by Struan Campbell (@struan18) Here are my expectations for the sport sponsorship industry in South Africa this year.

A normalisation of fees and rights holders coming under scrutiny

Rights fees for major properties have been severely overpriced for years now locally, with inflexible, outdated rights packages still being put on the table. 2020 looks set for the cookie to crumble, as some of the traditionally hottest teams, events and competitions are left without partners and, frankly, lacking the required innovation, governance and service to justify what they’ve been charging and expecting, again wrongly.

Brands have been paying overinflated fees for underwhelming rights, with the major blame falling at the feet of negotiators, who, more often than not, end up being dealt with by those not qualified to understand what should be in a contract and what fair value is. The solution is qualified agencies and consultants that guide companies into the right partnerships, for brand and business, at prices that make sense.

The one piece of advice to those looking to potentially get into sponsorship? Don’t simply take what is being sold to you. Get experts in who can draft a contract that will give you marketing opportunities, where what you don’t need is scrapped, and what you’re looking for is crafted into your tailored solution. Strategy should become before rights negotiation.

Rights holders across Mzansi: start upping your game quickly, because you’ve fallen behind badly in comparison to your counterparts abroad. The best rights holders create dynamic programmes for their partners, ensuring the renewal is very hard to decline when it comes around. Gone are the days of the sponsors doing your job. Act like amateurs and you’ll quickly find yourself out of pocket.

Leveraging investment comes of age

Spending money on rights fees and not leveraging is like buying a house and trying to live in it without any furniture. In line with the decline in rights fees, brands need to start getting more focused with their sponsorship portfolios and properties and, if they want a board gleaming with approval come the end of the year, they need to be investing adequately in activating their assets across the marketing mix. There’s no fixed ratio of spend that should be applied as is all too often incorrectly stated widely. However, what’s for sure is that under 20% of the sponsorships I’ve worked on in the last decade have backed up their platforms with sufficient budgets, and this has been with some of the biggest brands around. I’ve a good sense this mindset is shifting.

ROO > ROI: Sponsorship is not your silver sales bullet

Great sponsorship lies in creating connections that resonate with audiences who’ve chosen to spend their free time with your partner. So why would you lead with pushing a sales message? Yet we constantly get told that the primary objective is ROI and selling. You shouldn’t be in sponsorship, then.

Don’t get me wrong; sales can absolutely be integrated into the programme but your biggest opportunity is changing the dial for the brand and then changing the behaviour towards your commercial requirement as a result.

Let’s hope 2020 sees more brands realising the best work globally is about making people’s passion points even more memorable. No other platform has the same ability, so don’t waste it. Focus on objectives that work with this, and care less about exposure and hard sales, unless it’s part of the value you’re providing.

The continuous elevation of women’s sport

Women’s sport is only going to get bigger and better. 2019 was a watershed year locally that saw Banyana and women’s football, in particular, receive respect and coverage never seen before. It may have taken a few years to start following the powerful boom in women’s sport in the US, Europe and Australia, but it will explode. It’s the brave brands willing to boldly get themselves behind women’s sport (and gender equality) that will see the greatest reward.

With the Proteas Women playing in the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, our women’s rugby team growing in prominence and the Spar Proteas netball team heading towards a home world cup in 2023, there are opportunities all over place. Just don’t treat them differently — elevate their positioning and activate with conviction. Did I mention an Olympic Games in Tokyo, too, where we’ll almost certainly see South African women’s success stories?

Social good/cause sponsorship taking centre stage

We live in a country with significant social problems, growth obstacles and heightened division through cheap politics.

This creates massive opportunity for brands that are able to and willing to take a stance on hard topics and provide solutions through sport and entertainment to problems across SA. We know the cliché “sport brings people together”, but we aren’t making enough use of the potential yet to create moving campaigns that make a real difference. When that’s done, brands will be applauded and loved.

The tip of this is to zone in on insights that live in the needs of average South Africans and use your brands’ sponsorship platform to deliver a solution where there’s a relevant fit, telling a story along the way.

Social-cause sponsorship is going to become more prominent, and it will be a privilege to be part of both making a tangible difference and changing perceptions and behaviours towards your brand as a result.

Rising again for Japan

We had fond memories of Japan as the Springboks rallied to glory at the 2019 Rugby World Cup. This year, South Africans will be waking up in the morning to tune into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games over two action-packed weeks in July/August, hoping Team South Africa will create some more magical moments.

The Olympics is a fascinating proposition for sponsors, which are required to generate value outside the traditional inventory, with ‘clean’ (non-branded) stadiums, teams and athletes. It will be interesting to see how SA operating brands, such as Bridgestone, Samsung, VISA and Coca-Cola, leverage their global sponsorships locally.

Creativity will create standout as the agency model evolves

The sponsorship industry has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Gone are the days of sponsorship agencies relying on their branding, exposure and PR offering. Now, the most-interesting, creative campaigns that resonate through added value with fans are the ones that make the difference. Sponsorship agencies that can’t offer brands insight-led campaigns, big ideas and great content are on borrowed time.

Imagination will matter more than ever before in the sport and entertainment space.

Eying Euro 2020 as the model changes

For the first time, a major football event from UEFA and FIFA is moving to a model of multiple countries hosting the tournament. It’ll be fascinating to see how brands respond and how they make the most of the change. Will it provide wider reach with the opportunity of engaging with more markets or will the costs be too prohibitive without the magic of the traditional host country nuances and story? If it’s a success, will we be seeing an integrated African football world cup bid in the future? It may be closer to home than we think.


Struan CampbellStruan Campbell (@struan18) is co-founder and director at Levergy | M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment South Africa, working on brands including DStv, New Balance, Audi, SuperSport, BMW, Energade, Nedbank, Heineken, and Sasol. He is the most-awarded individual in the sponsorship industry, including success at the Sport Industry Awards, Loeries, Bookmarks, Assegais, PRISMs and Marketing Achievement Awards.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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