Not too long ago, I was involved in a discussion with a prospective sports event sponsor regarding how the company would activate the partnership if the initial conversations with the property went well and ultimately resulted in an agreement.
The company’s products could have played an integral role in the event, and everyone in the room agreed that putting them to use had the potential to take the property to another level regarding both participant and fan experience. As excitement built, one member of the marketing team slowly raised a hand and asked, “But what if we fail?”
Ultimately, the deal didn’t come together. The specter of failure was not a driving factor in the decision, but the remark stuck with me as I’ve worked with and observed many other partnerships where the sponsor’s products or services play a key role in supporting an event or property.
On one hand, the question first appears to come from a place of fear. If the company’s products are not untested and generally perform well, there should be a high degree of confidence that they can handle the job.
But on the other, it is a practical question to ask, especially if the partnership under consideration is high profile. Even if the odds are slim, what might failure on a big stage do to the brand’s reputation? At the very least, asking the question early on should serve as a reminder to everyone involved that failure is not an option.
I was reminded of all this when I saw the announcement of the U.S. Golf Assn.’s new app built by longtime USGA partner Deloitte. This is a textbook example of a sponsor putting its skills and expertise to work on behalf of a partner in a way that clearly improves the fan and spectator experience, thus achieving the classic win-win-win that sponsorship delivers unlike any other marketing medium.
Certainly, the Deloitte team believes its tech will power a top-notch user experience, providing fans of the men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments with live scoring and streaming, as well as scorecard highlight videos and other digital features that fans are demanding. The stakes may be even higher for a company in the technology and consulting space, following as it does the highly successful partnerships of competitor IBM, which has led digital transformation for rights holders such as The Masters, Wimbledon and others.
With every reason to believe this new element of the nine-year-old Deloitte/USGA partnership will be successful, it’s worth noting that it would also be wise if someone at either or both partners asked the “what if” question and some contingency and communication plans were drawn up on the off chance they should be needed.