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Jim Andrews: The Sponsorship Industry Is On The Cusp Of Change

SportsPro, February 27, 2012

By James Emmett

Jim Andrews is senior vice president of content strategy at sponsorship intelligence company IEG. With two decades of sponsorship experience, Andrews is responsible for the content direction of IEG’s publications and trainings, including its flagship biweekly newsletter, IEG Sponsorship Report, and the IEG Webinar Series. Among his responsibilities is oversight of IEG’s annual report and forecast of overall sponsorship spending and the biggest spending companies, as well as the company’s surveys on industry compensation and the opinions of sponsorship decision-makers.

What was your first job?

Well, it was actually with IEG. My entire career has been here, which is very unusual these days. I’ve been here 24 and a half years now. My first job was as a writer on our newsletter – IEG Sponsorship Report.

What brought you into the sponsorship industry and what do you enjoy about it?

I sort of fell into it. I had a journalism degree and was looking for someone to hire me to write for them and all of the trade publications I was looking at this was certainly a fascinating industry. I thought I’d love to write about sports and entertainment and things like that, but didn’t really know much about it and hadn’t really paid attention to it. But, hey, not a lot of people were paying attention to sponsorship in 1987. Just a handful, like our founders here. I’ve really enjoyed growing up with the industry over the past 25 years and watching it completely transform from what it was in the late ‘80s to what it is now.

What’s the single biggest challenge that you currently face in your job?

I would have to say, and I have to say it without sounding like I’m bragging about IEG, it’s the challenge of educating the people in business – whether it’s sponsors or rightsholders – about the need for sponsorship to grow up and have more accountability around it, and to treat it more seriously. It almost seems funny to say that when you’re talking about an industry that’s now worth tens of billions of dollars, but we still find that there are still both companies and rightsholders that don’t take sponsorship as seriously as they should for the money they’re spending or getting from it. And that’s a frustration that everybody at IEG feels.

What do you see as the single biggest challenge facing the sponsorship industry?

Maintaining relevance. And I think that’s twofold. It’s internally – to make sure that there’s accountability behind these expenditures, that we’re treating these sponsorships as investments, doing the research beforehand to make sure they’re right, and doing the research afterwards to make sure we got what we paid for. That’s one way to be relevant. And then of course externally you have to maintain the relevance to the target audience, whether that’s a B2B or B2C audience. You have to make sure that sponsorships aren’t just wallpaper, that they aren’t ignored, that they actually have some meaning to the people that you’re trying to reach with them.

Can you point to any key trends you’ve seen in the industry over the last twelve months?

I think number one, and we’ll be talking a lot about it at this year’s conference, is this idea of the sponsors really focusing on access to content through their partnerships, and really using content for paid, owned and earned media. It’s great stuff to have in getting people more interested in interacting with you through social media. It’s a great platform for advertising and promotions. You’re bringing people to your own marketing channels, your own website.

We were just talking with one of our keynoters from AT&T the other day and he was saying that they’re now thinking about what is the next evolution of content. He said ‘I’m not interested in behind the scenes video anymore, because everybody gives me that now. What are my consumers going to be looking for when we’re talking about content that I can access through my sports partnerships?

Can you point to one brand that’s really getting sports sponsorship right at the moment?

Red Bull does wonderful things. They’re almost an island to themselves because they do it so differently from everyone else. If we’re looking for an example for others to follow, there are a number, but I think Coca-Cola is one that’s really doing a good job right now, in terms of thinking about these things a little bit differently than they have before. They’re still doing the standard sponsorship things such as running adverts during broadcasts. But what we saw them do around the World Cup in 2010, and the commissioning of the waving flag song and using that as a social media platform that just exploded for them in terms of the engagement it had with consumers all over the world was fantastic. Most people would define what they had pretty narrowly as ‘a sports sponsorship’, but they turned that into something much more. They made sure that they got their money’s worth out of that property by really leveraging it to the hilt. I think Coke does an excellent job of that.

What can we expect to learn from this year’s conference?

I think what the attendees are going to learn is what they need to know to be in this business next year and the year after that. We really, truly believe that the business is fundamentally changing. It’s not changing fast enough in our minds, but it is changing! Some of these brands, like the companies we have speaking, really do get it and they’re embracing new ways of measurement and determining return on their investment. They’re doing today what everybody’s going to have to be doing tomorrow. If you really want to say ‘we’re going to be a sponsor that’s successful in 2013 and 2014’ , that’s what we’re hopefully going to teach you next month in 2012.