In the second part of a two part interview, Sporto (producer of sports business conferences, magazines and awards) discusses with Malph Minns, Strive Sponsorship’s Managing Director, the insights from establishing and managing the awarded Team Sky commercial partnership programme from 2010 to 2014 and the opportunities for sponsors in niche sports. Below is an excerpt of part two of the interview. To read the full interview, click here.
SPORTO: During your time at Team Sky you helped to reach sponsorship return on investment for brands including Sky, 21st Century Fox, Jaguar, Gatorade and Oakley. What have you learned from your ‘cycling years’?
MALPH MINNS: People talk a lot about the principles of good sponsorship/partnerships, but few apply them, or have the opportunity to. At Team Sky we were in the fortunate position of having a very smart owner in Sky. They recognized that we would need time and investment to build a brand with a clear purpose, objectives and identity. Rights holders often see marketing as a cost, but it in fact is a hugely valuable investment that can return value in both tangible and intangible ways over the long term. We recognized from the off that great partnerships weren’t just about how much investment we could raise, but it was about having an aligned vision, objectives and way of doing things – as well as having partners willing to invest in their activations, thus growing our media footprint. At the beginning, your brand is always going to be small, with your partners having far bigger brands and reach. Key for us was how we could work together, aggregating the activity of our partners, to grow our own brand and therefore value. This intangible value of partnerships is often not recognized or is misunderstood. Some rights holders see servicing sponsor requests as a necessary evil, while we looked upon it very much as a huge opportunity. If you don’t get this right at the start, you spend the rest of your relationship trying to force fit the partnership. This leads to activations that largely don’t resonate with the audience, thus not delivering for the rights holder nor the sponsor, and a high turnover of partnerships. This means your commercial team has an annual job of attracting someone new in and you fall into a sales cycle and mindset, rather than one of investment and value creation.
“In a partnership between brands and rights holders you need to recognise that being a smaller part of something big is better than being a big part of something small, and have clear ownable territories for each partner e.g. innovation, design etc.”
In the five years I was with Team Sky, there wasn’t one partner that wanted to leave. Those that did were purely because we found a better fit elsewhere or they couldn’t afford the rights fee anymore. We had a 100-percent renewal and upsell record across a family of over 20 partners and in a sport that had always struggled to attract global brands.
To read part one of the interview, ‘Early adopter, non-endemic brand sponsors are key to emerging sports’, click here.