.

Plan. Social media is only effective with it ties into your business objectives.

Engage. Talk to people the way they like to be talked to. Share information that they will find useful and give people something they want. Dave uses the analogy: how many people “liked” a business Facebook page because they love to read their press release? (No surprise, no hands!) Whether it’s a business blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed, the reality is people engage because the like their content. Key learning: Tag it, excerpt it… infuse it with the “Google juice!” Think about how you can best optimize drive to your conversation

Analyze. Are your social media activities providing any value? Do you have what people want?

Integrate your findings into your strategic planning process.

Understand the value of your time. Analyze how much you spent compared to how much you sold.

Start with campaigns vs. understanding the ROI of your entire marketing department. That’s a realistic number that you can attain and plan for in a reasonable amount of time.

Make your campaigns trackable.

Be realistic.

Follow Dave on Twitter @DavidBThoms for more insights! You can also find his presentation on slide share.

Start Your Engines: Rev Up Your ROI

The 2011 Canadian Sponsorship Forum has officially begun! Justin Orfus kicked off the opening ceremonies with an introduction of five of the TrojanOne team members, and then encouraged the audience to introduce themselves to those around them. Next, Mark Harrison of TrojanOne took to the stage to introduce the weekend and give an overview of how to rev up your ROI. Mark covered many of the topics that other speakers will delve into over the weekend, including social media and word of mouth, the power of turning participants into promoters, and how to get more by giving more. He discussed going beyond sponsorship to make genuine connections. His presentation included a lot of examples, from Hellmann’s to Coca-Cola, from Kraft’s involvement with Hockeyville to the Purolator Tackle Hunger program. He spoke about the lessons we can all learn from Richard Branson expanding, Oprah quitting, and even Michael Jackson dying.

A clip from Charlie Sheen wrapped up the opening keynote before delegates moved out into nearby rooms for the breakout presentation. Stay tuned for more from the Canadian Sponsorship Forum!

Keep up to date with Mark Harrison on Twitter – @MarkHarrison3.