Talking Sponsorship with World Rugby, Loughborough University and SponServe

It has been a busy few days of speaking about sponsorship.

Firstly at Loughborough University London, speaking to the Sports Business Masters students about the importance of strategy in marketing and sponsorship in sports organisations.



For their assessment they need to write a marketing plan and a sponsorship pitch for a sports club, so I took them through the strategic marketing planning process and our process for preparing to be sponsorship ready, how to strategically match potential targets and how to understand their strategy in order to position a partnership with the club as a solution to their marketing objectives.


We then went to World Rugby ConfEx, their bi-annual conference, and joined the ‘Sponsorship Pathway – Are you sponsorship ready?’ panel alongside Fiona Taag from DHL, Tom Kingsley from EY, Murray Barnett from World Rugby and moderator, Mark Thompson from SponServe.



So, what do rights holders need to do to be sponsorship ready? We think there are three key areas to look at:


What do you need? What are the organisations objectives and how can a sponsor help you achieve them? It may not always be a revenue objective, it might be access to new markets, performance improvement, technology provision or professional expertise. Understanding this will help you start to identify what kinds of companies you want to consider as sponsors.


What can you offer in return? We break this down into three areas: audience, brand and assets.

    • Audience – Rights holders need to know their audience and not just demographics but behavioural profile too. Key insights are needed not only for the rights holder’s own marketing, but in order to find sponsors who are targeting your audience and using those insights as an asset for them.
    • Brand – What kind of organisation are you? What do you stand for and what are your brand values? These are all critical in order to find sponsors whose brand will align well with yours.
    • Assets – You need to go beyond logos and tickets. Rights holders need to look at this with a fresh pair of eyes and preferably from the fan’s perspective. Rights holders tend to be too close to their day-to-day work to see where there is value for fans and therefore what are valuable assets for sponsors.


Can you deliver? Does the rights holder have the capability in house to go through the strategic matching process to find a sponsor that can provide what you need and is a good fit with your audience, brand and assets, or do they need to outsource that. You need to be able to assess their marketing strategy in order to be able to present a viable partnership proposal and not just a ‘gold, silver, bronze’ standard package option.


We also talked about the importance of authenticity and collaboration in sponsorship as well as how to measure the different objectives sponsors might have.


Many of these are also cover in the follow-up interview as part of SponServe’s podcast. Have a listen here, Craig Maxwell of the Wales Rugby Union is up first and our interview starts at the 30:00 mark.