Despite the increase in sports sponsorship spend over the past decade, many marketing agencies continue to use spreadsheets, emails and one-off apps to manage their clients’ growing investment in sports marketing contracts, assets and events. As new cloud-based software tools streamline the management of multiple corporate functions (and even marketing itself), leading agencies—both large and small—are assessing the pros and cons of moving to integrated cloud-based tools to manage their clients’ sports and entertainment sponsorships.
Here are some of the pros and cons about this transition that we’re hearing from sports marketing agencies that are assessing a move to integrated sponsorship management tools:
Integrated tools are the only practical way to see the whole picture—contracts, assets and events—and manage the client’s entire portfolio pro-actively and effectively.
Integrated management is far more efficient, reducing the need to re-enter (or export and re-upload) data across multiple spreadsheets and specialized apps.
Integration reduces errors resulting from transferring or translating data from one tool to another.
Integrated systems provide all members of the team with real-time access to the latest data, improving collaboration and yielding faster, better decisions.
Integrated data is essential to the analytics needed to compare partner relationships and optimize portfolio mix.
Using a single integrated management tool makes training and implementation far easier at the agency and at each client. Separate apps and multiple spreadsheets for different clients require more total training and make it harder to reassign agency personnel across multiple clients.
The best integrated sponsorship platforms offer surprisingly-broad flexibility, allowing formatting and workflow customization to meet individual client preferences and needs. The best tools also allow clients to adopt the entire integrated platform at the outset or to implement only one or two features initially and phase in others over time.
Cloud-based SaaS systems hosted by major firms like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services offer enterprise-level security that is seldom available with spreadsheets and specialized apps.
Integrated sponsorship management offers competitive advantages to agencies of all sizes. For smaller agencies where the same staff serves multiple clients, integrated cloud-based tools can help the agency leverage internal training and efficiency and compete against larger rivals by offering better information, analytics and portfolio decisions. For larger agencies where staff are assigned to client teams, integrated solutions can provide a toolkit that allows different client teams to use different features of the integrated system for their specific client’s needs, while creating a roadmap to a broader agency-wide solution for all clients.
The Cons—or at least Concerns
Change management is hard, not only within the agency, but at the client level as well. Specialized apps are easier to recommend to clients than integrated sponsorship solutions designed to replace years of spreadsheets.
Spreadsheets may be easier to customize to each client’s preferred formats and workflows than cloud-based SaaS tools, especially if the client has used essentially the same spreadsheets for many years.
One-off apps for specialized applications like surveys or guest check-ins are easy to find, inexpensive and seldom require the data security reviews or client management approvals needed to deploy integrated management tools.
Clients expect integrated real-time systems to be kept current, placing additional time pressure on agency personnel who are already pressed for time.
However intuitive they may be, SaaS systems require at least some training for both agency and client personnel, and training requires time and management commitment that may not be available.
Despite the emergence of leading SaaS-based platforms like Sponsor Locker, selecting the best system requires time and effort that are difficult for many agencies to find. It’s far easier to postpone the decision and create yet another spreadsheet or download one more specialized app to respond to any specific client demands.
Finding integrated sponsorship management tools that focus on the needs of sponsors and agencies can be hard. Many of the earlier sponsorship tools were made to help properties and other rights holders license their rights. Although some of these property-focused tools are now beginning to offer collaboration with sponsors on asset activation, most stop there.
As in early-stages of any technology-based market disruption, there is a risk of selecting the wrong tool to recommend to key clients. Although agencies that get the decision and timing right will do well, and those that ignore or fight the change will fall behind, some may find it safer to wait until a single solution emerges as the de facto standard or the pressure to change from clients becomes higher.
Agencies are often caught in the middle of decisions about tools and technology, making it hard to align agency and client interests. Some clients welcome pro-active agency recommendations that will improve portfolio mix, efficiency and results. Others insist on using the same tools and even spreadsheet formats they have used for years. Some clients appreciate the need to spend funds to improve sponsorship management. Others spend large amounts on rights but refuse to see any value in spending funds on software management tools. Still others believe any amounts spent on software tools should reduce the amount they pay to their agency, making the agency reluctant to even broach the potential benefits that could result from the new solution.
The Decision Point
The move toward integrated sponsorship management tools is clearly underway. Agencies that implement the new technology will have a competitive advantage over those that do not. The question is not whether to make the move to integrated sponsorship management, but when and how.
Our message to agencies is clear: If you are not focused on this question, you should be. If your competitors don’t lead you to consider when and how to implement integrated sponsorship management, your clients will.
Click here for information about Sponsor Locker, our integrated sponsorship management solution.