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The importance of taking stock

The industry press is awash with views on marketing in the time of you know what.

Some is useful, but it’s often hard to separate myth from wisdom.

The focus is often on the ‘short-term’.

The importance of being ‘authentic’, ‘sensitive’ and not to be seen as ‘profiteering’.

The commonly held view that everything and everyone will irrevocably change in the aftermath.

Marketing will never be the same again”.

But normal people don’t ever really change. So our job as communicators shouldn’t either.

It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.” Bill Bernbach, ad legend

One thing we can be sure of, however, is that 2020 will be the annus horribilis of our time.

Sport has been massively hit.

Sport’s people have been massively hit.

Sponsors are trying to ‘continue the conversation’ despite the lack of events while their lawyers haggle over force majeure and related minutiae.

But, we should be excited about the prospect of so much stuff not happening.


Because it presents a rare opportunity.

To raise our heads above the parapet.

To take stock.

Because this is probably the only time in our careers when we will get this opportunity.

To think beyond today or tomorrow.

And redefine what has been accepted as conventional wisdom.

To anticipate the scrutiny that will hang over all sponsorship investments ahead of a very probable recession.

To understand that if 84% advertising is either not remembered or not attributed to the advertiser (source: IPSOS), then the same is probably likely of sponsorship.

To realise that most of sponsorship is the industry talking to itself.

Or that much like Sturgeon’s Law, 90% of it is crap.

And to actually do something about it.


Like starting to measure impact properly.

A SportsPro article on April 9th suggested “it’s hard to dedicate the time to dig into the detail of: ‘Does this really move the needle for my business?”

This is a bit embarrassing to be honest. It sets us all up to fail.

It is now actually possible to calculate the long-term financial ROI of sponsorship past and present.

All you have to do is ask. There are no more excuses on measurement.

End of the measurement fallacy.

It’s also time to better understand ‘the fan’ and look at what really drives and motivates him or her.

While we’re at it, let’s also be honest with our investments.

Like reviewing sponsorship portfolios, understanding what’s working, why it’s working and throwing away the under-performers as and when.

I bet many could scale back their investments without losing impact. In fact, I bet that you can increase impact simply by putting your focus in the right areas and activating in a smarter way.

Let’s anticipate the fact that most businesses will probably reduce marketing spend during a crisis or recession. And use the abundance of available evidence to show that maintaining or even increasing investment (when everyone else is slowing down) will actually help businesses to grow.

Let’s consider how sponsorship can actually solve a business problem that stretches beyond lazy and amorphous edicts such as “build brand awareness” that don’t really mean anything at board level.

Showing how it stacks up against advertising. You can actually build sponsorship into your econometric models. Just ask.

Showing that rights investment and activation are both sides of the same coin so we shouldn’t skip the latter to keep the former. Especially because no one really notices the silent presence brought about by the majority of pure rights investments.

The same logic extends to rights holders.

A chance to modernise rights, particularly across digital, content and performance marketing.

A chance to make themselves more accountable for the success of their sponsorships and make some elements of fee payable on performance to show we’re all on the same side.

A chance to provide more flexibility when it comes to length of term.

Challenging themselves to make proper business cases to help justify a sponsor’s investment.

(If they can’t do this properly, then brands know where they stand).

Achieving all this doesn’t require drastic change.

It’s simply “thinking from the chin up”, doing things properly, questioning the way things are and anticipating what’s next.

Taking stock in times of crisis to keep the wheels rolling for everyone.

Regardless of your motivation.

The Secret Strategist works in sports marketing.

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