At this time of year, in the run-up to the start of the Jump Racing season, I become inundated with calls and emails from existing and potential sponsors. I thrive on being so busy, but it does mean I have less time (and inclination) to pay attention to marketing messages from other sources.
I’ve read that the average American consumer is exposed to as many as 30,000 marketing messages every day. In 2005, London commuters were found to be exposed to more than 130 adverts in one 45-minute journey and likely to see 3,500 marketing messages in an entire day. That number probably has increased with growth in the use of mobile devices and apps. Certainly, the Tube now is filled with people wearing earpieces to listen to music, game, surf the web, or email.
It’s the marketer’s paradox; we have more channels and more opportunities to reach potential customers than ever before, but the resulting clutter and noise can make it even harder to achieve the necessary cut-through to drive business.
I believe that consumers are more attuned to receiving communications from a brand that is associated with a sport they love. If it’s their preferred brand in the first place, the effect is even more powerful. We can prove synergistic links by using consumer research to map our racing audience to those of consumer and business brands. For example, Courvoisier has a higher correlation than other cognacs with the racing audience.
Often sponsorship activity is not a call to action in itself, but is used to accelerate brand positioning and awareness. Repetition of a brand name in connection with a sport attracts the consumer’s attention in a way that helps to filter out messages from competitor brands. And as the Jump Racing season gets underway the buzz generated – via papers, radio, TV, web sites and social media – increases and the media value of a sponsorship agreement really comes into its own. To capitalise upon such synergies, I encourage sponsors to put engagement at the heart of their sponsorship strategy.
That will mean different things to different brands. Our local air ambulance service is sponsoring a series of point-to-point races – culminating at Cheltenham. The charity’s involvement drives awareness of the charitable nature of the air ambulance among people who might use their service at some point (those living, working or spending spare time in the rural community) and is used to encourage donations through individual covenants and corporate contributions. Indeed, organisations often underwrite the air ambulance’s sponsorship costs as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes.
In comparison, Ryman sponsors the Business Club at Cheltenham, giving it the opportunity to effectively host a community of hundreds of SME’s. This enables Ryman to reach its target market to promote its services, including an online buying solution for SME’s. We know that this activity has helped Ryman to increase sales and capture hundreds of key pieces of customer data.
What works for me is seeing sponsors use their sponsorship creatively, like Stan James taking the Champion Hurdle Trophy on tour or the “Sisters of Murphy” landing on the finishing straight five minutes before the start of the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
I also believe that people love to listen to a story and jump racing offers a thrilling narrative. Sponsors can piggy back upon that narrative to deliver their own compelling and unique stories. A recent “Crystal Cup” race in France generated a disproportionate amount of positive media activity because – in an unprecedented move - a British horse travelled to participate in the race and won. The “Crystal Cup” takes place across five different European countries and in each case the sponsor is a local business. My interest in this race is purely as a spectator – but it felt like a missed opportunity, to me, that a pan-European brand was not engaged and able to capitalise upon the cross-border interest in this unique event.
Yes, involvement in a sport can help brands define their values and aspirations – but my mission is to take that one step further and create distinctive campaigns that deliver real differentiation. To reach those time-poor customers – like me – you need to do something unique to cut through your competitors’ noise.