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Purpose driven sponsorship in the basketball industry

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

This case study follows up on this blog post where we outlined a framework for purpose driven sponsorship:

Sports sponsorship framework

We were once involved in the development of a purpose driven sponsorship program for one of the top basketball teams in the Spanish professional league.

In particular, while this club has been competing at the highest level for years and is considered one of the “classics” of the league, its even better known for its positive impact in society rather than its achievements on the court.

For more than 70 years, the mission of the club has had 3 main pillars:

The summary of the program was the following:

1. Obtain funding from top tier organizations to support the mission of the club through the pillars described above.

2. Provide networking opportunities for corporate leaders involved in the program.

3. In the long term, provide opportunities for innovation in sport in partnership with the sponsors.

The sales & marketing funnel of a B2B partnership program in sports

Once the objectives and scope of the program were defined, we built the sales & marketing strategy behind it. While the funnel below is a simplified version; it helps understand the approach:

marketing sales funnel for sport business

- In the awareness phase, the objective was to obtain as many leads and sales pitch meetings as possible. This was much easier if we got referrals from other sponsors or stakeholders involved with the organization and it obviously made the first approach much easier.

- After having the opportunity of presenting the product in a meeting, we needed to keep nurturing those potential sponsors that entered the consideration phase. On one hand, we made sure to provide some resources to the person we were presenting to, so they could share internally with other decision makers. We developed a video and an official brochure that provided enough detail to drive interest and help other members of the potential sponsor understand quickly what the program comprehended, even if they were not in the original meeting. On the other, we found space for those leads to visit the facilities and the day to day operations. Inviting potential sponsors to games of any type were great tactics for us.

- In the purchase phase, flexibility when detailing the conditions of the agreement proved to be a best practice (vs keeping a fixed set of conditions). This was a tricky balance to get to, since we needed to keep some core elements of the programs intact, but in the end, sponsors appreciate the effort of developing a tailored approach for them.

- Finally, it may seem obvious, but renewals of the agreement depended on the results obtained. In this case, we defined “impact” as the metric of reference. For example, we shared the number of children that benefited from the agreement and how their investment had enabled the purchase of new equipment for the kids, funded trips to national competitions or even enabled additional teams to be set up so more children could play basketball.

An example of a purpose driven sponsorship deal in sports

Given the powerful brand equity this organization had, we were able to target top tier companies of the Spanish market with strong CSR programs and effectively obtain support from 5 businesses.

In one of the deals that were negotiated, a large telecommunications firm decided to fund projects related to the women´s team and for all the youth teams in the organization. The funds would be aimed at covering travel expenses, equipment, etc. throughout the season.

Moreover, top executives from this firm had the opportunity to meet others from the other 4 firms involved in the program thanks to different corporate events organized by the club; to our knowledge, business meetings were arranged between some of them to explore further opportunities for their organizations.

Finally, there was a plan in place with this firm to set up an internal sports analytics’ division in the long term. In fact, some initial projects were implemented across different teams to test the potential of such a division and there is a nice anecdote we can share. During the final game of the season where the men´s professional team was facing a potential relegation to the second division, the team decided to set up plays to the player who had best performed in clutch moments during the season based on the data the sponsor had gathered. That same player had had an awful game up until that point, but the coaching staff still decided to trust the analytics. The result was outstanding, as that player ended up scoring most of the team´s points in the final two minutes, leading it to win the game, and maintain its place in the first division.

The goal for the future was to extend these skills over to the women´s, youth and parasport sections. In fact, transferring analytic capacity over to the field of player development for example, is a trend booming in the sports industry, as explained in this awesome podcast episode of The Flying Coach Podcast with Steve Kerr & Pete Carrol.

While the origins of the deal involved receiving funds, it evolved to provide value in the competition as well and ultimately, support each of the three pillars. Not only that, even the sponsor benefited from this approach since they were able to transfer skills back to their own business thanks to this project:

Sponsorship deals like these transcended the realm of economics, have the potential to impact many areas of an organization and can be completely aligned to the purpose of a club.

Key lessons learned & recommendations from our purpose driven sponsorship project

We got the program “up and running” and we were able to obtain support from several top tier companies. Unfortunately, we needed to postpone the program temporarily due to events related to Covid-19 in which all competitions (professional and amateur) were cancelled.

However, we did want to share some lessons we learned from having the opportunity of being involved in such a great initiative:

1. Purpose driven sponsorship is something that companies are interested in. In very few occasions did we encounter businesses that rejected the program because of the causes it supported.

2. Research your potential sponsors well. Make sure your program fits with their, mission, values, strategy, their CSR programs, etc.

3. Show passion and belief in your mission to reinforce your storytelling. Real life examples work wonders; one of the deals we closed was thanks to a real-life story of a player that played in one of the youth teams and was now a CEO of leading firm of the country.

4. Transparency is critical to every stakeholder. The businesses that look to support you will want to know where the resources are headed as so will their owners and their customers.

5. The challenge is to convince businesses of the need to measure the impact on a long-term basis, not just on short term economics. In that regard, there must be a clear alignment on the KPIs that will define the success of the deal.

6. Alignment of resources, skills and impact is critical, but they must do so within the context of brand purpose.

Though we cannot share specific details and KPIs, we hope this was useful for those of you looking to design a purpose driven sponsorship program of your own. As we shared in the original post, we believe in the power of “purpose” to drive growth opportunities for any business. We hope this post provided enough detail on how a deal like this was able to support the financials and the mission of the club at the same time without comprising on values. Feel free to contact us with any questions or if we could help you design a sponsorship program for your sport organization.

Keep safe.


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