Is sport sponsorship a flawed strategy or a marketing masterpiece?? Who better to ask than the Mick George Group?
Mick George Sport Sponsorship
Is sport sponsorship a flawed strategy or a marketing masterpiece?? Who better to ask than the Mick George Group, where their loyalty to both Peterborough United FC and Cambridge United FC over the years has been vindicated, following the 2021 promotion of both teams from their respective leagues – Some might say they have the ‘Midas Touch’, and who can argue based on recent achievements?
Even despite a worldwide Pandemic which has caused long-term economical business consequences, the Group still showed unwavering commitment to both Clubs earlier this year, announcing the extension of the existing shirt sponsorship, making the Group the longest serving sponsor of its type in both Clubs history.
So, what we wanted to know is, with all the controversy surrounding professional sports, and in particular football, why would a relatively unrelated business want to get involved and associate their brand through sponsorship?
It’s a question that many have attempted to answer, but an agreed conclusion has never really been reached and hence the debate rolls-on.
In some quarters, the risk of being caught up in high-profile scandals, or at the focal point of Journalists, TV and Radio ‘pundits’ intentionally trying to scare monger or create a perceived negative story, is just too much of a gamble.
Every day, media channels that capture huge audiences are plastered with fresh talking points surrounding Management, Players and Fans from Football Clubs up and down the country. Some of which have the potential to rumble on, leaving their mark long-term and rarely are those discussion topics of a positive nature.
As with most cases when you align your business alongside an external party, you lose a certain degree of control, exposing yourself to all sorts of threats. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Footballing arena, due to the sheer attraction and appetite of observers to offer an opinion.
Historically there have been Drug, Sex and Race related cases, involving icons held in high esteem within the Sporting world, that due to their nature have brought about derogatory connotations to associated brands. Such activity has led to contractual discrepancies and a parting of ways between parties. We all know what happened with Tiger Woods, and the likes.
All of which begs the question of as to whether the benefits of such partnerships are worthwhile? One company that firmly embraces sport sponsorship and the associated benefits is East Anglian based Construction Company, the Mick George Group.
The organisation is familiar with all sorts of connections, ranging from grass roots sports clubs, to academy level, right through to professional outfits. These aren’t just limited to the Football domain either, having delved into Rugby, Ice Hockey, Cricket and Cheerleading, to mention just a few.
Whilst the echelons of top-level clubs like Manchester United FC might be out of reach for the majority, thanks to agreements amounting to £100m plus per annum, there are still plenty of opportunities, which the Mick George Group have proven.
When quizzed, Jon Stump, Joint CEO at the Mick George Group provided an intriguing insight into the deep realms of sports sponsorship. The underlying theme that repeatedly reared its head was the premise of connecting with local communities and reaching out to wider, more diversified audiences.
There are countless ways to boost your companies’ brand, and whilst traditional methods are certainly not discounted at the Mick George Group, they believe that maximising such channels is a must to disseminate messages surrounding the varying products and services the business provides.
Stump commented: ‘’For us, sports sponsorship was a logical conduit to utilise as a channel to market. When you look at the key objectives of any advertisement, this option ticked a lot of boxes.
It offers unique benefits and networking opportunities, whilst differentiating from our competitors. Reaching out to a much broader audience, it targets all levels, from homeowners or tradesmen, to commercial and corporate business owners and other potential influencers.’’
As sport has become increasingly easy to access through a variety of online channels and TV coverage, so has the space on teams’ shirts, cars, bats, hats and rackets, that is being exploited by brands engaging with sports sponsorship, notwithstanding stadium or programme space.
Stump advised: ‘’there were many variables for consideration when we embarked on the various sponsorships, but we concluded that the kit sponsorship was best placed to fulfil our main criteria. Although this element is the main benefit of the partnership, we are actively involved in so much more to support the deal and promote our business.’’
Supporter engagement is fundamental to the sponsorship activation strategy of the Mick George Group and that is particularly evident pre, during and post-match-days with a concerted effort made through a digital and physical presence.
Advertising channels for which the company invests, whether that be Social Media, Radio, or Newspaper adverts, are a wash of club related ‘good luck’ messages, fan competitions or photography, rather than typical Sales communications that you would come to expect. Then there’s a typical match-day which includes, ‘Mick the Skip’ Mascot, the Mick George Cheerleaders and the ‘Skip Challenge’ for half time entertainment, not to mention a number of Hospitality offerings to supporters.
Beyond all of that, and possibly most vital is the ‘money can’t buy’ experiences that the business offers to fans, Away Days in a Limousine, Fan v Player challenges, and even playing on the pitch alongside former club legends.
None of this detracts from the fact that sponsorships are conventionally a mechanism for driving new business leads, but for the Mick George Group there is far more to it; brand awareness and building a positive association with the overarching brand remains a primary goal.
Stump acknowledged: ‘’Undoubtedly, there are multiple benefits in terms of tangible visibility in front of mass spectatorship by strategically positioning our brand in prominent positions. But, over and above that, sport sponsorship is a chance to invest in the local community and support a cause that many of our employees, customers and business associates have an affinity or emotional connection with.
Indirectly the sponsorship impacts across the entire organisation. Association with professional and respected affiliates such as the Football clubs in question, endorses our ethos of high standards, helping to attract the right people when recruiting, or likewise, when we’re trying to win large contracts. Like club supporters, there is a feel-good factor internally when any of the clubs we’re connected with are doing well.’’ Stump said.
But of course, as we’ve already acknowledged, such benefits come at a cost. Stump stated: ‘’It is important to approach with a goal in mind, rather than a specific budget. Unlike other marketing activity, on or offline, we calculate ROI in a different manner for this mechanism and linking direct sales is not the overriding measurement.’’
Jon, himself is an avid Football fan that follows his beloved Gunners around the country and is more familiar than most in his position of the highs and lows caused by football but was keen to emphasise the highlights from the company’s lucrative sponsorship partnerships. ‘In the decade that we’ve been involved, we’ve been very fortunate to experience many wonderful occasions. These have included multiple promotions, and some extremely rewarding F.A Cup contests against the countries elite, Manchester United and Chelsea, among others. It is a proud moment when you see our brand literally side-by-side with Football Clubs and players that are operating on a global scale.’
At the outset of the deliberation, many of the issues surrounding sports sponsorship were highlighted. Having built a brand that has witnessed first-hand what’s involved, the Mick George Group appears to have rebuffed those divergences with resounding positivity, which suggests they would recommend this strategy to others.
Stump commented: ‘’Football or Sport in general, is not for everyone. The key is choosing something you’re passionate about, is close to the heart of your team and customer base, as activation will be critical to the success of the sponsorship. It is imperative that time and resource is invested to reap the rewards, it’s not as easy as just joining forces with a glamorous football club and the rest taking care of itself.
Choose a dynamic sport with longevity and has broad appeal. And importantly, ensure the association is with a likeminded club that shares the aspiration of your business. As long as our current partnerships match our objectives, or similarly, any new opportunities arise to satisfy our future requirements, we will continue to explore sports sponsorship as a route to converse with our target markets’’.