Definition & Break Down of Sponsorship Activation

If you're just starting to explore sponsorship activation, we're explaining the definition and breaking it down for you today:

Sponsorship activation can be done in many different ways to produce a wide variety of results. Let's talk about what sponsorship activation is, and what steps you need to take to achieve success with it.

We'll even share some live examples to show you what successful sponsorship activation can look like.



First off, as a rightsholder, understand that you have control over what assets you make available to your sponsor. Similarly, as a sponsor, you have the power to negotiate the assets you believe will bring you the highest return on investment.

Ultimately, sponsorship activation is the experience provided for the audience by the coming together of the rightsholder and sponsor.

In order to provide a successful experience, you're going to want to go through a process– 



Basically, the sponsorship activation process can be broken down into three general steps: brainstorming and negotiating, building, and leveraging outcomes. 


1) Brainstorming and Negotiating

Before anything else, brainstorming needs to happen. It's really the most important first step towards executing a successful activation because it will reveal the base of the opportunities.

During the brainstorming phase, rightsholders specifically need to understand their audience in order to come up with effective and memorable experiences for their sponsors. In fact, we would even recommend including the sponsor in this process. As a result, they may be able to see unique solutions from an outsider's perspective, that someone on the inside might otherwise miss.

For instance, you might start with questions such as those outlined below:

  • Looking at the event/venue specifically, what is it that our audience likes?
  • On the flip side, what do they not like? Or even hate about our event/venue?
  • Which experiences would they benefit from, that could be brought in by a sponsor?
  • What are some challenges our audience face, that sponsors could provide a solution to?

Since this is the initial part of the process where assets are being considered, it's fair to say that brainstorming goes hand-in-hand with negotiating contracts. The deal has to be mutually beneficial, so it's important that both parties feel comfortable with the assets and fees going into the contract. The brainstorming part of the sponsorship activation process is the best time to paint a clear picture of what will be expected from all parties involved.

Brainstorming Value For Everyone

To illustrate some of these points, we've included an article from IEG's website:

Properties should proactively brainstorm and pitch activation ideas throughout the course of a relationship.

“Sponsors have so many initiatives on their plate, so it’s up to properties to be creative. We meet with sponsors, learn about their marketing calendar and figure out how we can leverage that activity to develop activation programs,” said Beth Schnitzer, senior vice president of strategic alliances with Pier 39.

Pier 39 allocates roughly five percent to 10 percent of each rights fee to activation expenses. Sponsors can use the money to pay for staffing, premium items and promotions, said Schnitzer.

Add value to the event experience; to gain the biggest bang for their buck, sponsors should create programs that enhance the spectator experience.

When crafting programs, sponsors and properties should ask themselves the question: “Will anyone notice if the sponsor is not there?”

“Our goal is that fans would notice a difference if AT&T was removed from a property. We want to add value to the event experience,” said Travis Dillon, vice president of activation and property management with The Marketing Arm, which helps develop strategy and execute deals for AT&T Inc.

Dillon points to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as an example. The telco will activate the event with the AT&T Digital Clubhouse, an on-site experiential program where attendees can watch live feeds of the tournament via U-verse; track the leaderboard and recharge their phones.

“We want to fit into the fabric of the event.”


...You can read the full article at


2) Build Creative Sponsorship Activation

After you’ve figured out how to engage and excite your audience, and laid out all the assets on the table, you can begin the next important step: building creative brand sponsorship activation programs.

The only way to do this successfully for all parties, in any scenario, is to keep communication crystal-clear between you and your prospective sponsors. Meanwhile, keeping in mind all the information you gathered in the initial brainstorming phase, is just as important. In other words, the goal is to build campaigns that everyone will be a big fan of and that requires both parties working in tandem. 

Whether it's space to create an experience, or social media to promote some kind of contest, you want to build an activation that will engage the audience.

Activation Success: Keeping the Audience Engaged & Excited

For example, at SXSW 2017, UNIT9 created gamified HBO Escape Rooms to promote the network's biggest shows (Game of Thrones, VEEP, and Silicon Valley).

Together with HBO, the teams recreated the iconic sets and invited fans to escape through a series of challenges, each of which was connected to the plots from the HBO shows.

Altogether, the whole experience took 15 minutes per person, which might seem quite lengthy. But on the contrary, it was exciting enough to not only generate a lot of press coverage, but also entertain over 1,500 people during the course of three days. That's a solid turnout!

In conclusion, whatever it is that you do, do it with the audience in mind. And while it doesn't need to be as elaborate as this particular example, it should be relevant, exciting, and engaging. In the end, that is what makes a sponsorship activation memorable–and isn't that the goal after all?


3) Leverage Sponsorship Outcome

Lastly, the final step is to make sure that program spend is optimized. Equally important, is making sure that all elements and benefits of a partnership are leveraged in accordance with the outcomes your sponsors are hoping to achieve.

Ask yourself: What kind of results are they looking for? Is it to grow their email database, or to collect buyer leads? Get really specific with their ultimate goals, and don't settle for answers like "I need space. I want exposure."

Because unfortunately, those types of answers won't lead to finding creative solutions. By and large, your task is to create an experience that solves a problem for your audience, all the while being connected to your sponsor's goal outcomes.

Once you've settled all this, you'll be ready to successfully activate a sponsorship!

On a final note, if you want to explore different ways to activate a sponsorship, head over to the UK Sponsorship Awards website. They share about employee activation, advertising activation, PR activation, retail activation, venue activation, cause-related activation, digital & data activation, content-based activation, business activation, hospitality activation, innovation activation, and celebrity activation.


Asset Identification & Valuation Services at Tandem Partnerships

Don't know where to start? Tandem can help you identify your assets and determine their true value using proven methodology.

Tandem's Strategic Development

Take it a step further and invite Tandem to explore your financial objectives, audience, and offerings to receive a personalized strategy that produces results.

Sponsorship Sales & Service by Tandem

Tandem can also secure sales for your sponsorship program and execute successful fulfillment of promised assets to your partners.


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