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MKTG Insights from #IEG2014

MKTG Insights from #IEG2014

Last week, MKTG Sponsorship Group was represented by members of our consulting team in Chicago for #IEG2014, one of the world's leading conferences on the business of sponsorships. IEG shines a light on the increasing sophistication of the industry and we were encourage by the strength of the Canadian contingent attending the conference, an indicator of the rising prominence of sponsorship marketing in Canada.

Having returned from #IEG2014, we've captured 5 key learnings from this year's conference.

1. Own a Culture, Not a Category:

Notoriously private brand Red Bull spoke publicly about the Red Bull Media House initiative (the brand's content arm) for the first time. Red Bull breaks through by not reducing its view of category competition to canned beverages, but rather sees itself as an experience - one that is aspirational, and at times, even exploratory for consumers. The lesson for sponsors is to identify what they stand for - find a culture they want to represent, and fearlessly activate within that space. Red Bull's approach to sponsorship is unique: the brand owns 98% of its events, and all athletes on their roster are given equity. This approach has freed the brand from the sponsor clutter that exists in mainstream sport and has turned their athlete roster into a team of loyal brand advocates who believe in the brand and not just the paycheck it writes them. Generally, Red Bull has gone niche over mass, staying away from traditional properties. That being said, the brand`s braveness hasn't failed to attract eyeballs: 8% of the internet`s capacity was filled during the live stream of the Red Bull Stratos space jump. 

2. The unmatched power of sponsorship to re-position a brand:

IEG 2014 showed countless examples of how, with sponsorship driving the bus, brands were able to most effectively reposition strategically. Most notably, the brand of chocolate milk. The chocolate milk brand is lead by MilkPEP, a consortium of 111 milk processing companies to jointly contribute to a national marketing fund. The challenge they faced was to take a product that for 60+ years was viewed in the marketplace as a children's beverage, and reposition it as a sports recovery drink. With consumer attitudes towards flavoured milk deeply entrenched, no amount of 30 second spots would be able to validate the role of chocolate milk as part of the post-workout routine. Sponsorship of properties such as USA Hockey and IRONMAN served as third-party validation and drove business opportunities for MilkPEP.

3. The intersect of Capitalism and Humanism is the birthplace of meaningful innovation:

Much of this year`s content at IEG focused on the insight that future of marketing is about solutions - brands who can design programs that go beyond philanthropy towards commercially-based business models will be in the best position drive social change; that meaningful marketing innovation exists at the intersection of capitalism and humanism. Vestas, a wind-energy multinational based out of Denmark, saw the birth of a new revenue-generating business line - and it all started with a sponsorship of Wind for Prosperity, originally launched as a non-profit with the mission of bringing wind power to those who live in energy poverty.

4. Fan Avidity reigns supreme - domestically and internationally:

IEG 2014 saw a number of leading international sports properties provide insights. The overarching theme behind these presentations was the fact that fan avidity in North America means something very different than fan avidity in the developing world. In cultures with deep economic inequality, where sport is more escape than entertainment, fanatical passion presents never-before-seen opportunities for smart sponsors. FC Barcelona, the most popular soccer club in the world, shared that 66% of fans have admitted to crying during a game. Then, there was Sport Club Recife, a Brazilian soccer team who tapped their fan-base to curb the immediate need for organ donors in Brazils. When clubs play such a deep role in the lives of fans, they have a power to enact positive social change from their supporters. For sponsors, that means opportunities to be catalysts for good. For brands seeking international expansion, the power of sponsorship in key markets remains an effective brand-building tool.

5. The rise of value-for-value partnerships:

A number of sponsors embraced partnerships in which not a single cent was exchanged. For example, Coca-Cola partnered with a number of start-up ventures to create what they called a collision of trust. Coke supplied their support as an international marketing power to new ventures in exchange for content and branded products. Activating their FIFA sponsorship, Coke leveraged Endomondo - a sports community based on free real-time GPS tracking of workouts - to house their World Cup content and develop a hydration meter mobile app. For brands with limited budget for traditional rights fees, value-for-value partnerships can provide the ingredients for strategic storytelling.

MKTG has a deep commitment to continuous learning, and is represented by our employees at a number of leading sponsorship / sports marketing conferences in Canada. If you are interested in having a MKTG consultant speak or attend your conference, contact us at: info@sesponsorshipgroup.com

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