In Sport Sponsorship

We are often asked how sports sponsorships work in Italy and in the world. The most frequent questions include: “What does it mean to be a sponsor?”, “What do sponsors do?” and generally “How can a sports sponsorship be used as a marketing strategy?” “What is a Sponsorship Activation?”.

Sports sponsorships are rooted in passion: irrespective of their geographical location, fans all over the world feel the same emotions, and brands and businesses capable of connecting with these passions can draw amazing benefits. Passion and affection to a team’s colours are the same everywhere, regardless of nationality, race and religion. Sport can overcome cultural barriers and geographical borders. Businesses, on their turn, can use sports sponsorship as one single marketing strategy to communicate with Jim in the UK, Joshua in the Philippines and Franco in Milan, without any adjustment and fine-tuning being necessary.

Sports sponsorship as marketing strategy

It goes without saying that the key concept expressed above makes everything more efficient and easy to manage: one single programme, one universal language, and simplicity as the baseline scenario. When businesses partner with sports, they have the opportunity to speak to the fans effectively from basically anywhere, using one single marketing strategy and one single message to fulfil their commercial and communication goals. So, how do sports sponsorships work and why are they successful?

How sports sponsorships work

Normally, the large appreciation enjoyed by sponsorships comes from the very fact that the brand of a product or a service is part of a sporting event, which the target audience of a company deliberately decide to watch and to which such audience turn with an open-minded and barrier-free approach. In other words, sponsorships are a non invasive tool, which, unlike advertising, does not break the enjoyment of the show.

Becoming a sponsor: a way to enhance visibility and increase sales

Over time the association of a brand to the target’s favourite team or event will eventually convert into the fan preferring the brand. The preference for a brand, which is continuously associated to the target’s passion, will in the long term result in propensity to purchase and ultimately in a purchase.

Moreover, as time goes by, sponsorship can build or improve brand perception. The positive values of the selected sports discipline will eventually settle on the brand. This aspect is easy to check through research, first, and sponsorship operations then. A sponsorship operation has an impact on brand awareness and sales, besides being able to reposition the brand, to breath new energy to it, and to open up new innovative commercial routes.

Sponsorships are characterised by a high level of flexibility: what you can do is basically limitless (the only constraint being the imagination of your CMO). For instance, one single initiative may be used to simultaneously pursue both B2B and B2C objectives. Let’s draw a very trivial, but useful example. Suppose you are a coffee producer and there is a race in Silverstone tomorrow. You have decided to invite to the race track an especially interesting customer for your company, giving him/her a VIP pass. The customer is the purchasing manager of a large food distribution chain in the UK and you will offer him/her the chance to see the backstage of the race and experience your travelling sampling and testing initiative in the Hospitality area of the team you are sponsoring. In addition to the above, you have organised a promotion for end consumers which consists in offering them the opportunity to win an experience on the racing track. It goes without saying that the promotion is only open to purchasers of your product. In this case one race serves two different purposes: it is used to communicate with two different targets and to fulfil two objectives.

Brand awareness, brand placement and/or replacement, hospitality, PR, B2B and B2C operations, on the one hand, and licenses and much more, on the other. If you are curious to know more about what you can generally find in a sponsorship plan.

Sports sponsorships in Italy

How far have sports sponsorships gone in Italy, the homeland of some of the most popular teams/clubs, events and sports in the world?  Ferrari, Juventus, Milan, Ducati, Valentino RossiGiro d’ItaliaNibali, Francesco Molinari are just a few examples.

Sports sponsorships are undoubtedly very much focused in Italy. A handful of properties draw the attention of most sponsors and investments mainly reward disciplines which ensure large TV audiences, although the extra value of sponsorships lies in activations and in the ability to create an emotional bond with the fans.

Innovation and the design of activations capable of granting high ROIs are required, including in cases of partnerships with events, sports and teams that do not enjoy great visibility on the TV networks. Streaming and the organisers’ ability to use new technologies and new media for event broadcasting may be a remedy to this problem.

Why are we so prone to recommend motor sports (including the new electric and therefore sustainable series, now) ? Start asking yourselves a few questions: have you ever seen F1 or MotoGP fans fighting with the police forces or starting scuffles? Have you ever seen F1 drivers or MotoGP riders disqualified for taking doping drugs? Have you ever heard about riders/racers altering a result, betting on a race or deliberately losing a race? If your answer was “no” to all three questions, then you have the answer to the initial one. If you need some more reasons, have a look at the calendars of other more popular disciplines than motor sports and check out for competitions that travel in 5 continents every year, granting a global scale promotional and communication travelling platform.

If you wish to have more in-depth information on the subjects addressed in this post, click this link or contact us at:

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Riccardo Tafà
Riccardo Tafà
Managing Director for RTR Sports, Riccardo graduated in law at the University of Bologna. He began his career in London in PR, then started working in two and four-wheelers. A brief move to Monaco followed before returning to Italy. There he founded RTR, first a consulting firm and then a sports marketing company which, eventually, he moved back to London.
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