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20.10.10 “Cheque please…!” – A Slipstream Interview


Slipstream client Geoff Holt focussed his recent “All at Sea” article on Sponsorship, and interviewed Commercial Director, Mike Gumm, on the subject of attracting sponsorship to your project and event.

I must admit to feeling a tad envious of our rock-star sailors with their shiny big boats, sponsors logos emblazoned across the sails, hulls wrapped in luminous corporate branding. Hugo Boss, Aviva, Ecover, not to mention the Volvo fleet.  They are the “haute couture” of the sailing world.  Meanwhile, when I made my recent voyage across the Atlantic, despite my best efforts, I failed to find one corporate entity prepared to part with cash. Sure, I had my Performance Partners who provided much needed benefit in kind; clothing and electronics, but no pound notes – as a result the event cost me personally a lot of money, and I mean a lot of money, to the point where we had to sell our house.  Ironically the PR coverage my voyage generated, the hours of worldwide TV coverage, the hours of worldwide radio coverage and acres of worldwide printed coverage knocked most of the aforementioned “Rock Star” publicity into a hat.  I like to think that there are Chairmen of companies who rejected my approaches sat in their offices kicking themselves for missing the opportunity, but I somehow doubt it.  So what about my next Challenge, to sail around the world? What effect is the economy having on yachting sponsorships today and what can I learn from the “Big Boys” in identifying a Title Sponsor for what will be my biggest challenge to date?

I spoke to Mike Gumm, Commercial Director from Slipstream to seek his advice.

GH Mike, explain to me how and yachting sponsorship has changed in the past decade.

MG Well, today, there’s a far greater understanding of the sport; its governance, distribution reach, values, stakeholders and content especially its appeal to online and ‘connected’ users. Over the course of the last decade, the broader marketing industry has woken up to its immensely powerful pull + push marketing features, the pioneering coverage of both Ellen MacArthur’s solo circumnavigation of the globe and your transatlantic crossing are testimony to this. Many good agencies and consultants are now providing in-depth services and knowledge linked to how intrinsic rights and benefits of such sailing properties, be they naming right campaigns associated to team challenges or sub sets, building communication programmes around real life heroes, can be applied to the mix in most potent ways. Such rich content can be adapted for a variety of corporate marketing and communication programmes across a company or group of companies and brands.

GH So what makes a good pitch and what are the processes one has to go through to engage prospective sponsors?

MG No short cuts I’m afraid, unless you get extremely lucky. It starts with research to gain an understanding of the target prospect’s business, its objectives and any strategic timing. It is not unreasonable to expect a typical blue chip company or FMCG brand to receive over 100 sponsorship proposals every month. However good they may be, most are not read because the marketing or communications team is simply not in a buy mode. Know your target!
Next, equip yourself with a set of strong tools to promote the opportunity. It’s futile providing a marketing and communication proposition unless you have the proper sales tools to bring the opportunity to life! Invest in your collateral!
Consider whether the opportunity adds value to the target company? Pay careful attention to the proposition. Make sure the partner opportunity provides the right balance of touch points in context to the target’s precise needs and requirements. Look for synergies and patterns.
Communicate regularly – get on the blower! So many opportunities fall short because the proposal lands in the in-tray or inbox without ever being read or being shared amongst colleagues. Most brand owners engage marketing or communication consultants or agencies to develop brand proposition (image, key messages, distribution, communication tools, etc). Equity acquisition or brand engagement opportunities be they of a sport or entertainment nature is one area that can catapult a company’s quest for increased market share, driving bottom line sales, enhance recruitment, repair a tarnished image, etc if planned and resourced properly. Be sure to set out precisely what is included and what is not. It’s far more constructive to do a few things well!
Remember the media value the right opportunity can deliver – long have gone the days when a sponsorship could sell itself on its media equity alone. There is no single method to measure or evaluate the return on investment from a sponsorship offer. Make sure the opportunity presents efficiencies and methodologies that deliver value across the target business rather than focus on one single area.
A good pitch is one that tells the decision maker within the first paragraph or slide, one where the opportunity resonates with the company’s brand or communications changing needs. Once on the hook, the audience will then be receptive to the story – demonstrate how the opportunity will add value across the business. Bring your partner offer alive in their corporate language.

GH Can you give an example of this in practice?

MG We were appointed by a national charity to devise a sponsor partner strategy around an amateur cycling event to primarily generate income to sustain the running of the event, assist the charity in raising funds and thirdly, to drive national awareness to enable the charity merchandise its membership offering around the UK. Through a series of workshops with senior management, PR and event management teams, we devised and implemented a communication partner programme that appealed to a target audience actively seeking CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) content, distinctive health, well-being and motivational values and programmes that could be adopted or integrated with consumers, staff, suppliers and other stakeholder requirements.
Apart from securing the financial target including a FTSE 100 blue chip company, the end result also met with all the client’s key communication objectives including raising awareness measured by a 25% uplift in membership after the first year of the event.
Another example is where we were appointed by a client seeking investment to pioneer a major polar expedition project. By structuring and centralising the client’s Intellectual Property rights, we came up with a partner programme that secured a FTSE 100 company seeking content to bring alive (front end piece) its global repositioning proposition of “Achieving Potential” – not only did we secure the significant investment required for the project but the company engaged Slipstream to develop the activation plan with their roster of advertising and marketing agencies. The programme was measured in terms of assisting the company value the ROI (Return on Investment) against internal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) including sales, recruitment and internal engagement.
Slipstream specialise in advising clients with both commercial strategy and delivery. We have extensive experience working across the sports and entertainment sector from both advising clients on securing marketing and communication partnerships but also advising brands on how to differentiate themselves and stand out through innovative communication programmes in pursuit of excellence in an ever increasingly and changing media landscape.

GH Where do you see the market going in the next decade?

MG I see the market in terms of attracting corporate investment dollars increasing. If the sailing community continues to harness technology, share information, develop grass root programmes, work their stories and results in the media and such like, I can see no reason why the sport cannot attract a bigger percentage of the overall annual sponsorship market expenditure enjoyed by other more mainstream sports. If the investor can capitalise on the content in terms of meaningful communication programmes, there is little reason why the sport cannot attract significant investment. The much anticipated 2012 London Olympic and Paralympics Games will also bolster the sports profile on a global scale, especially given that the UK + many other countries have such tremendous talent pools.
As demand for more diverse content increases, the need to get cut-through and consistency of message is becoming increasingly more challenging, I believe we will see more campaigns in this field.

GH There is of course another option, and that is to go for a multitude of smaller sponsors but that presents its own difficulties as I know from my sail around Great Britain in 2007.  Most importantly is that you find yourself servicing a larger number of sponsors, all with their own demands on your time, all demanding their pound of flesh. But worse still, your boat has so many logos dotted all over it, it ends up looking more like a pizza than a yacht.

MG My response to this scenario comes back to structure and service. Multiple partners should be tiered by how much value they choose to invest in the project or by a communication partner programme offer. Valuable communications rights such as naming, product endorsement, athlete appearances, advertising (including what appears on the athlete’s clothing or the yacht), money can’t buy type hospitality, etc will be reserved for those companies who invest the lion’s share of the operating budget. By structuring the partner programme from the outset, partners will be given the flexibility to elevate up the value scale should the programme deliver above expectations. Each partner buys into a predetermined rights programme on a diminishing scale subject to their investment.
Structuring the rights in such a fashion be it a tiered programme e.g. Premier / Principle Partner, Global, Lifestyle and Performance Partnership model, will not only protect categories (non compete) but protect the rights from overuse, clutter or inappropriate usage.

MG Slipstream has invested heavily in providing the necessary specialist skill sets and digital marketing resources as part of the marketing and communication service we believe is expected of today’s marketing and communication executives. For more information, visit Slipstream at

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