A frequent theme from today’s Autosport International Connect (#ASIConnect) centred on sponsorship and the challenges faced by sponsors during the pandemic, with the well-documented restrictions on at-circuit fan and guest attendance.
Let’s get this clear from the outset: sponsorship is so much more than a logo on a car, or guests in a hospitality unit. In today’s forward-thinking, purpose-led, digital world, the really powerful sponsorships thrive on a holistic activation plan that is not reliant on events or in-person hospitality.
Suggestions that sponsorship has been harder to come by as a result of the pandemic are perhaps short-sighted and reflect an outdated view of what sponsorship actually means. We’re long past the days of paying for a sticker on a car or trackside banners, we’re seeing the most sophisticated and successful partnerships derive returns from an integrated content-led approach with brand storytelling at their heart.
When a sponsor engages with a rightsholder they are buying into the story and association with that property. That story still exists, regardless of whether you’re at a racetrack or sat behind your screen at home.
Naturally, there is still a need to engage directly through multiple touchpoints, particularly tech brands looking to engage with CxO audiences, for example, but the opportunities presented to sponsors through digital channels are greater than ever.
Use of innovative online hospitality offers companies a chance to immerse audiences into the sport through experiential platforms – without the need to transport vast numbers of guests to events around the world.
In-person hospitality will continue to exist, of course, but it will revert back to a VIP experience, as was always its intention. Online solutions augment that with a completely different, complementary opportunity – a brand new activation platform as a result of the challenges of the past 12 months.
That brings us nicely onto the subject of esports. One of the questions directed to the ‘Success in Esports’ panel – which featured Stefy Bau from our partner Init Esports – was “Can esports become commercially sustainable without trackside hospitality and experiences for sponsors?”
Of course, the answer is a resounding YES! Esports, as an online experience, gives companies a totally new, dynamic and modern channel from which it can engage with target audiences. Same as with ‘real’ motorsport, there will be branding opportunities, but it’s from immersive storytelling and content creation where companies will truly exploit the value of an esports partnership. Here at SQN, we recognise the multi-tiered benefits of sponsorship, and how to develop a unique activation plan – including account-based marketing where applicable – to take a more modern approach to sponsorship. The days of marketing specialists running down pitlanes to add a last-minute sponsor to an F1 car in the opening seconds of a practice session are long gone. The story starts far away from a race track, real or virtual – so if you’re sitting comfortably, shall we begin…?