Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sports Sponsorships

Sports sponsorship which integrates advertising, promotions, public relations and sales to reach and touch consumers started somewhere between 1970’s to 1980’s in the United States. I was fortunate to have worked with few sponsorship associations on the ground as a marketing contact for a financial institution and thought of articulating most of my learning’s through this avenue Considering that marketing is always a thank less job it is critical to have a robust plan and gear the team to excel in expectations both within and outside the institution.

We need to look at sponsorship in three phases. Phase 1 being the pre event phase, Phase 2 is during the event and Phase 3 being the post event engagement and wrap up

Phase 1 – Pre Event
1) Art of negotiation: It is very important to know the entitlement of the sponsorship. If it is main or title sponsor the effort in changing the name of the sports event and ensuring our brands presence is indeed herculean. But then what matters most for all publicity is the titles name which gets registered through communication exercises during the build up and during the event 2) Documentation: The preparation for marketing the event normally should start at least five months prior to the event and should have a dedicated team who also handles this event in addition to their day job. Regular updates to senior management on the progress is critical and the best is to have a activity based tracker with clear time lines and responsibilities. Plan your work and Work your plan it is so critical to stick to the tracker.
3) Focus on benefits: If the sponsorship is cascaded from the top which normally is always a case try not to un-sell it. Look at it from a macro perspective to the institution. There are several messages which the brand wishes to communicate through event or sports sponsorships. It may vary from supporting to a cause to supporting players to demonstrating commitment of presence in a specific country or region.
4) Stake holder meeting: It is very important to get to meet all the key stake holders within the institution to map their expectations to the sponsorship. Most of the times it may not be favorable in such avenues it helps to meet their teams to decipher their business objectives which will aid in tying up all the loose ends to write a communication brief
5) Budgets: This is the most difficult part being at the clients end. It is very important to sell the idea of running a cohesive and consistent messaging parallel to the sports event before and during the event to leverage on sponsorships. Always ensure to plan for extra pair of hands as support staff, for food & beverages, check on any VVIP guests who may land in to your stand/kiosk and seek advice on any preferred menu coupled with the regular marketing communications costs within the environment
6) Communication brief: The most difficult job for any marketer to draft a communication brief which would ensure it sells. It is always ideal to look out for specialized agencies which excel in sports communication. The best hook to convince your management is to focus on the sponsorship money and also the proposed marketing budget coupled with business expectations and negotiate your way to invite for a agency pitch. This is never a happy situation for the existing agency but it helps to communicate it upfront and also getting your senior management assure them that the ongoing or future projects will be business as usual with the incumbent agency.
7) Key Proposition: it is always easy to get carried away on propositions. Think out of the box and use clever messaging to integrate the sport with the DNA of your brand. Advertising must sell and it is so critical to map business expectations in the brief. Almost any sport delivers on winning, camaraderie and integrity which in most of the cases is one of the core values of any brand.
8) Internal Stake holders: The biggest critiques for marketing are within. Always factor in internal customer engagement to the sponsorship and work on a calendar to connect to them on list of activities or just a heads up communiqué.
9) Timing : The timing of the communication campaign is critical as there may be resistance from the organizers themselves who are emotional about their equity. The time for customer recruitment and on board experience needs to be factored in if the promotion is hinged on giving away tickets based on consumption
10) Publicity: it is very important to control the publicity to the sponsorship as future brand trackers are hinged on the coverage the brand gets to derive from this association. The best is to integrate PR to your team and work closely with themPhase
2 – During the event

1) On ground Kiosk: No matter how much planning one gets in this somehow seems to be a last minute hiccup project. Make sure the contractor inspects the site/location weeks before and all elements like sun light, possibility of rain, sand storm etc., are factored in while designing the kiosk/stand and there is enough storage facilities for marketing collaterals
2) Protocol: Always ensure you have staff or help in hand who would look at meeter/greeter of senior management visiting the stand or the event. If you can get a list of senior delegates visiting your stand based on the protocol ensure you get the necessary give aways. It is important to remember the best onboard experience is recalled always
3) Schedule of events: Always get the activity schedule from the organizers and ensure to communicate this to your internal customers and also to all senior management. Make sure you retain a copy with you as the project in charge you are always on the guard
4) Distribution of tickets: Perhaps the most tricky area of any event sponsorship. It is very important to get senior management buy in on ticket distribution and also ensuring a robust ticket disbursement process. As a marketing contact you are not only expected to promote it externally but also ensure that your area of seats are not empty during the sports event
5) Television Cameras: This is of great significance. It is very important to get few archive televised matches to see how the camera is angled and how they cover players and the stands. If it is in open area like Golf where the players are in motion then the emphasis is always on the angle at which they capture the players. “A” Board placement along with any banners of the brand is of utmost importance.
6) Plan for contingency: Always ensure you have a vehicle parked at your disposal at all times during the event. You never know what you require in the last minute
7) Meet the press: though this is always your PR managers remit it is important to meet press and encourage them to visit your stand or your hospitality. It is so critical that press sees the efforts your institution has put in this event and this would aid in getting coverage
8) Media Planning: clever media planning including outdoor locations across the venue and also at the airport does increase your brands profile during the event. Spend optimum but ensure you dominate the space. Play hard with your planning and buying team
9) Key elements on measuring Return on Investment: The numerous times press speak about your brand, press mentions, TV Coverage’s and scheduled interviews coupled with your own marketing efforts ensure
10) Briefings: Always have briefing sessions with the entire team if possible twice a day to ensure things are as planned. Technology helps but it is better to carry a walkie talkie too. This will also cut on telephone bills and you may not be sitting across your finance manager explaining each call post the event
Phase 3 – Post event wrap up

1) External : Make sure you budget for at least one last burst of adverting thanking all your patrons and customers during the event
2) Internal: Budget in any rewards based on HR policies to the team which worked on the project and also few mementos
3) Event Report: Before you get on to that next project always ensure to document all the learning’s and significant reminder points to management and also to your team which will be a handy referral for the coming yearWe managed to win an award as the best marketing campaign in financial category for that event and I am sure following these learning’s would be quite helpful to most of you

Good Luck

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Internal Communications

Employees have more to do with the success of a brand as most of today's employees are well educated, have higher expectations on the brand they work for. Considering the work place of today which is longer work hours, greater work stress and the recent addition of redundancies, a robust internal engagement plan is critical for the long term success of any brand.

Based on my experience institutions which have open door policy have managed to create an atmosphere of respect and integrity for all employees. Internal communications should not always be on new sales incentives or new product propositions or organizational wide announcements.

Internal communications is all about evolving a organizational culture which is in sync with the brand. Few of the best internal communication/engagement principles which I have encountered at my work

1) Top Down : Meet the CEO Programme - where the CEO or the business head holds and 'open house' in his office and employees are invited to speak with the CEO/Business Head about any thing - suggestions, complaints, concerns.

2) Employee Publications: Unfortunately most newsletters or internal publications are unexciting. As marketers one key constraint we face is on budgets. Since we are in the last quarter provision it during the annual budgets may reduce the annoyance levels. One observation being printed newsletters have little or no recall value and the OTS ( Opportunity To See) is minimal as employees seldom read them. Few methods of tackling them is a e-newsletter with hyperlinks which would give us more accurate data on the time spent and bundling it with few of our credit card offers which would be exclusive to our staff

3) Market Flash: Often during the all important weekly review meeting, we face awkward moments with sales heads on marketing collaterals and also on competition. A regular market flash update to all front end branch staff - this should be every week - may be on a Monday morning highlighting last weeks competitive activity and their SWOT and analyzing it with our products. This will give greater comfort and confidence to front end as we form a critical means of cascading the knowledge

4) Internal Branding: Launch of a new campaign, or a new product or a new initiative to be shared with staff first prior the release. Though this may not be welcomed by business citing competition - a day prior to the launch may be able get their buy in. This is critical as majority of the concerns being awareness of the product or campaign within the institution. Let them live the customer experience to understand what the customers will be offered

It is critical for senior managers to meet and get to know people who are working for them. Though we live in a technology era , employees want personal contact with the managers. Getting the management buy in will be a cornerstone for effective internal communication programme

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Managing Return On Investment (ROI)

Meeting head hunters once in a while is critical as they reflect the changing trend in the industry. In one of my conversation the lady asked me more about my job at the bank.

It was more of a dialogue and I feel I need to place it on record - this is similar to the dilemma I faced when I was a Account Manager for a large ad agency in Mumbai, India

Do you design products? - Not really that’s is the Product Development team
Do you set the business goals - nope that’s the business call
Do you control the customer service? - That is the service quality department
Do you manage communications? - yep we do - we manage communications in sync with the set business goals and ensure the designed products are bonded with our customers.

We manage the tone of messaging and also ensure we obtain Return on Marketing Investment

It is a tough job more because business owners, guard the marketing budgets and run their business like SBU’s and is impossible to poach this without being stung hard. The management always toes in line with Business more to the fact that they contribute to the companies bottom line

My belief always is that if you cant measure the budgets then you cant manage it. My sincere thanks to my previous line manager who was looking at the regional marketing portfolio and also to prudence of UAE’s consumer head, Return On Investment (ROI) was a mantra which was followed through out every campaign

Few steps which I faced and how I managed to overcome

1) Buy in - It is critical to have business units buy in as you are seeking to manage their business money and also to control it. We need to be able to demonstrate greater value and exhibit greater confidence that Marketing can deliver on the value proposition. In this testing times where marketing dollars are cut and people are made redundant it is important to demonstrate discipline in expenses and also show case marketing initiatives which will reduce expenses and get greater buy in from business

I recall how Balance Score Card team was struggling with the staff few years ago and how the entire bank came to terms with it. More because of the Head of Business concurred to it. It is important to have senior management buy in to move forward. However, the first step is to speak with business heads and cascade up

2) Agree on a matrix - not all marketing expenses can be measured and especially for credit cards where the life cycle of products vary and justification for US$10 a piece welcome pack is important as the customer needs to go through the experience and spend - ideally two different sets of expense matrix is ideal one for cards and one for other business units. Since the budgets are annual - the campaign effectiveness ROI can be measured over long term. This may counter any arguments from product units.

3) Manage Vintage - Post every campaign - track the call center volumes and also the leads to the sales team and manage the matrix with product teams. We are catalysts for their success and hence it is important for them in the long run to partner with us. We can then arrive at effective media mix, budgets for both internal and external customer engagement which will be proven effective. Bankers love numbers and if we back them with clear cost savings and value for money - this winning matrix will have greater shelf life