Should you sponsor the 2018 Commonwealth Games?

danielle jonesWith the Commonwealth Games coming to Australian shores in 2018 Danielle Jones looks at what you should consider before deciding whether to sponsor.

The biggest sporting event our nation will see this decade is coming to the Gold Coast in 2018. It is the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games and many businesses will have received a knock on the door asking if they want to sponsor it. After all, Games organisers are chasing $80 million in sponsorship revenue. The question is, should you sponsor the Games?

Earlier this month, Griffith University announced it had signed on as the University Partner of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. This ‘first of its kind’ deal, which I and others spent one year negotiating, is the Gold Coast’s second announced sponsor.

As the single biggest business on the Gold Coast, Griffith University’s educational products have a global reach. However, when Griffith approached us with the question “Should we sponsor the Games?” our reply was “It depends.”

Only after a thorough analysis of the opportunity did we advise “Yes”. We framed a deal that would drive business, build brand equity, increase corporate reputation and strengthen employee engagement. Unfortunately, many sponsorships are not given this same due diligence and as a result resources are wasted. The opportunity cost is great too. One dollar spent on an ill-fitting sponsorship is one dollar that could be better spent elsewhere.

commonwealth gamesThe Commonwealth Games are a tough marketing ask – very tough. Unlike the Olympics, the quality of competition is mediocre (given that the sports powerhouses of the USA, China and Europe aren’t there); it doesn’t get much publicity either side of the event and, the next event will be wedged between the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games; the Winter Olympics in South Korea and the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Locally, it will coincide with the start of the NRL, AFL and Super Rugby seasons and the finals of the A-League.

Another critical consideration is the health of the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth as a collective is a relic of last century and the Games had a near death experience at the hands of India at Delhi 2010. What’s worse, England beat Australia in the medal tally at Glasgow 2014!

All that aside, the Commonwealth Games has a reasonably strong brand in Australia. It is popular with broadcasters, the public and athletes. Why? Australians love the gold rush that occurs at the two-week event! It also takes a more relaxed approach compared to the Olympics – an approach that bodes well with our ‘mate ship’ culture. Irrespective of the medal tally, Glasgow did successfully resurrect the event, giving Gold Coast a golden opportunity to leverage a revitalised sporting brand.

Thanks to Glasgow, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games has huge potential to engage and inspire audiences, especially at a grassroots level across Queensland. This means a small number of brands are sitting on a potential marketing gold mine.

‘Strategic Sponsorship’ is one of the most effective forms of marketing, providing unique opportunities to connect, engage and add value to the lives of customers, staff and other stakeholders. It can part the sea of ‘marketing clutter’ and provide a clear route to get your message out to target audiences.

My top three tips for uncovering your potential sponsorship gold mine are:

  1. Assess the opportunity against your critical criteria including strategy, objectives, business drivers and audiences plus make sure your activation budget is sufficient – the general rule is two to three times that of the rights fee you pay however this will vary depending on your specific circumstances.
  2. Ensure the opportunity can be strategically woven in to the fabric of the business with stakeholder buy-in and meaningful activation. The best sponsorships overlay, not stand-alone, with many current assets (or those that could be easily accessed) providing cost-effective leverage and increased RoI.
  3. Look closely at where the money-can’t-buy benefits are – to the surprise of many these are often found outside of the event itself.

For many strategic reasons, the Commonwealth Games could be your potential gold mine. Should you sponsor it? It really does “depend” on your strategy.

  • Danielle Jones is principal of Partnership Marketing Australia

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