With the planning cycle for 2018 approaching or already underway, there’s one key question every sports sponsor should be asking as it works with its agencies to prepare its 2018 sports sponsorship budget: Given our investment, are we using the best possible tools to activate, assess and manage our sponsorship assets and events?
For most sponsors and agencies, the answer since the eighties has been spreadsheets and emails, with a few one-off apps thrown in since the iPhone initiated the smartphone era. The irony here is clear: Despite the continuing growth in their sponsorship investment, most sponsors and their agencies are still using tools from the eighties to manage the millions they spend on sports and entertainment sponsorships. By the way, there is nothing inherently bad about these legacy tools. They have their place. But if you compare the advances in data management and analysis tools that have been applied across virtually every segment of every industry over the past thirty years, you will invariably find contemporary software tools that use integrated, highly-searchable databases and shared 24-7 cloud-based access to keep everyone who needs to know on the same page.
From a budgeting standpoint, the question is “So What?” After all, the inertia of the status quo is almost always stronger than the challenge of change management. Indeed, the arguments in favor of continuing to rely on legacy sponsorship management tools are pretty straight-forward: They’ve worked for 30 years or so, new integrated tools would add at least some costs, we’d have to train people to use the new tools, our agencies are not recommending any changes, and no one else is really pressing us to do anything different. While these explanations resonate with many, the reality is that these same arguments applied to virtually every improvement in data management and analysis since spreadsheets were introduced in the eighties. If these status quo positions had carried the day, we would not be using customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and countless other management tools such as Salesforce to run our businesses. We’d just use spreadsheets.
But these advanced management tools have changed how we manage our businesses. The reason is simple and powerful. Tools like these improve our access to and understanding of the information we need to know to optimize our business decisions. They help us see what we have and where we stand. Armed with this information (which today is typically available 24-7), we have a far better opportunity to make the best decisions, regardless of whether these decisions are enterprise-wide or more localized.
In the sports sponsorship industry, to quote the immortal words of the Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are A-Changin’. Faced with increasing C-suite pressure to justify spending on specific sponsorships and optimize results, leading sponsors are finally turning more attention to how they and their agencies activate, assess and manage their sponsorship investments. Sponsors are also pressing their agencies to spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on analyzing results and making strategic recommendations on key decisions like portfolio mix. All of this is leading sponsors and agencies alike to look more closely at the tools available to improve the returns on their sponsorship investments.
Disruption is coming and the benefits are clear: Increased management efficiency (particularly at the activation level) and reduced execution risk offer real value to offset the nominal costs of moving to more integrated management solutions. But as with the evolution of other data management and analysis tools over the past 30 years, the ultimate value is better decisions at every level, from the C-suite executives managing strategy to the agency teams activating assets and events. The costs of poor sponsorship decisions are remarkably high, whether from investing in the wrong properties, failing to fully activate sponsorship investments or delivering an embarrassing event experience to VIP guests. The costs of improving those decisions—and the related return on investment—by using integrated sponsorship management tools are essentially rounding errors in most sponsorship budgets.
At Playoff Technologies, we’re leading this disruption with Sponsor Locker, a cloud-based management platform that enables brands and their marketing agencies to optimize the value of their sports and entertainment sponsorships. By integrating everything into a single database—while still allowing individual applications and features to be implemented and used separately if desired—Sponsor Locker helps sponsors see what they have and where they stand, improving collaboration, decision-making, activation and guest experiences across their entire sponsorship portfolio. Every week, leading sponsors and marketing agencies use Sponsor Locker to manage thousands of sponsorship assets, events and guests across a wide range of platforms and properties from motorsports to golf to college and professional sports. Check it out at www.sponsorlocker.com.