Gareth Marshall

Sponsorship: My thoughts on the state of play

Today, sport is one of the few avenues that enables brands to interact with an already highly engaged audience. In a world that is increasingly hyper-connected, content seems unlimited and brands are fighting for air time, sport retains the power to unite audiences through a universal passion point both in a real live experience and in the media simultaneously.

By tapping into this audience, brands are able to use sport as a platform that not only builds brand love and creates brand awareness but also functions as a mechanism to drive business growth.

Locally in South Africa, however, Brands struggle to leverage the power they have available to them. The majority of local sponsorships are based on an off-the-shelf sponsorship rights package or believe that just slapping a logo on a shirt equals job done.

I believe that sport-sponsorship is not a marketing channel, but rather a brand communications platform that can be brought to life across a broad range of consumer touch points. Well-activated sport-sponsorship’s deliver a more significant return on investment and higher engagement with the intended target audience.

Brands contemplating sports sponsorship need to be clear on their business objectives. Starting with the consumer in mind and putting them at the heart of the campaign sets the platform for you to activate authentically and genuinely making a difference in society. A good way to ensure that this is the case if to ask yourself the question: are we bringing value to people’s lives?

“We need less off-the-shelf sponsorship rights and more co-creation that drives better value exchange and consumer engagement”

In summary, here are my pointers for a successful Sponsorship:

  • Avoid an off-the-shelf sponsorship package
  • Co-creation between Brand and Rights-holder is key to unlocking magic
  • Brand and Rights-owner need to have aligned business goals and objectives
  • Always put your consumer at the heart of the campaign

Over the next few weeks I will share my thoughts on how to unlock the power of Sport Sponsorship in order to win the hearts of your consumer.

Late last year, I was fortunate to be invited as a guest speaker and panellist at the inaugural CoNext Forum where we tackled the topic of Sports Sponsorship head on spear-headed by Andrew Ross (MD Chaos Theory), OG Molefe (Sports journalist), Kelvin Watt (MD Nielsen sport) and Edward Connock (Head of Global Activation – Chelsea FC).

Below is a quick 2min wrap up from the CoNext think-tank.

CoNext Overview:

CoNext aims to demystify and explore great South African marketing campaigns, focussing predominantly on the fields of experiential marketing, sponsorships and activations.

CoNext is a platform to unpack great sponsorship, live event and activation work from multiple angles.

CoNext explores all aspects of great campaigns, for the industry, agencies and students to expand their frame of reference to grow the quality of work in the experiential marketing field.

Ep 2 is coming soon where the panel will discuss the evolution of sport and the impact T20 cricket has on the ever-evolving sports fan. Learn more on