Welding your brand identity to an elite sports team or athlete is a natural move in an industry as obsessed with competition, achievement and innovation as the IT channel.
Sporting sponsorships have consequently become a staple of the industry.
But do these partnerships actually yield RoI?
And how do MSPs and VARs eager to boost brand awareness, dazzle corporate clients or support the local community go about choosing which sport or athlete to back?
Who better to ask than senior leaders at six IT solutions providers who sponsor teams, individuals or events in sports ranging from cricket and football to squash.
Which sport would YOU choose?
We’ll let our sextet of leaders make their cases, in ascending order of the official number of UK participants in their chosen sport…
6. “Don’t always think bigger is better”
Sport it backs: Motor racing
Number of official participants in England: 73,300 (Statista)
Interviewee: COO Craig Aston
Hi Craig. Celerity sponsors British GT racing driver Joe Wheeler. How did the relationship come about?
The relationship came about through a personal link from our CEO, Chris Roche, who has known Joe through his family for a number of years. Chris also has a passion for motor racing, and likes to support younger drivers to help them in what is a highly competitive and very expensive sport.
What are the main benefits of the partnership? Is it mainly about brand awareness, or corporate hospitality, for instance?
There are a number of benefits to the partnership. The biggest one is brand awareness,. The series that Joe races in is screened on Sky Sports, and covered extensively on-line. We get a number of inbound communications from people, admittedly mainly that we already know, who have seen the logo on the rear wing of the car when watching the coverage.
The hospitality angle is the other side of it, with the experience for partners and customers being very personal and close up, which for petrolheads is fantastic.
Is sponsoring an individual athlete inherently more of a gamble than a team or a club?
I actually think it is less of a gamble. If you sponsor a team, it is likely that there will be fans of the team who will be happy, and fans of other teams whom it would damage our reputation with. In sponsoring an individual, it is less likely that you would get extreme reactions, and there is a kudos to supporting individuals in their endeavours.
I actually think [sponsoring an individual athlete] is less of a gamble. If you sponsor a team, it is likely that there will be fans of the team who will be happy, and fans of other teams whom it would damage our reputation with.
You’re also involved with STEM competition, ‘F1 in Schools Programme’. What does that entail?
This is a fantastic competition where Teams from Schools work to design a Miniature F1 car, based upon a large number of technical specifications, and then get to race their car against other schools, in what is eventually a global competition. Lenovo, one of our key vendor partners, is the lead sponsor through their work with F1, and the teams then go and find sponsors for their teams to fund development and marketing.
At the competitions they have to put together a portfolio showing their design work, and a “pit display” which gives prominence to their sponsors. For the kids involved they get to work on an interesting STEM project, have to work as a team, and also find sponsorship by talking to local businesses. They also then use social media (e.g. Exhausted.racing on instagram) to promote what they are doing.
Why was motor racing a good fit for Celerity?
Being frank, it is to do with a number of the board members’ passion for motor racing, and also that the packages offered are sensible in number and different enough to be noticed. Also the hospitality options around the racing are numerous and all over the country meaning it is a good national spread of people able to attend.
What advice would you have to other firms in the IT industry weighing up signing a sponsorship deal in the realm of sport, and which sport to choose?
Don’t always think bigger is better. I love F1 and have been to a number of hospitality events at the races, which are very slick and “corporate”, but I can honestly say being able to speak to Joe and teams at the hospitality we do is so much better and leaves much more of an impression. As to which sport, there needs to be a passion for it somewhere in the business, and if there is a personal reason, all the better.
Rugby league fan? See next page for how one Baildon-based IT solutions provider is sponsoring their local teams…