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Sponsorship Insights from Industry Leaders

By Michael Kithcart

At the IEG Sponsorship Conference in Chicago, thought leaders representing brands and properties shared their sponsorship insights and experiences, including our president, Paula Beadle. From presentations by our friends at T-Mobile and Starbucks, to hallway conversations with visionaries and brand challengers, we learned and exchanged ideas and opportunities that will guide the industry and our company in the year ahead.

Here are our IEG top takeaways for 2018:

Cause marketing is where it’s at. Properties provide a platform for companies to showcase the good they’re already doing in their communities, for the environment, and for social causes. By working together from at the start, properties and brands can maximize alignment between audience and cause to elevate event experience and brand favorability.

Brands need to take a stand. The “do no harm” approach is not good enough. Brands need to stand for something and take a position. Consumers respond to brands that match their values, beliefs, causes. Sponsorship provides a platform to inspire conversations that can lead to lasting relationships between brands and their audience.

The industry is still using an old-school sales approach. Utilizing gold, silver and bronze level options are conversation stoppers, yet many properties still use this, or a smile-and-dial approach. Sponsors are demanding knowledge of their product/service and what they sponsor. Caravel President Paula Beadle led roundtables on a proven sales process that breaks the mold, enables properties and brands more focused engagement from start to finish, and results in higher investments and satisfaction.

Sponsors are seeking “perfect” partner relationships. A perfect partner from a brand perspective includes flexibility and a willingness to adjust the asset allocation to respond to sponsors’ changing priorities and goals. Properties who are committed to measuring the success of a program and hold themselves accountable to delivering results will enjoy long-term partnerships.

Sponsorship continues to outpace other marketing disciplines in spending growth. A cost-effective marketing strategy, sponsorship makes meaningful connections to consumers, can meet multiple marketing objectives, and is flexible in reaching either the masses or very targeted audiences. Brands continue to see more favorable responses from consumers when they are attached to events consumers are attending.

The assets most important to brands continues to shift. Category exclusivity remains critically important to most brands. Social assets continue to climb in what sponsors are seeking. The list below shows what brands are seeking from sponsorships (in order of importance):

Ideas are the new currency. Brands are looking for idea generation from properties. Proposals should be developed with promotional concepts or the “big idea,” and supported by the assets that are most important to the individual sponsor.

Sponsors can be the solution for pain points. Properties have an opportunity to address common audience/attendee pain points by enlisting sponsors to provide and support event elements like knowledge of event, parking, ticket access and admission/cost needs to enhance the overall fan experience.

E-sports is a rapidly emerging “property.” Millennials now spend more time watching other people play video games than they spend watching traditional sports, which creates an opportunity for brands to capture a growing audience of 400 million globally. Authenticity is the key to whether sponsors support tournaments, teams or in-game content. Exponential sponsorship growth continues in this category.

Properties need to get measurement right. The drum beat continues on this industry wide challenge. Beyond attendee information, properties need to find ways to quantify the return on investment. This may include investing in additional data. A mutual understanding of how the partnership will be measured is an important place to begin.

The Caravel crew specializes in developing and executing sponsorship strategies for iconic events and adventurous brands. For more information about how we can help your organization, contact me at

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.