Marketing Magazine was interested how in 2012, brands tapped into people’s passions around the London Olympics, and what fan engagement opportunities (and potential pitfalls) the 2016 Rio Olympic Games offers. Marketing asked Strive Sponsorship’s Managing Director, Malph Minns, for his opinion to help build their 10 Essential Rules of Fan Engagement.

How can brands find the right passion points to tap into?

The start point for any brand is to develop an understanding of their potential and current customers e.g. what are their interests, how/where/how long do they engage, how important is an interest in relation another, what influences their passion and does/can sponsorship have the ability to impact their behaviour (Repucom have a research product called Fan DNA that helps understand to what extent audiences are positively influenced by sponsorship)?

As Roisin Donnelly, brand director for P&G in Northern Europe, told Marketing Week:
“Our industry is being disrupted by new models of marketing and selling, new retailers, and a consumer empowered new technology and a new age of transparency.

“In this new changing world the secret to success remains the same – deeply understanding the consumer better than anyone else, designing everything you do for them and delighting them at every point they encounter your brand, your product or your business,”

How do you pick the best partnership and sponsorship opportunities?

Obviously the sponsorship property has to be something your target market is interested in (at scale), but there has to be a credible role for you to play and a brand fit between your business and the sponsorship property.

Brand should also look at who is already operating in the space and build an understanding of costs of entry and activation. I would also recommend evaluating the rightsholder’s ability to support delivery of your objectives.

Once they have, what are the rules of engaging with fans?

For me there are two basic rules of engagement when looking to connect brands to fans. You either need to:

  1. add further value to the fans experience of their passion, or
  2. solve a problem that takes away from their experience

Do consumers like it when brands get involved with something they’re passionate about?

Some like it, some don’t. At the end of the day it comes down to what value the brand is delivering to the fan and if it improves their experience. In cycling, for instance, fans appreciate sponsorship more than fans in other sports may do as they realise it is the only source of income for the teams and so fuels the running of the sport. This doesn’t excuse poor activation by brands, but it gives them a better chance of success.

A lot of sponsorship is done poorly because brands don’t take the time to understand the audience, listen to what they value and finds a relevant position to take to enhance value. Typical poor sponsorship execution sees brands use it as a platform to tell an audience what it wants them to know rather than necessarily what they’re interested in hearing. That’s like going into a pub and talking about yourself all night – no one wants to engage with that guy.

What’s the future of fan engagement? How is the mix of digital and physical shifting relationships?

As technology continues to evolve, and everything becomes more transparent, there will be more and more ways brands can reach and engage with fans. This both has a benefit to the brand (from a viewpoint of facilitating multiple touchpoints and offering the flexibility to personalise messages and deliver them in a timely fashion), but also makes it more challenging strategically as brands need to choose the right channels for the right messages to reach the right audience.

Too many brands see a channel and think ‘there is a huge number of people here, what can I do in this space’. This is the wrong place to start. The brand has to start with the customer, understanding the channels they engage with, why and how they engage, before then concluding how they can most effectively deliver a valuable message through them. Brands need to also understand the value that different types of engagement have in trying to achieve their objectives.

Click here to read Marketing Magazine’s ‘Passion power: 10 essential rules of fan engagement’ article.

If you would benefit from the advice of a sports agency, Strive Sponsorship can help. Contact us for sports sponsorship, commercial, content, operations, investment and communications consultancy services. You can also now follow Strive Sponsorship on twitter @strivesays.