Welcoming the Class of 2020
It’s safe to say that not many people predicted 2020 to be the year of the QR code.
Similarly outlandish would have been the prediction that the airline industry would implode after four years of solid growth. Yet here we are with the IATA predicting total loses of around $84B whilst almost every menu in the world is hidden behind a matrix barcode.
It’s not just airlines, blue chip industries across the board are taking serious punishment, the European Automotive Association radically reduced their 2020 forecasts down by 25% this summer whilst the impact of global on-trade shutdowns is still yet to be fully revealed by the brewing & food giants.
Covid has hit these traditional sponsorship stalwarts hard and the trickle down impact of this will probably be really felt next year. But last week’s announcement that Chevrolet had been given an extra 6 months to honour their Manchester United sponsorship felt like an early indication of what is to come.
This may feel like it’s painting a gloomy picture but conversely it may provide an opportunity, a chance to welcome in and demonstrate value to a whole new host of brands and businesses.
The businesses who’ve had QR code like 2020’s have been built on great digital experience, fantastic direct response customer acquisition strategies and fortuitous market dynamics (it’s interesting to imagine where Zoom, Peleton or Hello Fresh would be in their journeys had offices, gyms & restaurants not been shut across the globe for instance).
The question remains however, what does the next stage of their growth look like, how will they continue to differentiate and build their brands as their direct competitor set swells, customer acquisition becomes harder and the need to demonstrate value beyond immediate utility becomes more pressing?
As the channel with still the highest potential for long term brand building sponsorship clearly offers value to these businesses on the next stage of their journeys, but more can and should be done to demonstrate and attract.
Firstly, as we’ve already explored, the rights package is wrong particularly for businesses who’s interactions with their audiences and customers are almost exclusively digital. We need to show these businesses that sponsorships can help them build their brands in the digital world, not just the real world. That starts with the package.
A second but related point is that we must show brands the power of partnerships across the whole marketing plan. A sponsorship or partnership should not just be seen as a way to reach an audience, but equally crucially to understand an audience. Putting data at the heart of these long-term relationships allows brands to build a greater understanding of how an audience is growing, feeling and behaving. Which in turn creates opportunities for both brand building communications as well as the tailored, targeted and direct communications that have traditionally been beyond partnerships, but are expected by the class of 2020.
Finally we need to think more openly and creatively about our industry in general. Sponsorship can still at times feel old school with similar properties being activated in similar ways by similar sorts of brands staffed with similar sorts of people. If we’re to welcome the class of 2020 into our industry we need to look more 2020. Arts, fashion, beauty, crafts, women’s sport, eSports, all growing at a rate of knots and offering brands incredible opportunities to connect to audiences but still seen as the fringe rather than the core. The reality however is that there is no such thing as niche in an online world and with digital activation set to become the dominant asset there’s no reason for agencies not to throw themselves wholeheartedly into these new areas and expand the appeal of the industry in so doing.
As gloomy as 2020 has been there are enough examples of brands who’ve burst through, captured big footholds and should in theory be approaching a stage where sponsorship and passion led communications can add significant value. We just need to be ready for them.
2020 offers a fantastic opportunity to invigorate our industry with a new class of brands for whom the brand building power of partnerships can be incredibly powerful. To do this we need to showcase the potential of partnerships to not just communicate with but understand audiences better. Whilst also thinking more broadly about the passion areas we activate around and encourage brands to play a role in.
 STATISTA – market size, global airline industry
 Media In Focus – Binet & FieldBack to all articles