Are sponsorships on the Path to Purchase?

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Utilising sports sponsorship to influence brand performance in retail.

soccer-3-1553728-1279x852Australia will always be regarded as a sporting nation, with both individual and team sports strongly embedded into our culture. Whether you watch your favourite team play each week, or just tune in for the main events, the world of sports touches most Australians in some way or another.

As marketers, we are all comfortable with the idea of using sports sponsorship as a way to communicate with engaged fans, however many brands are not fully leveraging their sponsorship rights to form stronger or more meaningful partnerships with both the sport and third parties, to specifically drive a retail performance uplift.

With US$62.8 billion spent globally on sports sponsorship in 2017 (Smart Company, Jan 2018) and this figure steadily increasing year on year, sponsorship is big business. Brands see it as an opportunity to increase their awareness and to build a strong identity, in the hope this will contribute to sustained, long-term sales growth.

To achieve these results, more and more brands are realising they need to do more than just rely on logo exposure on a uniform or before a sporting title. If brands choose to spend a significant amount of their marketing budget on a sponsorship deal, then they want to be forming a partnership strategy to really leverage it to its full potential, or risk leading to underutilised assets and undesirable results.

So how should brands make the most of their sponsorship rights? Cameron McGeachie, Head of MKTG Live and Retail Sydney, believes it’s not enough for a brand to only buy the naming rights in relation to a sport, an individual or a team.

"Alongside the sponsorship package, they should also be investing 1:1/1:2 additional budget for leveraging the sponsorships effectively in additional marketing initiatives throughout their business," says Mr McGeachie. These could range from an integrated media campaign, content, experiential events (in-stadium or live-sites), sampling at game, on-pack branding, retail trade programs and consumer promotions to name a few."

Fresh ShoutTake Carlton Draught for example. It has been a partner of the AFL for 20+ years and has always combined this sponsorship with other activations, from the famous ‘Big Ad’ that used to play during finals season on TV and often integrated with retail promotions, to last year, where during the final rounds MKTG partnered with CUB to create a ‘drinkable ad’ through a partnership with Shazam and Coles Group, AFL fans were invited to download a discounted case of beer by ‘Shazaming’ the ad that played on the stadium big screen.

Carlton Draught cemented its position as the official Beer of the AFL, not only grabbing the attention of over 200,000 fans in stadium, but also driving foot traffic into Coles Group stores and generating over $50,000 additional sales. It’s this winning combination that has led to Carlton Draught becoming synonymous with the AFL. Watch the campaign video here.

Cadbury UK tackled its sponsorship of the Premier League in a different way. With the UK chocolate market in decline, Cadbury turned to sports sponsorship to boost the market and increase sales. In this instance it was less about the association with the sport per se, as it was about giving the consumers a greater reason to buy their products.

One of the most important aspects in achieving this was that the partnership unlocked incremental visibility and space in retailers such as Tesco, allowing Cadbury to trade with value for visibility instore by leveraging its Premier League rights. It also ran on-pack promotions and paid media for additional amplification. As a result, it saw the chocolate market increase by 2.8%, had over 15,000 new retail displays and beat their revenue targets within the first half of the Premier League football season.

These two case studies demonstrate there are a number of different ways a brand can utilise a sponsorship opportunity. Marketing budgets are forever being scrutinized and it’s therefore in the brands best interest to make the most of their sponsorship to generate sales. According to Decoded, an MKTG owned piece of research on sports and lifestyle sponsorship;

  • 71% of sports fan were influenced in some way by a sponsors' messaging in 2017
  • Engagement jumps to 90% when the messaging or experience is onsite and in front of a live audience
  • 86% for product demonstrations and sampling and 78% for retail-based activations. These high engagement figures really help to justify the additional marketing spend

In the future we expect to see sports sponsorship continue to grow as an advertising medium, with new opportunities continually being developed. No longer is sponsorship solely the domain of those looking for branding within sporting or other live events. Instead, it is a channel within its own right, able to tell a brand’s story and add flavour and depth to existing communication channels.

The rise of digital and online streaming has also allowed for the more niche sports to find new audiences, while there is significant growth in the e-sports category with brands seeing this as a great chance to speak to the younger millennial audience that are notoriously hard to reach. There really is an opportunity for any brand to become involved.


  1. FORM MEANINGFUL PARTNERSHIPS - A sponsorship deal should be a two-way partnership between the brand and the property. Both should benefit from a long term strategy build together
  2. TRADE IN VALUE - Leverage your competitive advantage to trade with your retail partners e.g. sponsorship value for retail real estate
  3. DO IT RIGHT OR NOT AT ALL - Integrate and leverage with all of your owned and earned assets – it’s no use having a sponsorship if you don’t do anything with it! Get your internal sponsorship and retail teams to work together
  4. DATA LED NOT CEO LEAD - sponsorship decisions made utilising data or research studies like DECODED or engaging specialist sponsorship consultants (like MKTG) to inform your decisions
  5. THINK OUTSIDE TRADITIONAL SPORTS - There is more than traditional Sports available to engage with your target market, especially in the e-sports category.

 ABOUT MKTG: MKTG is a lifestyle marketing agency, focused on connecting brands to people. We specialise in delivering strategy, business-oriented marketing solutions for leading brands via sports sponsorship marketing, live experiences and retail shopper marketing.

If you would like to discuss how we can help your brand, please contact MKTG at