How Do You Communicate Sponsorship

This section provides an overview of the essential communication strategies that can help

ensure not only connection, but also understanding of and the ability to communicate the value

demonstrated by analytics to corporate sponsors. We will discuss the importance of audience

analysis, creditability, institutional rhetoric, and presentational performance. These topics are

crucial to generating sales and creating effective, long-term relationships.

A first consideration is who comprises the audience and how to determine their level of

understanding of the value of data in a corporate sponsorship. Who are the influencers of the

decision? Who are the people who keep the process going? And who is ultimately going to make

the decision? Understanding and not alienating non-decision makers is often a stumbling block

to achieving a thorough assessment of what a valuation package can deliver to the buyer. In

particular, it is critical to determine a sponsor’s familiarity with valuation, big data, and analytics.

There are some sponsors who fully embrace the numbers and some sponsors who will only make

decisions on intuition. Most sponsors, however, have some knowledge of sponsorship value but

will not be fluent in the language of big data.

For example, many sponsors want to work with sport organizations because they have the

ability to target their customers in unique ways. Sponsors want to take advantage of the powerful

emotional connection that fans have with their favorite leagues, teams, athletes or events. What

sponsors often do not understand is how this connection can be quantified and how this

relationship can impact their bottom line. Using the valuation frameworks discussed earlier in the

chapter to quantify and communicate sponsorship valuation will create deep and long-lasting

sponsorship relationships.

This approach demonstrates the importance of understanding the values of the target

audience when completing this type of analysis. It is not always easy to appraise what an

audience’s most deeply held values are at different points of time. Many sponsors are looking to

maximize revenue and profits by having a relationship with a sport organization. This often

focuses on a sport property’s ability to target specific demographics based on consumer age,

gender, income, and geography. However, maximizing the bottom line may not always be the

primary consideration. A sponsor may be looking to enhance its brand perception by associating

the brand attributes of the sport organization with their companies’ through a sponsorship, which

is often referred to as “the halo effect.” It is often necessary to personalize the information to

enable the audience to clearly picture how the partnership will look and feel when it is completed.

A second and related consideration is credibility, which underlies all sponsorship

communication. A hurdle to gaining trust is understanding the underlying elements of the term

credibility. A foundational term is ethos, which originates in Greek antiquity and is, in essence,

built on credibility. Ethos cannot be faked. It centers on the audience’s perception of the

communicator and without it, meaningful connection with an audience is difficult to accomplish.

Ethos, according to the philosopher and rhetorician Aristotle, can only be achieved by the

audience viewing the communicator as possessing moral character, good will, and intelligence.

In this context, corporate sponsorship interaction can only be built on past behavior, an ability to

communicate transparently, sensitivity to audience needs, and following through on promises.

Ethos is what sport organizations need to strive for with sponsorship. It is the communication

interaction positioning that is most likely to create an environment of trust and cooperation

(Kennedy, 1991).

A third important issue when communicating corporate sponsorship data is understanding

the importance of institutional rhetoric. It can be thought of as a communication program, unique

to a specific organization that uses it to inculcate its philosophy and values on its workers,

products and customers. It is made up of both the formal and informal communication patterns of

daily and large-scale interaction. It is also made up of the informal—the dress, the vernacular,

and the referential language of a specific organization. It can be thought of as a package of

communication inputs that are orchestrated to form a way of positioning the organization in the

world and communicating within it.

It is critical that corporate partnership presentations are delivered with an understanding

of the institutional rhetoric of the buyer. Moreover, identifying those communication

singularities that can be an obstacle for understanding and subsequent translation by the buyer of

the data to other markets is crucial to achieving a true ability to interpret the partnership from the

buyer’s point of view. For example, a company that wants to develop a partnership with the New

York Yankees must understand the degree to which excellence is embedded in their

organization’s communication, how they interpret the concept, and how to integrate that into a

presentation.

Lastly, the corporate sponsorship value package needs to be presented. The manner of

performance could range from a formal presentation for the buyer to a more casual lunch or a

phone call. An inherent problem for data delivery is clarity. Often the amount of data and the

complexity of calculations obfuscate the takeaways from the data. Most sponsors want

intelligence that translates into action. Clearly introducing and defining insights, terminology,

and purpose of valuation as soon as possible in a presentation is critical to securing buy-in from

the sponsor. Developing a common language and using narrative constructs that utilize data

enables sponsors to use qualitative analysis to understand quantitative concepts. In addition, data

visualization is critical to achieving these goals. Creating graphics that turn numbers into images,

or infographics, makes complex calculations much easier to digest. The sooner a sponsor can

understand what the results of a valuation are, how the results were obtained, and how the results

can be applied, the better.

A corporate sponsorship relationship changes over time and the communicators need to

recognize that not only will the value analysis need to be consistently adjusted, but any new

players and circumstances need to be monitored on an ongoing basis. Where audience analysis

often fails is the inability to recognize that it is never static. The feedback process from the client

is absolutely essential and needs to be constantly evaluated. The communication touchpoints

often include interpreting basic research, engaging in interpersonal contact, and asking and

answering frequent questions.

Data can be engaging, emotional, and persuasive. Skilled communicators understand that

without each other, data and communication skills suffer. The sports industry demands that

people effectively use data as the foundation for creating a trusting and lasting relationship with

the client. Even the most obvious and ideal product for a buyer needs to be translated into

language and a message that they can not only understand, but also relay to their internal staff

and ultimate end-users.