Belgian Sponsorship Forum Update

I had the pleasure of attending the Belgian Sponsorship Forum on Thursday 22nd March and found the day enlightening and uplifting. It is a pleasure to attend an event where the speakers are inspiring, the campaigns uplifting and well thought out and most of all where the results are moving.


I wanted to share some of my thoughts;


First up was Peter Willems, Head of Sponsorship for one of the world’s largest rights holders, UEFA. He gave us insight into his role, their current focus and their plans for the future. One of the elements I found really interesting was their focus, for the first time, on finding partners for the women’s game. He shared a really positive video that celebrated girls football with a strap line of “Invincible, Passionate and Empowering”. It gave me goosebumps, a sure sign that it hit the right mark. Maybe at some stage, girls will be able to earn as good a living playing football as the professional men.


As a side note – It took some time but Manchester United recently announced their first women’s team. It seems they are joining the second tier of the WSL. Is this a funding issue?


Another focus for UEFA is data, fan engagement and knowing fans better, tailoring campaigns and focusing on activation that adds to the experience for the fan and the brand sponsor.


One of the things Peter Willems discussed was how important building relationships and looking after partners long term is, it is much easier to keep and develop a partner than find a new one – good advice. It takes trust, understanding sponsors’ objectives and building a campaign and programme that works for them, long term, ensuring the solutions are specifically tailored on an ongoing basis.


Owen Hughes, Head of Sponsorship for Europe at Nissan was up second and showcased Nissans activation around the UEFA finals in Milan. Nissan are using football sponsorship as a platform to change their brand perception globally. Owne is looking to create awareness, excite, extend and exploit the rights they have acquired to engage with audiences. Nissan are working hard to evaluate their sponsorship against their business objectives and to build a connection with audiences in order to increase their market share.


The next presentation, By Jay Wilson at Lidl, looked at the success of their sponsorship of the Ladies Gaelic Football team. An award winning sponsorship that told a very powerful story and delivered impressive business results. The grass-roots campaign encouraged girls teams and schools across the country to play the sport through the integration of ambassadors. The goal was to inspire the next generation of football players. It would seem there is a shift in interest towards the womens game and the All-Ireland Womens football final between Dublin and Mayo at Croke Park smashed the record for the highest attended women’s sporting event of 2017.


“Dublin streaked to victory, 4-11 to 0-11, in an enthralling showdown that was played out in front of 46,286 souls.”


Lidl’s marketing investment for the game had delivered a huge amount of awareness, interest, excitement and support. An amazing story for women’s sport. The results for Lidl are equally impressive. The sponsorship made a whole country think differently about the women’s game. It made a great impact on the brand point of difference and cut through, improving brand ‘love’


Since 2015 Lidl have grown awareness and consideration from 6% to 19%, passing Aldi and gaining on the Irish brand score of Supervalu and Tesco..


The next session was presented by Ben Payne Director of esports at McLaren. The McLaren World’s Fastest Gamer campaign has been an incredible success story, with the introduction of new partners; Dell Alienware, Logitech and Sparko giving them a whole new generation of fans, a real connection and engagement with the global and growing esports audience.


The premise is simple; WFG offers gamers the chance to win a job at McLaren as a simulator driver. Over 31,000 applicants entered in 2017 and the winner, Rudi van Buren showed tremendous skill – after just 6 laps in the McLaren simulator beating their fastest lap. They’ve made a documentary about the competition which will be shown soon.


Great storytelling, engagement, motivating and a new fan base away from the core sport. What’s more, they can tell the story of a 25 year old from the Netherland, realising his dream;


“This has been the most incredible experience and words can’t describe how I feel right now. To think that I came to the McLaren Technology Centre for the very first time last week but am leaving here today as McLaren’s newest employee is mind blowing.


“I can’t thank everyone enough for giving me this amazing opportunity; just being here, meeting the team and competing with some amazing people has been an unforgettable experience. It really has been the toughest job interview I’ve ever faced, but with such an incredible reward at the end of it. Now I can’t wait to get started!” Rudi Van Buren


The theme of the most moving presentation of the day was ‘Chase your Dreams no Matter What’, the Bridgestone Tyres’ Olympic campaign. As an IOC top tier partner in the lead up to Tokyo 2020, they set about to try and really connect with consumers.


Thierry Jupsin, Brand Marketing Director explained that the move away from their motorsport sponsorship to The Olympics, was designed to deliver awareness and a connection with a new audience. Bridgestone Tyres were a tyre brand among many, and in my opinion, with little point of differentiation. Sponsorship and more specifically, creative ideas, have completely transformed Bridgestone Tyres’ core proposition. I have no doubt the results will be award winning and rightly so.


London agency ‘We are Fearless’ have done a phenomenal job extending the campaign and translating it into such a moving and powerful brand piece.


I love it. It connects with me on an emotional level and puts their brand in a completely different light. Brands are chosen on credibility and performance but there is also a long lasting emotional effect that plays its’ part.  


The Belgian Sponsorship Forum showcased some really powerful sponsorship campaigns achieving business objectives and delivering real engagement.


Harriet McDonald Head of Commercial at TfL also presented and we will be promoting an article about their current initiatives and one of our current projects.