One of the first things to consider when planning sports sponsorship is timing. When is the right time to present a sponsorship proposal? When should sponsorship contracts be signed? What are the best times of the year to work on activation projects?
Sports sponsorship has changed in the past couple of decades. Whilst economic confidence has waned since the 90s, current context allows us more flexibility – we can begin a campaign when a season is already underway, for example, and technology means decisions can be made and materials signed off more quickly.
However, there are still good practices that need to be followed – especially during the initial planning period.
When to start your sports sponsorship campaign
If you want to get the most that’s possible from your sports sponsorship campaign, it’s obvious that you want to have all aspects in place by the start of the championship. Whichever sport you’re working with, this preparation will maximize visibility and allow you maximum media attention at the start of the season.
To do this, of course, you must have the contracts signed, your spaces on jerseys or bikes agreed, and your communication materials prepared well ahead of time – likely before teams are even announced. This process needs to begin months before the players or riders come out for their first showdown.
Careful planning is crucial, as of course different sports have different seasons. A brand sponsoring football’s Serie A needs to have everything ready for the middle of August, whilst for MotoGP the assets need to be ready in March and in skiing, late autumn.
How long does it take to prepare a sponsorship program?
Of course, there are numerous variables involved in sports sponsorship planning, and often things will not move along as fast as you’d like. It may take several months to reach a proposal that works well for both parties, for example.
It’s more useful, then, to think about the steps that are needed than the time it is likely to take to complete them. Here they are, summarised briefly:
Step 1 – First contact with a sponsoring agency, to evaluate the possibilities of the brief
Step 2 – Develop proposals alongside the sports sponsorship agency, bearing in mind the opportunities currently available on the market
Step 3 – Discussion and sharing of feedback internally
Step 4 – Finalisation and legalities of the proposal
Step 5 – Acceptance and signature of the proposal
Step 6 – Drafting of an activation and media plan with the sports sponsorship agency
Step 7 – Internal discussions and drafting of a communication plan
Step 8 – Start of PR campaign supporting the sponsorship
Of course, some of these points may not be relevant to your sports sponsorship campaign – it largely depends on the size of your company and the level of sponsorship you’re aiming for.
Again, there are no precise timelines for these steps – but it is easy to see how they can take several months to work through.
A point that it’s worth reiterating is that it’s essential to know the timetables of the sport that you’re targeting. It is very difficult, for example, to try to get along with a Formula 1 team that is currently engaged in a trip to the other side of the world, or with a team that’s in training for the finals of a major tournament. On a more micro level, a football or basketball team that played on a Sunday are unlikely to be in communication on a Monday morning, and a manager is unlikely to be available the week after the first tests of the season.
Utilising a plan B
It’s important to be aware that the timings of your company might not necessarily align with the schedule of the team you want to sponsor. It may happen that, despite your best intentions, the campaign is unable to proceed – purely because it presented itself at the wrong time. There are many reasons for this – teams may already be contracted to another brand, for example.
Of course, knowing how to choose the right moment is a fundamental art – so it is important to have a back-up plan or an equally valid alternative option. In short, you must avoid betting all your assets on a single horse and then finding yourself empty-handed.
It’s precisely for this reason that it’s always useful to engage a sports sponsorship agency that can offer expertise, advice and propose alternative programs if needed.
RTR Sports Marketing is one such agency – so if you want advice on sports sponsorship activation, timings, or any other aspect of sports marketing, feel free to give us a call.