Can short-term sponsorship deals ever be made to work effectively? The Marketing Society Forum

Following the club's relegation from the Premier League, Birmingham City FC has been unable to find a shirt sponsor and will start the new season offering the space on a game-by-game basis.


For us, sponsorship is a marriage, not a one-night stand. We associate with rights-holders to build brand equity over a long period and secure assets that will engage our customers around their passions. However, for other brands, short-term deals can be good tactical and promotional tools.

Personal endorsements are great examples. Look at Kellogg and Chris Hoy after the Beijing Olympics, or Renault Clio and Rihanna's forthcoming tour. Well-selected individuals matched to the brand's values and leveraged at the right time can help shift consumer perceptions.

Short-term deals can also allow 'opportunistic' brands to associate with a team or event that they normally could not afford - look at how Wonga capitalised on Blackpool's elevation to the Premier League last year. It saw an opportunity and took it. However, the activity must be integrated within the wider marketing communication strategy to maximise the benefits on any deal.


Yes, but only if done well, with a deep understanding of the way in which you are 'trading' your property, and how to target the right brands for the right matches to deliver the right message.

In a world that is moving from 'macro' to 'micro' on all levels, this match-by-match move is no surprise. It allows brands that could never afford to sponsor a full season to grab consumer attention for the moment, or month, that is most relevant to their audience.

Brands' sponsorship strategies need to change; to complement long-term strategies that build associations over time, one should also be able to pursue short-term opportunities: to choose to target very relevant one-off events that, by their topicality, can create short-term interest in an attentive audience.

How different is this from doing an activation in a cinema to tie in with that week's new release, which is different from the one the next week? It's not. It's topical, relevant and, potentially, more memorable. But let's call it what it is: not sponsorship, but promotion.


To do sponsorship well takes time, as it does to build any meaningful or rewarding relationship. The organisation needs to be behind the activity; your people must understand and buy into it. Awareness and relevance of it has to be built carefully among your audience, so you 'own' the association, reap the reputational rewards and, ultimately, justify the investment. This takes time.

As one of the biggest UK land-management firms, we sponsor the theatre at the annual CLA Game Fair, which hosts high-profile debates on the UK rural economy, countryside and farming. This is a great promotion of our land agency and farming business, as it underlines our scale and expertise in this area. Our presence, profile and business from this event has grown significantly over time, as we've learned how to make the most of this relationship and leverage this opportunity.

The Birmingham shirt deal, by comparison, seems more of a one-night stand than a proper relationship and, potentially, just as unsatisfactory.


The problem is with 'short term', not 'sponsorship'. You may want to boost the fame of your brand through an association, but surely brand relevancy and increased levels of intention to buy are really the end game?

Take a brand like Cisco. Many people say 'I've heard of Cisco; what does it do again'? Brand relevance does not come overnight. It would be hard to imagine a short-term sponsorship achieving that. I'm sure there are times when such deals tick all the boxes, but that's like love at first sight - you've heard of it, but it seldom works for your friends.

Successful sponsorship must be about a long-term association with someone or something that is a part of the lives of your relevant audience. Through that association you hope that they will get to know your brand, warm to it, understand it better, grow to like it more than others and then fall in love with it forever.

The Marketing Society is the most influential network of senior marketers dedicated to inspiring bolder marketing leadership.


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