TicketManager | Stick-And-Ball Sports Should Take Better Advantage of B2B Partnerships

Sports and entertainment sponsorships are powerful business tools in part because they can fulfill multiple marketing functions and achieve numerous objectives for corporations and brands.

Among the most important goals of business-to-business sponsors is directly impacting sales, which can be achieved by building relationships through key customer and prospect entertainment, as well as by using the partnership as a showcase for products and services.

Examples abound of B2B companies using that two-pronged strategy successfully across sports such as golf, tennis and auto racing. And while similar success stories exist in the major U.S. pro sports leagues, the activations of B2B sponsors with NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS teams skew heavily to corporate hospitality, while product showcasing often gets the short shrift.

While not diminishing the importance of the client entertainment that takes place in premium seats and suites—and also not saying that every B2B partner must use its relationship with the property to show off its capabilities in order to receive value—not taking full advantage of a partnership’s potential is a missed opportunity for both rights holders and sponsors.

As to why this happens, experience points me to two main reasons, one from the property perspective and one from the brands’ point of view.

Sponsorships in which the corporate partner is supplying products or services to the property are rarely 100 percent in-kind and instead are often structured with a business-back or other element in which the rights holder commits to spending some if its own funds as part of the agreement. That could be a hindrance for some smaller sports organizations.

But as we have seen with many teams’ conservative approach to spending on new tech and data resources, a reluctance to part with cash is short-sighted when the investment can yield such potentially high returns.

Size may also play a role on the brand side, as smaller B2B companies will often say things like, “We aren’t IBM,” when shying away from committing the necessary resources to utilize a property relationship to demonstrate their products or services in action.

But while such partnerships clearly require many more resources than a hospitality buy, they are not out of the realm of possibility for companies that are not global giants.

Consider the example of the New York Giants’ new partnership with New Jersey-based Crestron for presenting sponsorship of the team’s Draft Room.

The communications technology company has provided products to the Giants that streamline and digitally upgrade the player selection process, something the privately held company can use to demonstrate its capabilities to many other businesses. As the company stated in its announcement, “The Giants Draft Room was transformed from manual magnets to Crestron-controlled displays and is now a benchmark for state-of-the-art technology integrations.”

The partnership is a win-win, allowing the Giants to elevate a critical component of their business operations while Crestron’s investment of time, expertise and tech appears properly scaled and contained so as not to become a resource drain on the company.

Given that there is plenty of room for partnerships of similar scope across team business operations in many sports, let’s hope to see more such sponsorships soon.