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Sport Sponsorships – Seeking value from the intangible.

Sport Sponsorships in South Africa has grown with 5.2% in 2010 alone and is now a $46 billion market. This is according to David Sidenberg from BMI, who was one of the panellists at the Journal of Marketing breakfast debate on 25 August. One reason for this is that Sponsorship is becoming a popular marketing tool, which leads to a big amount of brands Sponsoring teams or events, which in turn then leads to a need for larger chunks of the budget to spend on sponsorship to compete with the increasing noise. A reason for the popularity of Sport Sponsorships is explained by ABSA’s Lynn Naude, who says that ABSA invests in Sport Sponsorships because “It allows us to cater for all markets”.  Thus, a large benefit is reaching your audience and creating an association in their minds between the Sponsor and the rights holder. Barends adds that Sport Sponsorship can also give a brand personality and help them to engage with heir consumers, and so create awareness.

In the case of creating brand awareness, Sport Sponsorship has become popular due to the amount of Television Broadcasting time dedicated to Sport. Unfortunatily, there is a correlation between the amount of exposure on Television and costs. So what if your brand can not afford this large investment in Sponsorship? According to Barends, “if you want to be seen, but you do not have the budget, you must be creative”. He uses the example of Sponsoring a Sport Union or Federation, rather than the team or club. This will allow your brand to be associated with specific products instead of the big event. Vosloo gives a further example of Total forming a female team to extend their publicity.  Sidenberg adds that product placement is also not used as effectively as it could be in South Africa.

But according to Naude as well as Nadia Vosloo (Brand and Communications Manager at Total SA) there is a range of benefits associated with Sponsorships, and brand awareness is but one of them. Sponsorships may also develop due to a need for Corporate Social Investment (CSI). A good example of this is the Sponsorship of community sport events by Total, which leads to a reduction in crime but also builds brand loyalty from a young age, or the provision of vegetable tunnels in Kwazulu-Natal to fight pollution and feed 100 children per day. According to Lyndon Barends, CSI is usually a part of Sport Sponsorships as it also provides the team members with the opportunity to break away from their daily activities. And although individual sportsmen and women are sometimes associated with a specific Sponsor, this is becoming a risk as these individuals can have a influence on the Sponsor, as they generally have access to large audiences via social media.

Ultimately, a perfect fit is needed between the Rights Holder and the Sponsor to make the partnership work. This fit is determined by the brand DNA as well as the objectives of the Sponsor. The objectives may vary from brand awareness, to increased sales, to engagement with the target audience to CSI. In some cases a natural fit exists between the Rights Holder and Sponsor, as the case is with Total and Motorsport.

So at the end of the debate, when the question was asked if Sport Sponsorship is worth it, the short answer was “Yes”.

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