From all the functions of Microsoft Excel, to the importance of a smile, here are some of the key things I will take away from my short time as an intern at Livewire.
The last two years of my life have been spent pursuing a degree in Media Sales and Promotions. During my time in school, we’ve discussed sponsorship briefly, but only in the context of it being a small secondary element of a larger sales pitch or media package. After just a month and a half here at Livewire, I can tell you that it’s criminal that such a vibrant, dynamic business has been reduced to just “something to consider” in my curriculum so far. My time spent exploring sponsorship as an industry has given me so much to chew on; I’ve learned so much. Certainly more than I could synthesise into a single blog post – but here is my best effort at doing just that.
1) How you sponsor is more important than what you sponsor
As we say in the business, activation is key. A brand may have rights to the most high-profile property in the country, but if they don’t capitalise on the exclusive and innovative opportunities to engage consumers that these exclusive rights open the door to, the sponsorship falls flat. Simply popping a logo on the front a jersey or slipping a slogan in front of a celebrity gossip radio bulletin can’t be the extent of a sponsorship. While the aforementioned brand placement undoubtedly supports brand visibility, something more emotive will help to build the type of brand affinity that ultimately drives sales.
Having said that…
2) Fit is still important (even essential)
Creative activations can go a long way in bridging a gap between a sponsor and a property who don’t seem like a natural pairing, but more success can always be found when careful thought is put into matching sponsor and property based on shared principles and business objectives. A certain television program may achieve the reach a brand is looking for, but if the content of that program contradicts the values the brand has laid out, consumers will notice – and then take to Twitter to let everyone know that they noticed. Not ideal.
Before I started at Livewire if you had asked me why Coca-Cola sponsors so many sporting events I would have answered simply because they can afford to. Why not? It made sense to me that if Coca-Cola has the money to buy access to an audience that large they’d be stupid not to. I’m now a month and a major report on a major sports tournament wiser, and can tell you that consumers were quick to call out the logical disconnect between athletics and sugary soft drinks.
If you’d like to see the research I’ve collected on that let me know and I can link you to ten different excel documents, because…
3) Spreadsheets are life
In May, Excel was a program I only had on my mac because my local electronics store only sold Microsoft Office as a full package. Now, I can’t imagine going a day without it. Working with a company that values attention to detail and data driven insights, as Livewire certainly does, learning how to properly catalogue research became a necessity. I truly didn’t know Excel even had so many features until recently. I won’t drag this paragraph on office software out any longer, just know that I have an awakened appreciation for cells and formulas.
4) Being friendly goes a long way
Myself and other new employees were lucky enough to have a meeting with Core Media CEO Alan Cox, and he aptly reminded us that at the end of the day we are in the service industry. While I had limited interactions with clients or property owners while in Livewire, I can corroborate that sentiment. Something as simple as asking your contact how the weather is where they are before jumping straight into the business of it really does make a difference – a difference in the quality of response you get, and more importantly in the quality of the relationship you’re building. And just remember, if you really feel the need to tear into someone there’s always anonymous satisfaction surveys.
At the risk of sounding like a pesky eavesdropper, I must admit that a good amount of what I’ve learned in the last six weeks has come from simply listening in on everything the people around me have been working on. Getting to watch the process in action has been invaluable (although if you need a value put to something intangible, Livewire can do it). Being privy to brainstorming sessions and team meetings has offered me more than a textbook, lecture or case study ever could. I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to listen.
6) It’s really easy to get free tickets to things
On a lighter note, my co-workers go to so many concerts. Free tickets to really cool things are constantly coming across their desks. It’s pretty much solidified that I’ve picked the right industry. As of right now about 70% of my income goes towards entertainment, so just think of the savings if I could hit up my contact at The New Yorker about tickets to that Beyoncé concert at MetLife.
Myself, I got invited on private tours to several prominent music venues in the process of conducting some research, but I figured they’d be a little disappointed when a 20-year-old college student in a cardigan showed up instead of an executive in a power pencil skirt.
The six points above are only the beginning of what I will be taking away from my time at Livewire. As I head home, it’s definitely going to be interesting to apply everything to the massive, complex media landscape that is the United States.
Sponsorship in the U.S., as I’ve noticed it, usually manifests as a simple program tag, branded basketball court, or everyone’s favourite plot device – product placement. Something that’s easy to throw into an advertising package for a little added value; an afterthought. It’s also entirely possible I’ve been mistaking brilliant sponsorship activations as other types of marketing. I’m excited to re-examine the market stateside with a new lens once I get back. I’m also looking forward to taking what I’ve learned to school with me. I’m going to have the most comprehensive spreadsheets Ball State has ever seen.