In the 1980s—IEG’s early years—we identified a “sponsorship industry” primarily comprising sports rightsholders, event producers and the brands that sponsored them.
Almost immediately—as more and more marketers grasped the value in partnering with the organizations, people, places and happenings their consumers cared about—the field began to grow and diversify, encompassing causes, venues, associations and other important institutions.
Nearly 35 years later, the sponsorship universe is still expanding with no end in sight. Among the most significant additions: the creators, publishers and distributors of digital content; a group that can offer marketers the powerful combination of targeted, passionate audiences, and contextual and continual brand messaging.
Although many of these digital media entities may have started out offering display ads and pre-roll videos more akin to traditional advertising, the best among them have quickly recognized their ability to offer more valuable assets: branded content tie-ins, influencer programs and intangible benefits such as loyalty and buzzworthiness, to name a few.
If you’re a traditional sponsorship property and a glass-half-empty type, you may look at the arrival of these newer rightsholders and lament the increased competition for a finite pool of partner dollars. If you’re one of those digital publishers new to the scene, you likewise are not thrilled at the number of knives plunging into the sponsorship pie, trying to claim bigger and bigger pieces.
But with competition—especially diverse competition—also comes the opportunity to observe, learn and borrow ideas for everything from audience engagement and activation programs to new partner categories and more valuable sponsor benefits.
My consultant colleagues at ESP Properties are working with numerous rightsholder clients in both the traditional and digital realms who have begun looking “across the aisle” when conducting their competitive intelligence and who are learning a great deal in the process.
Similarly, the program for Pivot, the upcoming IEG conference, has been designed specifically to cross-pollinate great ideas among different types of rightsholders. (In addition to hearing the all-important perspective of brand marketers and sponsors.)
A host of traditional sponsorship properties—including Wimbledon, Barclays Center, McLaren Formula 1 team, AEG, FC Bayern Munich, Movember, Chicago Cubs and many more—will explore brand partnership and fan engagement success stories that have digital media at their core.
They will be joined by some of the world’s most successful digital platforms, who will share how they are meeting the needs of their audiences and partners, including:
All Def Digital. The leading digital content network for urban Millennials will present a keynote address by founder (and music, media and lifestyle icon) Russell Simmons and CEO Sanjay Sharma exploring the opportunities for rightsholders and brands that stay authentic, maintain cultural relevance and live where their audiences live online.
Twitch. The world’s largest video game live streaming platform has attracted non-endemic sponsors such as General Mills, Exxon Mobil and Procter & Gamble. Nathan Lindberg, director of Global Esports Sponsorships, will discuss how those and other brands are reaching a young, enthusiastic audience in ways they are receptive to.
In addition, BEN (Branded Entertainment Network) head of integrations Mike Bertolina will be joined by content creator, producer and comedian Al Madrigal (formerly of The Daily Show) and Andrew Winstanley, senior manager, media & integrations for brand partner Zillow to discuss how to “Empower the Content, Don’t Disrupt It: Storytelling through Successful Brand Partnerships.”
This discussion, along with many of the others, will focus on navigating the evolving relationship between marketers, creators and channels.
In what is a brave new world for both traditional properties and digital publishers, there is no better time to view those who compete with you for corporate dollars as frenemies who you can also learn valuable lessons from.