Launching the Sponsorship

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Writing this Blog Post


September 1, 2021
Winston Murray

After writing the first draft of this post to announce ALIVE’s new full-service sponsorship offering I Googled “sponsorship blog” to get a sense of where my own humble and correct ideas on sponsorship fit into the industry spectrum. Exactly 0.58 seconds later I had 130,000,000 posts, articles, white papers, blue papers and pink papers. But mostly lists.

“Your sponsorship sucks! 5 mistakes sponsors make”, “How to Get Event Sponsors in 8 Innovative Ways”, “7 Sponsorship Epic Fails”, and more.

Obviously, the collective wisdom of the entire sponsorship industry is now available in “listicles” because this is the internet, and that’s how it works now. And like all the well-informed, well-written, well-intended advice you get on the internet, it probably won’t work. Not because it’s wrong or glib, but because even the most expert advice be it about marriage, parenting or sponsorship tends to cater to itself.

This has put me in a tough position which explains why I had to CTRL+A delete my first draft, why this post was slightly delayed, and why you will not be getting any advice (or indeed listicles) from me today.

It also helps explain why dozens of brands and rights holders based in Southeast Asia have approached ALIVE (that’s us, the brand activation specialists) for help with sponsorship over the years, and why we have resisted going out to the market with a full-service sponsorship offering until now.

The bigger picture

In Southeast Asia we see solid and strategic sponsorships amongst multi-national institutions executing global strategies, in the public sector, and government-linked corporations (GLCs). Their goals are necessarily long-term and their strategies are deliberate and deeply integrated. Typically their challenges are efficiency, global alignment, marketing ROI, insight development, positive PR, and social or technological leadership. If this describes your business or institution, then congratulations. It could fit perfectly into one of several traditional templates or match an award-winning case study. There is a Top 5 list for you.

Regional and local Marketing Directors will recognize a different set of goals and obstacles like building business relationships, lead generation, driving sales or expanding their current content strategies. But on a more practical level, planners and strategists here are working in a highly reactive environment where the attitudes toward sponsorship ranges from genuinely skeptical to indignant.

Personal experience

When I talk to clients in the region about sponsorship, they tend to have weirdly specific requirements and/or highly complex concerns and/or a paralysing fear of burning time and money. Smaller SMEs or regional brands struggle to get a “Yes” on a more advantageous long-term agreement because they don’t have the expertise or tools internally to unlock the opportunities. Sadly the list that can help them simply doesn’t exist.

The Top 10 Sponsorship Strategy Tips doesn’t accommodate sufficient context. The Top 10,000 Sponsorship Strategy Tips for Your Business, Ms Marketing Director could indeed account for the diversity, complexity and speed of the Asian marketplace, the challenges imposed by different management styles, and the attitudes towards risk and accountability that a sponsorship proposal will encounter at every corporate level. But this list would be terrible content.

When highly polished, expert advice built on decades of experience turns out to be impractical or assumes behaviours or communication norms that are not present in the culture, it tends to be the market or the community that gets blamed. “The market,” they say, “just isn’t right”. My own conscience on this matter is not pristine. It was easy to make excuses when working with Asian markets from London or Las Vegas. What I saw as frustrating ambiguity and management paradoxes ten years ago are now a natural part of my workflow in Singapore, Jakarta or Hong Kong.

Officially launching the Sponsorship (division).

Over the years, ALIVE has worked to solve some interesting brand problems and when the strategy has called for sponsorship, we had to make it happen ourselves. We’ve been filling this gap and gaining experience, under the radar, since 2015. You can check out our case studies if you’re curious. While we recognized a real need in the market, we never had the infrastructure or the network to offer sponsorship services that we felt could work effectively and consistently for a broad range of clients across the region.

The good news is that as of now, we’re officially working side-by-side with our sister agency Mongoose Sports & Entertainment who are the PR and sponsorship experts within The MISSION Group. We combine their decades of global experience with ALIVE’s regional street credibility to offer a set of sponsorship tools for brands and rights holders in Asian markets. So whether companies are looking for a consultative audit to review their sponsorship proposition, or perhaps rights holders need a fresh perspective to expand their partner categories and unlock new opportunities for collaboration, we now have the tools and techniques to help them do that. And we can do all of that (and more) without a listicle!