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Why ‘Top-Down’ Is Better Than ‘Bottom-Up’ For Sponsorship Activation

Most brands know sponsorship is a great way to connect their brand to their target audience. Most brands strive to deliver great campaigns and activation programmes. Most brands take a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation.

Most brands get activation wrong.

But why is this the case? More importantly, what can brands do about it?

In simple terms, a ‘bottom-up’ approach to campaign activation mean brands (in this order);

1. assess the sponsorship rights at their disposal

2. devise the activation programme to leverage those rights

3. articulate a campaign idea to connect the activation programme to the brand

Successful brands take a ‘top-down’ approach to campaign activation, meaning they start from the top with the campaign idea itself. Only once the blue sky thinking has been done do thoughts shift towards grounding the central thought that connects the brand, asset and target audience to an activation programme and sponsorship rights. Implementing a ‘top-down’ approach is the only way to ensure the brand tells a rich, compelling and coherent  campaign story.

P&G’s “Proud Sponsor of Mums” tagline has proven fertile ground for rich campaign ideas to connect brand, target audience and asset. The brand’s global sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee enables the company to take the Olympic Games to the 4 billion consumers worldwide served by P&G brands. For the London 2012 Olympic Games, the consumer goods company created the Nearest & Dearest platform, which supported the friends and family of all the athletes in the lead up to and during the Games. Rights were also put to use in “The Hardest Job is the Best Job - Raising an Olympian” campaign, which brought to life the dedication of mums across the world in helping their kids to achieve their dreams. First channelled through digital and social media platforms 100 days before the Opening Ceremony, P&G leveraged every asset available to maximise the sponsorship.

Capital One’s overarching campaign idea to 'Support the Supporters' has been brilliantly brought to life through their sponsorship of the Football League Cup, better known as the Capital One Cup.

Stepping in to help Shrewsbury Town FC increase stadium capacity ahead of their Round 4 tie against Chelsea is a good example of an activation linked to a great campaign idea.

By its very nature, the League Cup presents Capital One with the opportunity to activate at each round of the competition, helping the brand uphold its commitment to supporting the supporters through great activation.

In another example from this season, Capital One gave Nottingham Forest FC fans the chance to unite and pay their respects to Forest legend Brian Clough. The Nottingham-based credit card company handed out over 1,000 iconic green jumpers, synonymous with ‘Cloughie’, to all Forest fans who travelled on the official supporters’ coaches to White Hart Lane for the tie against Tottenham Hotspur in September. The gesture struck the right chord amongst players, fans and media alike, helping reinforce Capital One’s commitment to the territory of ‘Support’.

BMW’s “Drive Your Team” campaign and branded content at the 2014 Ryder Cup also stood out for all the right reasons. Not only did it represent the brand and product values, it gave fans high-quality, emotive and selective content to help them get behind their team by using the #DriveYourTeam hashtag.

BMW has a rich heritage in golf, sponsoring the Ryder Cup and other golfing tournaments, and kicked off their 2014 Ryder Cup campaign with an integrated social activity, including a full BMW Twitter profile takeover, followed up with a fan competition (for Ryder Cup tickets), live content and finally rounded off the activation with a series of celebratory images.

Brands that put first things first and implement a ‘top-down’ approach will continue to create the showcase campaigns of tomorrow. Ultimately, brands which go ‘bottom-up’ may risk ending up at bottom of the pile…