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Q&A with Sponsorship Thought Leader Marques Jackson

By Michael Kithcart

As an industry veteran of sports and entertainment marketing for MillerCoors, Marques Jackson has a track record of elevating brands and maximizing the right sponsorships and partnerships. As someone who is consistently prospecting and sees a volume of partnership opportunities, I was curious about the themes he sees on the brand side that could be useful in helping sponsorship sales executives improve on their outreach efforts and solutions. This is a sneak peek to the session Marques will be leading at Sponsorship Mastery Summit—Meeting Sponsor Expectations.

Michael Kithcart: You’ve been brought into a number of organizations to overhaul sponsorship for brands. What are the first things you look at when you begin to determine what a brand should or shouldn’t be associated with?

Marques Jackson: It all starts with the brand objectives; that’s the first filter. When I think about events to align with, it ultimately comes down to whether it meets three main objectives: 1) Will it allow me to recruit new millennials and provide ways to actively engage with 21- to 34-year-olds? 2) Will it ensure my brand shows up in a unique way and stands out against the competition? 3) Does it provide scalability, influencers, media inclusion and large visibility—like a Super Bowl?

MK: You’ve seen and negotiated sponsorship proposals for a long time. What are properties still not getting right in terms of what brands want from a sponsorship opportunity?

MJ: Flexibility and adaptation. When we’re looking to sign a 3-, 5-, or 10-year partnership, we want assurances the property will continue to grow, change and adapt in order to stay relevant. We are looking for thought leadership on how our brand will stay relevant over the years, and we want to ensure the right resources will be available. That includes asset flexibility as the landscape changes.

MK: Digital marketing and technology pose new challenges for properties in that they must weigh the investment with the potential to generate more revenue. What are some of the ways MillerCoors has maximized these areas to increase consumer engagement?

MJ: My job as a marketer is to sell more beer. As the landscape has changed and evolved, e-commerce is growing in importance. It has helped ensure we are staying culturally relevant in our social and digital activations. We look to collaborate with our partners to stay on pace with the social media environment and provide new and innovative ways for us to stay in the minds of millennials.

MK: With major beer brands moving away from category exclusivity to activate at retail, how else can events support your retail activation in a way that provides more value to the partnership?

MJ: I’ve always felt we have to win at retail, both in the on- and off-premise. It’s always been a huge component to our activation strategy. Delivering a unique consumer experience at retail is really important to help our brands set themselves apart from the competition. We’re looking for ways to ensure our brands stay relevant in the minds of consumers. This could include offering unique behind-the-scenes experiences at events for consumers, and augmented reality and virtual reality are really interesting. We have recently piloted AR activations and will look to build on that momentum next year. More on that at the summit!

MK: What are you hoping Sponsorship Mastery Summit attendees take away from your session, Meeting Sponsor Expectations?

MJ: I want to give them an inside look at what brands are looking for and what the experience is like as a brand. I get a lot of calls from events reaching out blindly. I will speak on what we look for and our criteria—to make their jobs easier in their outreach to brands. I want to stress the importance of staying on top of industry knowledge and trends. Sponsorship is expanding and we’re seeing the intersection of working with media partners and sponsors more and more. We’ve done deals with ESPN, Spotify, Pandora, Univision. There are many efficiencies to be gained when working with media partners. Lastly, the evolution of e-sports is a whole new frontier that we’re figuring out how to inch our way into.

MK: What’s the question you wished people would ask you about sponsorship and haven’t?

MJ: It’s less of a question and more of an action step. I wish people were more prepared and informed about the industry and brand marketing. Remove yourself from selling a proposition and first put yourself in the shoes of brand marketers. Start with the lens of identifying brand objectives, do research on the industry as a whole, inquire about pain points in the industry, ask about the next three years and where we see the beer industry going. I think some people have tunnel vision on the intrinsic value of their property and don’t fully understand the brand’s business model or how it might fit with their business model. Doing this could really break down some barriers.

About the workshop: Sponsorship Mastery Summit takes place September 25-26 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington and features industry experts facilitating intensive and interactive sessions for mastering the art and science of sponsorship. Participants collaborate with thought leaders, hear from big brands, explore new ideas, and leave with a simple sales plan, an improved story, sponsor leads, a sales process, best practices and new connections. The learning and exchange continue online for three months with webinars and information on the most relevant and important topics key to sponsorship success. Learn more and register here.

About the author: Michael Kithcart is the chief strategy officer of Caravel Marketing. Throughout her career, Michael has transformed organizations, created divisions, organized startups and enhanced the effectiveness of individuals and teams. She is a leader in working with organizations to develop strategic initiatives that meet and exceed sponsorship sales goals.