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July 2, 2018

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Brands Managing Sports Sponsorships in the Cloud

November 9, 2017

Today more than ever, data is power. As management guru Peter Drucker said, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it." However you say it, data fuels decisions and decisions drive results.


For over 30 years, brands have been using spreadsheets as the principal tool to manage their sports and entertainment sponsorships. This industry reliance on spreadsheets has made it increasingly difficult for many sponsors to access the comprehensive information they need to track, analyze and optimize their sponsorship investments. As a result, more and more sponsors are moving beyond spreadsheets to contemporary cloud-based sponsorship management tools. Three factors are driving sponsors away from spreadsheets.


First, while spreadsheets provide a convenient pallete for sponsors and/or their agency staffers to use in compiling and updating routine status reports, spreadsheets simply cannot provide an integrated real-time picture of all the relevant the facts needed to objectively and proactively measure, manage and optimize their sponsorship portfolios.


Second, because sponsors typically rely on their agencies to create and update their spreadsheets, this process can often place the agency in the critical path of any analysis or decision. Decisions become controlled by the availability and distribution of spreadsheet updates.


Third, while spreadsheets are good at displaying data, they are not good at showing maps, pictures and videos or presenting data in multiple alternative formats at the touch of a button. They are also not good at managing workflows and results. With the shift toward digital and experiential assets, brands need tools that can manage asset activations, events and event guests and facilitate collaboration across the entire sponsorship team.


So why are sponsors still using spreadsheets? Several reasons, some obvious, others less so.


On the obvious side:


First, inertia is hard to overcome, especially when you’re busy. After all, spreadsheets have been around for years and if they can’t cover something, you can always add another tab or supplement the spreadsheets with a one-off app that meets your latest need. The problem with kicking the can down the road, of course, is that it only works until change becomes imperative.


Second, change management is always hard and the fear of managing that change is even harder. The best tools, like Sponsor Locker, include intuitive user interfaces and extensive customization that make it easy to create a pathway from a sponsor’s historical spreadsheet reports to an online platform with an integrated database.


Third, despite the high value of 24/7 access to information, it’s not clear that every agency or every brand staffer wants to face the burden of keeping any online system current. After all, it can seem a lot easier to update a spreadsheet on some periodic basis or in response to a specific request than to keep the corresponding data current on line. The best cloud-based tools make it easy to update status and other information on line, and by allowing any data to be entered once and used for many outputs, the online solutions can actually save substantial time for agency and brand staffers. After all, the data will be entered someplace, so why not put it in an integrated database?


Fourth, security fears can drive some sponsors away from anything cloud-related. To these sponsors, spreadsheets feel safe, even though users may be emailing and storing them with no password protection or encryption and may actually be saving them to generalized storage sites such as Dropbox that do not have corporate approval. Ironically, with hosting on leading platforms like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services and enterprise-grade architecture, the best cloud-based tools probably offer far better data security and access privilege controls than any emailed spreadsheet distribution.


On the less-obvious side:


First, although sponsorship management is a team sport, not every agency welcomes a system that provides 24/7 access and information to every member of the sponsor’s team. After all, if the sponsor relies on its agency for information and explanation, the agency feels comfortable that the sponsor will continue to appreciate the agency’s valuable role (or will at least be willing to pay the agency to keep updating its spreadsheets). But if the sponsor can obtain the latest information and analysis directly from an online system, the agency fears that its role may become less valuable. Interestingly, we have actually found that the opposite is true: the increased sponsor/agency collaboration that comes from sharing access to a cloud-based system strengthens the agency’s relationship with the sponsor. And the sponsor still needs the agency’s help in entering data in the cloud-based tool.


Second, agencies work hard to meet their client’s specific sponsorship management needs. To do the job their clients expect them to do, they have to recommend and manage change at the client level. Even if the agency embraces the move to cloud-based sponsorship management, they may not want to encourage their client to give up some ancient spreadsheet report or to use online cloud-based access instead of emailed spreadsheets. A clear sponsor openness to change and cloud-based tools that offer easy customization and read-only and reports-only users can help the sponsor and agency to work together to meet the sponsor’s unique information needs and workflows.


In all these areas, managing a successful transition from spreadsheets to current technology requires leadership from the sponsor and a joint commitment by the sponsor and its agencies to bring current technology trends to sponsorship management.


The benefits are clear: Increased management efficiency (particularly at the activation level) and reduced execution risk, among many others. But as with the evolution of other data management and analysis tools over the past 30 years, the ultimate value is better, faster decisions at every level, from the C-suite executives managing strategy to the brand and agency teams activating assets and events.



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