1) Invest in activation. Too many sponsors still fail to put sufficient budget against sponsorship activation and assume that value will simply materialise without further investment. Paying rights fees gives you the RIGHT to generate value off your sponsorship; it doesn't mean the value will instantly be there. Spending money on sponsorship without putting activation budget aside is like buying a very expensive toy and not putting any batteries in it.
A full sponsorship activation programme should be developed before contracts are negotiated. This ensures that the cost of activating properly is known and budgets can be distributed accordingly. It also ensures that you only buy rights that you need and don't end up spending money on sponsorship inventory you have no use for.
2) Understand what drives fans (and your target audience). Sports sponsorship enables brands to connect with consumers through shared passions in way that traditional advertising never can. Fundamental to this is understanding what draws fans to the sport. Taking the time to understand these relationships enables a brand to talk the fans' language and ultimately develop deeper and more meaningful connections between the fans and your brand.
3) Add value to the spectator/fan experience. Fans are consuming sport in an increasingly complex and sophisticated way through a multitude of channels — live, TV, online, mobile etc. This provides a wealth of opportunities to enhance the spectator experience across these platforms and build positive relationships. However, as beneficial as these enhancements can be, getting in the way of fans' enjoyment of sport can lead to strong negative sentiment and in today's world of social networks, that negativity can spread with frightening speed.
4) Ensure the brand is at the heart of what you do. Fundamental to every successful sports sponsorship is a number of key objectives which all relevant stakeholders have bought into. The romance, excitement and passion of sport can be distracting (that's why people love it) but it's critical that all activation programming remains focused and delivers against these core objectives to achieve maximum ROI.
5) Develop robust evaluation programmes. For all the fun, glamour and excitement of sport, all sports sponsorships must still deliver a return on investment. After all, sports sponsorship is simply another weapon in the marketing arsenal aimed at generating profits. An activation programme needs to incorporate robust measurement techniques delivering relevant data that clearly illustrates the value of any sponsorship. Sports sponsorships now increasingly fall under the remit of marketing directors schooled in hard data, metrics and ROI measurements so sound evaluation is absolutely expected.