B2B sports sponsorships - why it’s all kicking off

21 Mar 2022 | by Sean Sharkey

At Squaredot, we’re all about helping B2B tech brands grow famous faster. If there is such a thing as a cheat sheet to generating leads, then ‘fame’ is this shortcut. It puts brands onto shortlists with less effort, helps salespeople get a direct line through to key stakeholders, shortens sales cycles and helps get them over the line...

Fame beckons…leads await…you’re going to need a bigger sales team. 

At Squaredot, we’re all about helping B2B tech brands grow famous faster. If there is such a thing as a cheat sheet to generating leads, then ‘fame’ is this shortcut. It puts brands onto shortlists with less effort, helps salespeople get a direct line through to key stakeholders, shortens sales cycles and helps get them over the line. Fame is the rising tide that lifts all ships and impacts on all those all-important KPIs.

Bringing passion into your team talk

In an effort to put the spotlight onto their brands, marketers have lots of options and in this article we’re going to explore B2B sponsorships. Specifically, sporting sponsorships that help raise awareness, create unique fan experiences and ride a wave of passion.

The intense emotional rollercoaster that people have with their favourite sports teams and star players has drawn sponsorship deals from all industries, with B2B tech brands in particular playing a big role. There’s more to it than just basking in the reflected glory of the team and sharing in the highs of victory. Sponsorships also offer great opportunities to showcase technological innovation and help recruit and retain top talent.

The game-changers

Take IBM for example. Their sponsorships of the Masters, the US Open and Wimbledon showcases their AI capabilities by creating unique experiences for fans. IBM’s Hybrid Cloud offers real-time insights that give fans deeper and richer tournament experiences for both their golf and tennis sponsorships. They leveraged the natural language processing (NLP) of ​​IBM Watson® to deliver AI-generated insights on every player, including the daily ranking of player momentum that can help predict the likelihood of winning.

Timing is everything

Zoom’s F1 sponsorship is another great example of a mutually beneficial collaboration, and the timing was perfect. With the world in lockdown in 2020 they rolled out the Virtual Paddock Club experience. Guests can join the Virtual Paddock Club through Zoom to experience a range of bespoke virtual hospitality offerings, including live updates and insight from legends of the paddock. Zoom also serves as the official unified communications platform of F1, and will help the organisation to achieve its sustainability goals moving forward, specifically contributing to the sport’s remote operations which will reduce its carbon emissions by using virtual meetings wherever possible.

Another example of perfect timing in B2B sponsorships, on a smaller scale, is Immedis who had the foresight to start sponsoring Irish golfer Shane Lowry from 2017,  and then reaped the rewards and the publicity boom when he upset the odds by winning the Open Championship in 2019. 

Flirting with the beautiful game

England’s Premier League has firmly established itself as football’s most lucrative league in the world and it’s no surprise to see Oligarchs and Middle East oil rich nations buy English clubs to raise their profile. B2B brands have also made inroads to tap into the global reach of the league's most successful teams, and the benefits are mutual.

Manchester City are using SAP’s number-crunching expertise to gain an advantage on the pitch and enhance their fan experience. The relationship is built on a shared value, innovation, and is exemplified by the ‘City Pulse Wall’ - an interactive screen in the stadium grounds that offers in-depth data profiles for every player in Manchester City’s main squads.

Across the city, Manchester United are (in)famous for their corporate boxes and sponsorships, having official sponsors in all walks of life, tyres, glasses, watches, wine, airlines…the list goes on. A word of caution should be noted here as some argue that United have taken this too far, sold their soul so to speak, and there could be a negative backlash against their corporate sponsors. The argument is that there is little common ground or shared values to some of these partnerships, and the perception is that the club is more concerned with their bottom line than their position in the league table. Disgruntled fans have staged protests and picketed matches over this…and whatever you do, don’t mention the “prawn sandwich brigade” if Roy Keane is in earshot! 

The armchair fan just got game time

It’s not just real world sporting events that are attracting B2B sponsors. While the Metaverse is still in its embryonic stage, the world of esports has been gaining popularity globally for years. Mckinsey reckons esports are the next frontier of brand sponsorships and their research proves it is especially effective at reaching a young and tech-savvy audience - the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. With minimal setup and a modest investment, brands can quickly develop a pilot sponsorship to build knowledge and credibility in esports.

Winning with underdog budgets

Not every brand has deep pockets and a global reach, and there are sponsorship opportunities to match every budget. Smaller scale local sports sponsorships provide the opportunity of inviting guests along to unique hospitality experiences, facilitating networking and selling in an informal setting. Guests can meet the players, gain access behind the scenes or get a better view of the final hole, the try line, or the goalposts. It’s a fertile ground for selling. It’s not a boardroom or an office or high-pressure environment. Instead, it’s somewhere where your customer feels comfortable and relaxed. Ultimately it’s about generating awareness, building relationships and shortening your sales cycles.

Hitting employee engagement out of the park

Sport sponsorships are not just a vehicle for new business opportunities. They are also used to recruit talent or drive internal engagement as this research study proves. The results of this study indicated that a sport sponsorship project, when used as an employer branding activity for B2B companies, had a positive impact on employee opinions toward the case company as an employer on multiple levels. 

The final whistle

There’s never been a better time for B2B brands to enter into sporting sponsorships. Especially B2B tech brands who can go beyond traditional marketing routes and use sponsorships to showcase their innovations in an unusual setting and in a crowd pleasing manner. Experiencial demonstrations of technology through these partnerships can intensify the fans’ experience of the team or athlete they support, generate broader brand awareness and help you attract and retain engaged employees.

Get your timing right and choose a sponsorship where there are shared values, and mutually beneficial outcomes that demonstrate your brand, your products and your innovations through engaging fan experiences, then the ROI will look after itself.

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