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COP26 – Is climate change sponsorship a cop out?

COP26 – Is climate change sponsorship a cop out?

There will be no escaping publicity from COP26 over the next fortnight, as the global climate change summit in Glasgow is expected to dominate the headlines. It’s been a long time coming. There have been plenty of talking points dictating the news agenda in recent weeks, and mostly for all the wrong reasons. 

It’s an event that justifies attention as the world unites and accelerates its combined efforts to tackle the world’s escalating environmental issues. This is a topic that everyone can – and must – get behind; everyone has a role to play. Throughout November, we’ll be looking at some of the initiatives and commitments already outlined by the motorsport, automotive, tech, and sports industries, as well as some of the peripheral stories linked to our business. 

One of the pre-event stories taking up column inches recently was around the alleged dissatisfaction of COP26’s corporate partners. Accusations of mismanagement and poor planning were outlined in a report in the Guardian a few weeks back, in which event sponsors were said to have united to raise their concerns over event plans.  

Sponsorship of any form is based on pre-agreed objectives in a formal signed agreement, in which the rights holder commits to providing the signatory with tailored package assets, usually in exchange for money. The process is often a long one, and required careful management, consultancy, and experienced pairs of hands – both pre- and post-contract stage.  

Sponsorship is a specialism that requires professional support at all stages. It’s why SQN exists, and why, for 20 years, we have supported countless international companies to derive business success from sponsorships of all sizes. But that’s enough about us, let’s talk sponsorship at COP26. 

If, and we say this with a big disclaimer, *if* sponsors have not been able to plan activation around this event then it’s not a great reflection on one of the highest-profile events of the year, and one whose outcomes are mission-critical to the future of our planet. 

There are also reputational issues to manage. If you did a cursory sweep of tweets related to COP26 and sponsorship, you’d find plenty of controversies. The Ferret’s analysis that “11 of COP26’s principal partners caused more greenhouse gas pollution in 2020 than was produced across the whole of the UK” is catnip to journalists and campaigners, who counter with assertions of greenwashing. Such coverage would have been expected and perhaps even pre-empted by media and sponsorship savvy experts.  

Writing on LinkedIn, the European Sponsorship Association Chair, Andy Westlake wrote: “Having represented the industry as Chair of The European Sponsorship Association and as part of incredible agency teams both in the past and today I know the organisers could very easily have secured some brilliant sponsorship experts to help sell and deliver the Cop26 partnership programme. They would have ensured that the partners added meaningful value to the delegate experience but also that they walked away afterwards having had a positive commercial experience.”  

Sponsorship is never about flaunting logos in the hope that people might just think you’re a nice brand; it goes so much deeper than that. People can see through ill-conceived, fake partnerships quickly, it comes down to credible activation campaigns to build audience trust and business reputation. Without the right platform, however, the sponsorship just won’t be any cop.