Americas Cup / innovation / LessAdmin

How to measure value of sports sponsorship

A business case not a charitable donation

Every business has a different reason for sponsoring sport. Sailing sponsorship is less mature than other sports such as football or motor racing, and therefore can offer significantly better value. I hadn’t realised exactly how much better value it was until a meeting this week with the manager of a GP2 driver (GP2 is raced alongside some of the F1 races). Now sailing is a broad range of disciplines ranging from the Olympics to round-the-world racing and everything in between.  This summer the America’s Cup is taking place in San Francisco offering some fabulous opportunities for companies to raise their profile within the Bay Area and on the world stage with true crash and burn racing in a natural auditorium.

Looking through the sponsors’s eyes

But sailors looking for sponsorship need look through the eyes of a potential sponsor to understand how to present the opportunity and understand why a sponsor does not share their excitement in parting in their cash. The easiest sponsorship to get is “goods in kind” eg a contact lens supplier provides the team with contact lenses. A very small cost to the supplier, but a reasonable expense for the sailors. Clothing is another example. Hard cash is more difficult as that comes straight off the bottom line.

So LessAdmin has agreed to sponsor, with cash, the Red Bull Youth Americas Cup team, called The Force. They are the local San Francisco based team using one of the Oracle AC45 catamarans.  They were chosen by Oracle after exhaustive selection trials that considered their sailing skills, fitness and campaign management. They were up against 6 other US teams made up of sailors who are under 24.

LessAdmin’s financial and time commitment to the project is significant and therefore it is interesting to understand how we considered the sponsorship and the thinking behind the decision.

3 simple criteria

The 3 criteria that LessAdmin use for any sponsorship are:

  1. Can this be a true partnership; are the PLU (people like us)
  2. Does this make business sense; it is not a charitable donation
  3. Is it more than money; are their areas where we can add more value

So how does the America’s Cup stack up?

So the first criteria was subjective. Ian Andrewes, the team manager, has put together a talented team of sailors, but has also gained the commitment of a great support team behind the scenes. Whilst the sailing team are relatively young, they are very professional in their approach, open to new ideas and approachable. This was fundamental. If they were a group of brats with egos fired up on their previous successes, we would have walked away.

Timing is often everything. LessAdmin has just opened its USA office in downtown San Francisco and it targeting the yachting marketplace. Therefore the opportunity to sponsor the team couldn’t have come at a better time. The sponsorship will clearly raise the profile of LessAdmin in the Bay Area as Cup fever peaks during the summer, but through the team’s relationships with the yachting press LessAdmin will get name recognition worldwide.  This will require effort from the LessAdmin marketing team to think creatively.

Finally, LessAdmin is web-based (cloud) software which helps manage assets and improves the collaboration and financial tracking of associated projects. For The Force, the assets are the AC45 catamaran, their SL33 training catamaran, the Protector chase boat. But assets can also be non-tangible such as the campaign fundraising & events. The projects for each of these assets all involve multiple members of  team and other supporters and all require tight financial control. LessAdmin will enable the these virtual teams to work more effectively as all the information about every projects is one place in the cloud. Think of a project as a combination of a secure Facebook group, a Dropbox folder and spreadsheet – all optimized to work through a browser on a laptop, tablet or phone. And it takes less than 10 seconds to set up a new project.

Team effort

Sponsorship is not about writing a cheque (sorry! check). The team at LessAdmin need to make sure that the sponsorship is exploited. That means working closely with the Force team to achieve LessAdmin’s objectives as well as supporting the Force. An example is using the Force’s network of yachting contacts and their interesting America’s Cup insights to get articles in the yachting press, and also writing an eBook “Guide” for all those attending the America’s Cup. This means that LessAdmin’s name is being seen again and again by potential users. The Force does not necessarily have the time or skills to write the articles, or the eBook. But the LessAdmin team do. The sponsorship includes a limited amount of corporate hostility. These need to be used carefully by LessAdmin to get the best result. That requires meticulous planning. And finally, the Force are using LessAdmin to reduce the admin associated with their campaign. The LessAdmin team are helping them get the best out of  LessAdmin and in return they will make a case study video.

Making a difference.

But the important part of this is LessAdmin will enable the team to spend more time focusing on what is important. Winning. And we are used to be around winners.