From Sponsorship to Partnership. The Evolution of Collaborations between Brands and Clubs
23 Sep 2022   ·   

Sports marketing is a concept that has been carried out for decades to reach millions of fans that consume this type of content. The most common sponsorships are seen in logos of jerseys and stadiums, brands becoming official suppliers of the club, naming rights of the stadiums and collaborations with a focus on product placement.

Over time, brand strategy has evolved beyond having a visual presence in competitions and contents, focusing on developing a social consciousness that brings a differential value in relation to its competitors.

Difference between Sponsorships and Partnerships

The main difference between sponsorship and partnership to highlight is the active role that companies are developing in partnership agreements. Instead of being based on standard marketing practices, these collaborations are tailored made for the brand’s needs.

They focus on the improvement and development of their products or services, not only on their promotion. Sports organizations take the role of a test lab to collaborate with the I+D department of the brand, shaping a collaboration that goes beyond the product promotion itself.

For example, a sponsorship of a clothing brand could mean that its logo appears in the club’s communications, on the jersey, etc. A partnership that goes beyond these activations may lead the brand to develop a new extra breathable material, and the first people to test this new technology are the team players. 

These new ways of collaboration allow agreements to be more long-lasting than traditional sponsorships, and they give a message of joint growth and working on a project together.

Why Going for a Partnership? 

As brands spread their message to their consumers and commit to the development of new services or technologies that are aligned with society’s needs, traditional activations of a sponsorship ‘pack’ may not be enough. 

Partnerships demand a greater level of involvement than traditional sponsorship. If a club goes from a sponsor-centred model to a partnership one, these programs would be more easily managed, and each collaborator would have a higher value.

A model based on partnership also benefits companies and brands interested in the collaboration. A tier system that offers general activation packs for the brand to choose the one that best fits its need doesn’t cover all the expected actions nowadays. 

But when there is a collaboration with a completely defined message, path, and outcome, it will create an added value for partners and will make collaboration more appealing for future brands.

We can find a success case in the partnership between Microsoft and the NFL in the USA. In 2013, the American giant put its Surface tablets in the coaching staff bench of the league. The activation was far from being a regular product placement. It has shaken up the way teams analyse their plays. 

Thanks to these tablets and cameras distributed on the field, it is possible to review the plays in real time and write down any necessary instruction on the device’s touch screen. Until Microsoft’s arrival, these analyses were done on paper. Now, teams seize each second to the fullest with the aid of digitization. 

Selling solutions over commodities is a greater value for collaborators. After all, the idea of a joint project is much more appealing than offering to place the brand logo on backdrops or digital content. 

The Social Element as Drive

New generations are much more involved with social movements and in the collective mission of improving people’s quality of life. So, companies seek to get closer to this new feeling with actions that not only show their brand, but that also prove that they are also doing something to change the world we live in for the better.

Due to the struggle to connect with young adults, partnerships have a special value for brands, allowing them to create more meaningful and long-lasting relationships not only with a club or an athlete, but also with the fans who follow these big names.


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