1. The actual questions of communicative policy
With the widening of the consumers’ market those firms which trade in mass products get into very tough competition, so they need to appear in the economic life with a favourable image, to keep their rivals away from them and to urge the public to buy their products. The so-called communicative policy helps them realize their goals considerably. When we say communicative policy we mean the process of providing information which strives to influence opinions, behaviour, expectations and consumer behaviour. So in the communicative process two basic goals can be set: one is the communicative goal, that is to increase turnover and matket share, and the other is a psychological goal, which tends to change behaviour and attitudes.
Considering that almost all firms employ communicational policy, the necessary consequence of this is that consumers are bombarded with a great amount of information and because of the overload they only register minimal percentage of this information. Creative firms are forced to fin dnew channels of communication with the help of which they can remain competitive and spotr sponsorship can be well put to use for this purpose. Advertising experts know that people can be influenced much better if they represent those areas of life where positive emotions and experience dominate. One of these important areas is sport. Modern sport has been a very popular and accepted social phenomenon since the beginnings, a source for positive experience and satisfaction for many people. Besides this sport has always received wide support from the media, thus firms make use of the interest in sport – in an active or passive form- to reach their goals. As players, supporters and ’media followers’ (readers, or TV, Internet etc. watchers) can receive the messages of sponsors incidentally, many times only in the subconscious the advertisements have to be repeated very often at the fields, as they are very sensitive points of transmitting information.
2. Sponsorship, as the means of communication
Let’s set off from how an economic enterprise can break into the area of sports communication. The simplest answer to this question is – through sponsorship. ’Sponsor’ is an English term originally meaning: support, service and it was basically understood financially. Recently this word has also received an economic meaning, that is it can be outlined as business between two partners ( the sponsor and the one sponsored ) and in the contract the goals and achievements are defined on both sides. The sponsor provides mainly money, goods or service and the other provides the realization of certain communicational possibilities. Sports events have a lot of attractive characteristics which are good for advertizing, such as the youth, dynamism, spectacular, unexpected turns, etc. These communicational possibilities are valuable for firms, especially because they are widely transmitted to the general public. This system is called ’the magic triangle’ by experts, which consists of sponsorship, economics and the media, with their help one can achieve the realization of a special target group. In this ’triumvirate’ the media plays a very important role, because this way the messages of the sponsors can be forwarded to the target layer; the TV, the radio and the press can multiply the effect of the information.
According to the experience of the last decade the tendency has become evident that beside classical means ( like the media, advertisements, commercials, promotion, PR etc. ) sponsorship is becoming more popular a broad and all-out method of communicational policy. Nevertheless it is important to mention that sport sponsorship cannot replace other means but rather it complements them. As a consequence, sponsorship must be fitted into the communicational plan, because it can be more effective together with commercials, promotion and PR campaigns
Sponsorship is most effective if it reaches the following goals:
- knowledge of goods and trade marks increases;
- image becomes stable and gets stronger;
- social responsibility becomes better; consumer relationships widen, the consumer becomes a partner (client it motivates partners and co-workers.
Sponsorship is very effective in consolidating and increasing awareness of the product when mass communication devices provide detailed information to majority of the population. It is very important that the subject of sponsorship ( e.g. the person, the team, the sports event ) appear in the media and if possible be seen by most members of the target group. It is also essential that the advertizing strategy of the firm should be closely connected with the sponsorship plan, because sponsor messages usually contain the name, logo and emblem of the product, and do not give complete information about the firm or its product. This way the frequentdanger that the name itself is well-known and popular, but consumers cannot find its proper place in the market can be avoided. Let’s take a closer look at an image of a product. Image means aspect, good fame, a favourable picture about somebody or something, also the totality of feelings, conducts and desire which we connect to a special essence. The essence can be a firm or a product, a team or a competitor. In the case of sponsoring, the profile of the image should be determined completely and it should be worked out carefully. For instance, in the case of a car they are the aesthetic, dynamic, performance parametres, safety, technical innovations, or the environment. Then comes the next step: we have to find the suitable product for sponsorship which can guarantee the transmission of the image. Social responsibility can closely be connected to the image, the purpose of which is to increase good relationships, sympathy among people, which they sometimes try to achieve by undertaking a social obligation (service). This type of communication is especially important in the regional sphere, because it helps build up a loyal community. That is why sponsors often give up the ’ give-and-get ’ policy and try to appear as responsible partners of the region and of local society and so they gain great responsibility in a short time. Sponsorship offers an outstanding possibility to build a close relationship with consumers (clients) or establishing contact with people who have an influence on public opinion. Receiving guests has a particular role, that is inviting VIPs in sport and vica versa. These means are especially important when there is very little time between the release and selling of tickets.
We could continue listing these partial goals which a firm can achieve through sponsorship, but the main aim is twofold:
- the transmission of the image
- information about the product
There have been different sociological views concering this issue, and it has been stated that the most dominant goal of the companies is the transmission of the image (60-80%) and product information 40-70%.
3. Some important principles of sponsorship
The communication goals that we mentioned previously, can only be reached if sponsorship can also be realized through the media or some long term basis and is in harmony with the whole communicational policy of the firm.
Communicational goals make the basis of sponsorship plans, so first of all you have to make than clear, and image, product information or PR can only come next. After this, or at the same time, the chosen target group has to be definied, then the definiton of the target area of sponsorship must be accomplished. This can be at a regional, national or continental level. If all these are chosen then it is time to work out the final sponsoring plan. The straregy should be written down and the sponsoring activity should also be arranged for the following few years and then it is possible to choose those branches of sport with the help of which the goals can be reached most successfully and will result in the most effective.
When choosing the object of sponsorship you have to take into account:
- the characteristics of the branch of sport
- the level of achievement
- and the organization
Every sport has its own features which are only characteristic of it and which give the image together. To guarantee the transmission of the image it is important that the image profile of the sponsor be similar to the profile of the sport. The level of achievement refers to the level of sport where sponsorship is going on, e.g. junior (beginners) competitions, recreational competitions and elite sport. The decision about the level of performance depends on the given target group both in quality and quantity. As elite sport gets the greatest support from the media, it is the most effective area, so it is easy to understand that most sponsors are active in this area, may it be local, national or inernational level. It is important to know that the constitutional entity – which involves the individual competitors, the teams, the sportsclubs and sportsevents – always determines the geographical location of the target group.
It is essential in sport sponsoring that the three important components – the branch of sport, the level of performance and the organization – should be in close connection, and the subject of sponsorship should suit the primary target group. We should differenciate among active sportsmen, the people visiting the sites of the competition and the spectators who watch the events through the media. Generally the latter constituate the biggest basis of the target group, so most sponsors enter sponsorship if public information is guarateed (press, radio and mainly televsion, maybe recently the Internet).
Furthermore when defining the subject of sponsorship we have to decide what our intentions are, what goals we want to realize. In connection with this we list a few possibilites:
- labelling sports equipment (e.g. car, shoes, skis, bags, etc.), placing emblems on them
- being present at a sports event (e.g. advertisement on boards, loudspeakers, writings, graphics on the surface of the court or other places, programmes, tickets, presence is also important in tourism, service, at information stations etc.)
- use of titles (main sponsor, offical sponsor, major supporter etc.)
- naming the subject of sponsorship after the name of the sponsor
- using famous sport personalities
- sponsoring the TV broadcast of a sports event which is a possibility especially in the case of commercial chanels
Beside the above mentioned it is an important principle that sponsorship must be operative and believable. There must be harmony between the sponsor and the subject of sponsorship, otherwise the target group does not accept it. The closer the reationship between the firm (or product) and the branch of sport in question, the easier it is to reach credibility. Sports equipment manufacturers have no difficulty in having their products accepted, as they are used directly by athletes.
Other firms which do not deal with sports equipment (e.g. computers, telephones, radios, etc.) have a more difficult job in this respect. The other important principle in sponsorship is that it should be operative. Every sponsorship strategy needs a well defined operative plan, which usually starts with the budget. It comprises not only the persons sponsored but the budget of sponsoring devices, advertisments, promotion, PR activites, representation costs, personal expenses, as well preparation and evaluation costs. One can give full details of sponsoring plans, sign contracts only in possession of the budget, which makes it clear how the sponsor wishes to use the branch of sport or sport itself. In a separate close the time and finish of the competion must always indicated and also what kind of legal redress possibilities are available in case of violation of the contract. Then the precise contents of the operative plan should be defined in the end, deciding the need for devices and those preparations with the help of which sponsorship can be realized.
Sponsoring can often lead to deficit which has more reasons. We lists a few of then:
- sponsorship on a sudden, subjective decision which lacks a deliberate communicational goal and strategy
- isolated sponsroship, which is not adapted to the communication-mix
- short-range sponsorship plan
- unsuitable estimation, evaluation
Taking into account the present marketing relations it is especially important to evaluate everything and calculate reasonably, this tendency is present in the practice of developed countries. From among alternative sponsoring areas (e.g. culture, social institutions, environment, etc) sport is becoming the fore more and more. At present sports sponsorship is one of the most valuable and all-out forms of communicative devices, but is is expected that in the field of planning, calculation and contracts they will use more and more competent proceedings in the future. It is important to evaluate precisely the branches of sports from the point of sponsorship. We have to examine the following:
- constitutional entity
- level of competition
- age groups
- the characteristics of the image (dynamism, exclusiveness etc.)
The second step is to find those sponsors for whom the given sport is suitable as a sponsoring subject. It is practical and benefitial to compile a lists which contains those successful firms the target group of which is similar to the target group of the sponsoring subject. It should identify firms which are potentially attracted to the sponsoring subject. Take care to establish close contact with the chosen sponsor, and we should only reach one sponsor from the economics sphere (a bank, a car factory, some kind of company) because this way we indicate that our intention is serious. Summing up, we can state that sponsorship means a business contact between two parties in which one of them gives financial support (money or services) the other (individual, organisation, event etc.) provides cooperation, association possibility in return, with the help of which the sponsor can obtain advantages in business. It is essential to state that this connection or association is mutual, lies on principles of partnership. Sponsorship is essentialy an integrated communicational investment the aim of which is to popularise the product or trademark, to make it better known through the sepecial medium of sport.
IVAN K. KOLTAI
Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Sport Management
Ph. Kotler: Marketing Management
Mrs Hoffmann: Sports Marketing
Alfred Nagy: Sports Marketing-Communication
W. Freyer: Handbuch des Sportmarketing