Pogba + United + adidas – The perfect marketing match?

An announcement under the hashtag #Pogback at 12.30am signalled Paul Pogba’s return to Manchester United after four years at Juventus. The boy who left England with bags of potential has come back as a man to finish what he started with his first senior club.Whilst Jose Mourinho has signed Pogba for purely footballing reasons, it’s clear the club, adidas and the player himself will all benefit commercially from this new partnership. From a marketing perspective it seems to be the perfect match.One of the biggest personalities and most exciting young players in the game has joined the biggest club in the world, which is just starting its second season with kit supplier adidas, for whom Pogba is already a key ambassador.

Signing up Pogba on a £31m 10-year deal earlier this year has helped adidas create a fresh, new look that capitalises on the Frenchman’s unique style, individualism, flamboyant nature and flashy personality. He has been the figurehead of the brand’s #FirstNeverFollows campaign, a brand position that builds on the previous #ThereWillBeHaters activation and mixes football, fashion and music. The aim of this is to appeal to the younger audience, the next wave of potential adidas consumers, and win them over from newer brands like Under Armour and New Balance, who are challenging the more established giants.

Pogba gives adidas a point of difference over its rivals, such as Nike, who were also competing for his signature. He wasn’t signed just as a face to shift trainers, but as a catalyst to help change the nature of adidas’ football marketing…to make his mark on the brand itself.

From United’s viewpoint, Pogba and adidas also help the club reach a younger audience, an audience that may be swaying towards supporting Manchester City, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona or another of Europe’s big clubs.

Pogba will be the face of both United and adidas for years to come. He hasn’t returned to Old Trafford for just one or two seasons; he will surely be there for a significant proportion of his career. He represents the new United, forging a new identity in the post Sir Alex Ferguson, era under the leadership of Mourinho.

Adidas, like other sponsors, do not get a say in the club’s transfer activity (although they may have had a quiet word in Ed Woodward’s ear), but for them shirt sales are clearly critical. Aligning one of their big ambassadors with one of their biggest clubs (alongside Real Madrid) will have been music to the ears of adidas, as the ‘POGBA 6’ United shirts start flying off racks around the world.

One of the reasons adidas teamed up with United in the first place is because the club has a huge fan base in the US and Asia, both target markets for the German sports brand. Pogba will help to gain cut-through in those markets.The French midfielder’s social channels have more than 13m followers. For United, this offers an opportunity a reach a new audience; whilst for Pogba, joining the Red Devils will no doubt see this figure grow and grow, as has happened with other recent arrivals to the club – a win-win. And adidas can utilise this massive reach to push out branded content and messaging to his adoring fans.This branded content played a role in the announcement of Pogba’s capture. Adidas teamed up with UK grime artist Stormzy to record a short piece of music-focused film featuring Pogba that matches the #FirstNeverFollows theme, announcing the player’s arrival at United. We are likely to see more dual-branded content like this appear as adidas and United push Pogba to the front of their marketing activity and his global appeal spirals skyward.

This Brand Can

Does anyone out there still doubt that women’s sport offers one of the most exciting opportunities in sponsorship?

In a week where Synergy is hosting #ThisGirlDoes, a brilliant panel exploring why no brand should be without a strategy for women and women in sport, it makes sense to have a quick look at how rightsholders and brands can work together to not only fuel this fire, but benefit from it. And it’s actually pretty simple:

Where possible, any rightsholder with both men’s and women’s propositions should commercialise them separately. And where they are not currently commercialised separately, brands should ask for them to be.

The fact is that most big properties that have both men’s and women’s propositions still tend to bundle them together. Sponsors of the FIFA World Cup (let’s be honest, no-one sponsors FIFA, they sponsor the World Cup), get the Women’s World Cup as part of the deal. The exact same thing applies to the UEFA European Championships, the Champions League, the RBS 6 Nations and the ICC Cricket World Cup. Similarly, if you sponsor England Rugby, Arsenal, Manchester City, PSG or any other major team, you typically also get the women’s team thrown into the deal. While this may simplify things for both rightsholder and sponsor, it is not necessarily the best solution for either side.

One competition where this is not the case is the FA Cup, with the Emirates FA Cup and SSE Women’s FA Cup running side by side. Synergy have been working closely with both SSE and the FA from the beginning to create a bespoke programme for Women’s/Girl’s football, so we have seen the power of this unbundled approach first hand.

By bundling the men’s and women’s propositions together, rightsholders are likely to be leaving value on the table. Basically, this sponsorship version of Buy-One-Get-One-Free doesn’t attribute the appropriate amount of value to the Women’s proposition. How much value do the FIFA World Cup sponsors attribute to their Women’s World Cup rights? Would Emirates expect to pay any less for their overall sponsorship of Arsenal if the Women’s team had a different brand on their shirts?

This isn’t to say that those sponsors don’t value the women’s property at all – of course they do. It’s just that they don’t value it as much as a brand that wants to focus on the women’s property in its own right. And a brand that values it more highly will also be willing to pay more for it.

The brands that value the women’s propositions more highly in their own right are also the brands that are going to create more powerful activation campaigns. Although a slightly different form of unbundling, what Sainsbury’s and Channel 4 did with the Paralympics was one of the most powerful lessons from London 2012. As “Paralympic-only” sponsors they could identify what made the Paralympics so uniquely powerful and could focus their activation budget on bringing it to life. They were able to create brilliant Paralympic campaigns – not just Olympic campaigns that ran during the Paralympics.

There is no doubt that this same principle applies to brands that want to tell empowering women’s stories. As an industry, we need to make sure that they have access to great properties that will allow them to do so. Campaigns like This Girl Can, Always #LikeAGirl, Dove Real Beauty Sketches, Under Armour #IWillWhatIWant and Nike #BetterForIt show what’s possible when a brand gets it right. And it’s a strategy worth pursuing as research by Google suggests that women ages 18-34 are twice as likely to think highly of a brand that creates an empowering ad about women and nearly 80% are more likely to engage with it.

So brands with a strategy for women and women in sport can create better, more relevant and more targeted activation campaigns, while rightsholders can extract more value. Imagine the Possibilities.

Rightsholders’ Sponsorship Proposals: Counting What Counts

As everyone who works client-side in sponsorship knows, rightsholders’ sponsorship proposals tend to be very generic; all about the same old rights and outputs, rather than ideas and outcomes. As the saying goes, if you’ve read one, you’re read them all. Wouldn’t it be great if that changed, and focused on the things that matter to brands, especially the metrics?
Since Synergy’s Carsten Thode wrote ‘Rightsholders getting it right’ and the subsequent launch of Synergy Decisions we’ve been looking at potential fresh approaches by rightsholders to their proposals. In this blog, I’m going to highlight the top five most common sponsorship proposal problems and what better proposals could look like.

Think about the last sponsorship proposal you read. Chances are the content looked something like this:

Rightsholder Proposals Today ppt.jpg

While some initial proposals do genuinely address the objectives of a potential sponsors, and 2nd round proposals usually do a far better job of presenting content that matters, many make it a real challenge to extract the content that counts. Having talked to Synergy clients and colleagues, who have collectively reviewed literally thousands of sponsorship proposals, these are the top five problems commonly encountered:

1. Little or no attempt to understand the brand’s key business drivers and challenges
2. One size fits all rights
3. Too long
4. No view on how campaigns could help tell the brand story
5. Focus on outputs rather than  the value-based metrics that matter

Now imagine the dream sponsorship proposal you wish you could read. Chances are the content would look something like this:

Rightsholder Proposals Tomorrow ppt.jpg

Spot the difference?

That’s the change in approach that’s needed and we’re continually talking to rightsholders on new ways of thinking about the following:

•  Approaching sponsorship top-down from the campaign idea, instead of bottom-up from the rights (selling the meal, not the ingredients) and from the brand’s perspective
•  Rights having no intrinsic value (sponsorship value is entirely contextual)
•  Where and how their rightsholders’ offers could help create value for potential sponsors by identifying potentially suitable: a) industry categories; b) brands within those categories; c) key objectives and value drivers which matter most for those brands

Armed with this new way of thinking, rightsholders could go to potential sponsors with a different type of proposal. One which is:

1. based on upfront research by rightsholders about a brand’s key business drivers and challenges
2. tailored to consider the value-drivers of each specific target brand
3. targeted at what matters
4. tells the story of how a sponsorship rightsholder can help the brand tell their story
5. grounded in value-based thinking

If rightsholders adopted this approach brands would be far more inclined to pay attention to their proposals than they are to the generic, one size fits all decks that routinely hit their inbox. If not, a great deal of money and time will continue to be wasted.


If you want to chat about ROI in sponsorship or anything to do with sponsorship measurement and evaluation, please do send me an email at chris.pinner@synergy-sponsorship.com and, if you haven’t already, take a look at how Synergy think about sponsorship value in our white paper here.

Valuing Rugby World Cup 2015 Sponsorship: A 5-Step Guide to Sponsorship Event Measurement

It's not long now until Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks-off and sponsors start to see a significant return on investment...

…at least that's what they hope.

If you already know whether their event sponsorship endeavors will be likened to a World Cup win or group-stage knockout then you can stop reading now. Otherwise, this 5-step guide to sponsorship event measurement should help you understand how to deliver, measure and evaluate a high-ROI event sponsorship of any scale.

RWC Image 2

So, using Rugby World Cup 2015 as a case study, let’s outline an approach which could help…

RWC Partners Image

By the way, this guide brings to bear much of the thinking already shared in the Synergy Decisions white paper.

Step 1: Understand the Pathways to Value

In the context of event sponsorship and Rugby World Cup 2015, this means understanding that the event could deliver value through different Pathways. Brands like Canterbury and Heineken will have similar rights, but will be using them to deliver different objectives. The rights will drive different levels of value accordingly.

That said, let’s consider some of the Pathways through which Heineken could drive value:

  1. B2C Brand Awareness (e.g.pitch-side branding to reach a global audience via extensive TV coverage)
  2. B2B Hospitality (e.g. hosting and building relationships with trade contacts to increase listings in the on and off trade)
  3. Data Capture (e.g. recording fan contact details through at-event activations)
  4. Experiential (e.g. campaigns to connect with fans at the stadium)
  5. Pouring rights (e.g. increased sales at all 48 matches at the expense of competitors such as Guinness)

Heineken Experience

Step 2: Identify the Value Drivers for Each Pathway

This is crucial. Rugby World Cup 2015 sponsors must know which metrics influence how much value is being created within each specific pathway. Sponsors should ask whether their value drivers are, for example:

1 - Talking to business customers – If so, how many do we need in our hospitality suite at each match? Of the business clients who join, what share do we want to be “high” value? Of those who are “high” value, how many do we need to convert into sales?
2 - Data capture – If so, how many details do we need to collect at each match? How many are attending each match? What is the likelihood that a new contact converts to a sale? What is the value of that sale? How quickly do we need to follow up?
3 - Maximizing at-event sales – If so, how many sales do we need to make? Where can we sell at the ground and how many sales staff can we deploy? At what cost?
4 - Etc. … (In the interest of time I’ll refrain from listing the 30+ different Value Drivers we’ve worked on at Synergy over the last year, but you get the idea!)
The earlier brands map out these questions, the easier it’ll be to:

• find where and how value could be created pre-campaign
• change course and track progress during-campaign
• evaluate performance post-campaign

Step 3: Build a Model

Having successfully navigated Step 2, it’s time to enter Excel and use the value drivers to create a model which helps us understand the value created within each Pathway. Let’s say that Heineken, for example, is trying to understand the Data Capture Pathway. The global beer brand’s model could be structured to make calculations using inputs like:

• # matches at which we have experiential rights
• # attendees (by match)
• % attendees engaged in experiential
• % attendees engaged who share data / contact details
• % post-match contacts converted to sale
• £ lifetime value of average contact converted to sale

Step 4: Find the Best Possible Inputs and Assumptions

With a strong Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3 in support, finding and measuring the metrics that matter should feel less like a scrum and more like a kick from under the posts. Whether it be through consumer surveys, brand trackers, data records on the ground, web analytics, or a combination of all of the above, the key to sponsorship measurement is inputs and assumptions you can adjust but believe in.

Dan Carter

With our Heineken / Data Capture example in mind, imagine that they have one pop-up activation per match. Heineken could then track performance through, for example, conducting consumer surveys at each of the 48 Rugby World Cup 2015 matches.

Step 5: Interrogate the Model

Once the detail is done and dusted, better decisions can be made more easily with the help of a user-friendly dashboard, which could look something like:


As any Rugby World Cup-winning team will tell you, most of the hard work is done before the main event. Tough questions are asked, different tactics tested and weights lifted before the Final event itself.

Likewise, sponsorship event measurement must be grounded in strategic analysis ahead of time, and a commitment made to analyse and gather the necessary data to find scenarios, sensitivities and breakeven points. With a clear sense of how to drive maximum value, CMOs and Sponsorship Managers alike can send staff out onto the marketing field-of-play confident their team will perform.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick guide on how to take a more structured approach to understanding the value of event sponsorship. If you’d like to talk in more detail feel free to email me at chris.pinner@synergy-sponsorship.com.

Sponsorship Valuation: Standing up for the Sponsors  

Sponsorship valuation is driven by rightsholders. The simple fact is that they tend to be the ones paying for the analysis, and whoever pays the piper calls the tune.

It makes complete sense for the rightsholders to be leading this particular charge. They have sponsorship properties to create and sell. They not only need to know where to price them but also need to be able to justify that price during the sales process.

A whole industry has grown around this proposition. In fact, just yesterday ESP Properties, a new “super-agency” born out of IEG, GroupM and Two Circles was formed to focus on exactly this. They will be taking the fight to IMG, CAA, Wasserman, Repucom and the many others who all have their sights trained firmly on this space.

There is no doubt that these are all great agencies doing some pretty sophisticated things to help rightsholders better understand and maximise the amount of money they can command for their sponsorship properties on the open market. Because, at the end of the day, the value of a sponsorship property from the rightsholder’s perspective is the same as the value of a house: it is worth what someone is willing to pay for it…and you only need one party to be willing to pay that. Effectively that means that rightsholder consultants are like estate agents, helping the rightsholders determine the “list price” based on market benchmarks and the property’s features (rights) and helping them find a buyer.

Estate agents boards offer property in Brighton

But in this rush to help the rightsholders monetise their properties, who is helping brands understand the value of their sponsorship, independently and without any conflicts of interest?

This is particularly important, because, as we argued in our Synergy Decisions White Paper, a sponsorship does have a real, economic value to the sponsor: the increase in the company’s value as a result of increased revenue or decrease costs.  But this value is entirely contextual of the sponsor and their activation campaign.

To put it bluntly, the exact same sponsorship property with the same basic rights would have a completely different value to Coca-Cola, McDonald's, P&G, Samsung, Panasonic, Visa, Toyota, Bridgestone, Omega, GE, Dow, Atos.  That’s because each of those companies has different business models, audiences, products, routes-to-market, marketing channels, purchase drivers and competitive environments.

Further, the exact same property would be worth a different amount to the same brand depending on how effectively they activated it. For example, I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that the London Cycle Hire scheme could have been worth far more to Barclays (and no doubt will be worth far more to Santander) had they done more with it.

The challenge for brands is to determine the economic value their sponsorship does or could create. And this requires a completely different approach to the one that rightsholders use – one like Synergy Decisions.

Switching from one to five sponsors cannot be judged until the Champions Cup is in its third year

‘There has been some ill‑informed criticism of the failure to sign all five main [European Rugby Champions Cup] sponsors. Tim Crow of sponsorship experts Synergy is one, if not the leading authority on sponsorship in the UK and explained recently that for rights of the order sought by EPCR a lead‑up time of at least 18 months was needed. Thus, the wisdom of the decision to switch from one headline sponsor to five elite sponsors cannot be judged until the Champions Cup is in its third year. If forced to choose between the opinion of Crow and critical rugby columnists, I choose Crow.’

Writer, broadcaster and England and Lions legend Brian Moore cites Tim Crow’s recent Rugby World piece on the European Rugby Champions Cup in his Daily Telegraph column.

Click here for the article.