Pearlfinders delivers first-hand insight on the thinking going on behind the scenes at every stage of a brand's sponsorship planning process - in real-time. They say hindsight is 20:20, but for each of the sports partnerships below, we uncovered insight and clues that indicated where the brand was heading much longer ago.
Last month, heads were turned when Santander announced they wouldn’t be renewing their sponsorship of the Scuderia Ferrari Formula 1 team following a 7-year partnership. However, when we spoke to the financial giant’s Head of Marketing & Comms a year ago, we found out that plans to distance the brand’s sponsorship strategy away from motorsport were already being set in motion. Looking to differentiate from other banks, we were told the marketing team’s focus moving into 2017 would be on nurturing its partnerships within cycling – something that has since been reflected in the considerable investment in activations surrounding its Santander Cycles Partnership.
Wigan Warriors announced this new partnership in August, with fans set to benefit from exclusive offers and energy saving tips from the top utility provider. nPower, which has recently come under fire for a potentially risky merger with SSE is likely to make noticeable strides in its marketing output over the next few years. When we spoke to the brand's Brand Manager back in May this year, he said his key focus was on getting the brand’s name out there in arenas that people might not have expected, whilst engaging with communities on a local, grassroots level. The Warriors deal was evidently one of the first to come out of this strategic shift.
Thai Airways announced a new agreement as official supporter of the EFL in November. Already a club partner of Reading FC, the brand's UK & PR Manager told us in April it would be considering similar football partnerships with larger sports properties at Championship level or higher from August this year. With the brand notably pushing its appeal to the UK market already this year, with the introduction of a new-gen Airbus on its London to Bangkok route, we were told partnership proposals that could help the airline build mass market awareness within the UK this year would be well received. This new partnership is sure to deliver, with the brand set to have a digital in-stadia presence at all five major finals this season.
We had an in-depth discussion with the challenger bookmaker’s Chief Commercial Officer in April. With previous investments in Cricket and Rugby not having the desired effect for the brand in its growth trajectory, we learned that it would be consolidating its investment to three core areas – boxing, football and horse racing. At the time, we alerted our clients that the brand was seeking greater UK exposure, but only with partnerships based outside of the too-expensive London. In light of what we uncovered, the brand’s most-recently announced ambassador (Northern Ireland’s Carl Frampton) makes a good fit.
In December, Continental announced it was to become the official partner of the Tour De France for its 2018-2022 seasons. Although the tyre brand already has partnerships with eight professional cycling teams, its latest venture represents a push for global exposure – something the brand’s Head of Marketing Comms said was of growing importance when we spoke last September. In March 2017, we learned the brand was seeking new ways to promote the message of driver safety. With the agreed deal meaning all fleet vehicles will be fitted with Continental’s Ultra High Performance Tyres, this partnership represents the perfect platform to deliver this message.
We’ve spoken to a variety of sponsorship decision-makers at Lotto since 2012. Back in 2013, for instance, we were told by its Advertising Manager that, while the brand had an interest in working with a range of sports that it manufactures for, its key areas of future investment would be football and tennis. In May this year, Lotto told us it was looking to grow its presence with a global audience, but that no individual country association would be a key priority. A three-year partnership with the ATP was signed in November.
We’ve kept a close eye on iPro Sport’s movements within the sponsorship market since the brand was introduced back in 2013. With its portfolio including a stint as Derby County’s stadium sponsors, we were told in 2016 that the brand had secured a strong brand positioning within the market, and was looking to work with properties across football, rugby and athletics that could demonstrate an association with wellness and healthy living. Scottish Ruby’s lead nutritionist commented on the appointment “Optimal fuelling and hydration is essential and that’s where having a product like iPro Sport in partnership with us is great.”
Toyota has placed sponsorship at the heart of its marketing mix for decades, but this year its marketers have made significant changes to brand positioning in order to ensure its survival in the rapidly-changing sector. Perhaps most prominent is its shift to be seen as an organisation committed to both mobility and community - something it told us was being accurately conveyed through its partnership with the International Olympic Committee. When we spoke to the brand in June this year, we uncovered more clues that it was looking to build on this type of relationship, and its Brand Strategy & Comms Manager noted two key focus areas: positioning as an innovator on a world stage and boosting appeal among younger audiences. With recent research showing that four in five millennials were more likely to buy from a brand that supports a cause, Paralympics Ireland fits the bill.