TicketManager | Activation Reserves Mean No More Missed Opportunities

Sports and entertainment sponsors—along with their agencies, advisors and property partners—spend a great deal of time and energy on creating and executing activation programs that will resonate with their target audiences. And well they should, given that activation is responsible for sponsorship’s success.

The great thing about partnering with events, teams, athletes, artists, etc. is the authenticity of associating with something real and meaningful. But reality can also be a challenge in that it is not controllable. Sh*t happens, both good and bad.

The challenges of the bad stuff—losing streaks, cancellations, scandals, etc.—are obvious. But the good stuff also can be problematic if a sponsor is unprepared and/or unable to capitalize on it.

Consider the situation that arose in the first round of the NBA playoffs when the Philadelphia 76ers suffered an onslaught of New York Knicks fans buying tickets to games at the Wells Fargo Center. Sixers owners Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and David Adelman—along with former owner Michael Rubin—responded by purchasing 2,000 seats for Game 6 and donated them to first responders, healthcare workers and employees of other Philadelphia-based organizations.

This could have been a major moment for a team partner to flex some “fans first” muscles and step in to play the hero role that Rubin and the others eventually did.

But as I mentioned in a post last year, “Most sponsorship agreements are not set up to allow marketers to jump on unforeseen developments. The nature of the corporate beast is that brands need to gain budget approval and make their commitments in advance of contracts being signed and seasons getting underway. When something momentous happens, it is not lack of desire that keeps sponsors from seizing the day. It’s usually the more mundane fact that money has already been allocated to other things.”

Those remarks were in the context of pointing out to rights holders trying to secure a partnership that establishing activation set-asides can be an effective tool to close a deal, as it demonstrates the property’s interest in the brand’s success and can be a way to allay concerns over budgeting for activation.

But I’m more convinced than ever that an activation reserve account is not just a smart negotiating tactic for sellers, but an essential item that sponsors should proactively adopt for their own benefit.

It is getting increasingly difficult for sponsor activations to break out of the pack amid so much partnership activity across pro, college and grassroots sports, not to mention music, festivals, cultural organizations and all other sponsorship opportunities. The ability to be spontaneous and capture a high-profile moment that will allow a unique connection to fans and audiences should not be underestimated, and if activation savings accounts are the best means to achieve it, then sponsorship managers should push hard to establish them.