The Long-Lasting Impact of Sponsorships



The 2015 Champions League Final

The UEFA Champions League final will be broadcasted to a global audience of around 360 million people. It is one of the pinnacle events of the most popular sport in the world and is a stage for two of Europe’s best teams and some of the world’s best players to demonstrate their skills, passion and will to win.

For the eight official sponsors, it is the culmination of a minimum eight month association with the tournament and the last chance to leverage their sponsorship assets to drive organisational performance. They call this sponsorship activation. Sponsorship activation for the Champions League begins with the negotiation with UEFA over what their sponsorship will involve and is seen throughout their campaign whenever their brand is associated with the tournament.  

What value are sponsors looking to get out of the partnership?

When Nissan became an official sponsor last year, they gave several reasons why sponsorship of the tournament was such an exciting opportunity for them. These spoke of: a global stage for people to see their brand; showing people the excitement of football and cars; a platform to showcase their cars in front of four billion TV viewers; and the chance to reach new audiences they wouldn’t normally1.

Another Champions League sponsor, Unicredit, identified the following key benefits from their Champions League package to date when deciding to renew ahead of this season:

  • Six percentage point increase in aided brand awareness
  • Effective sales conversion and leads
  • Extensive media exposure
  • Steady improvement in propensity to buy2


What all these reasons and benefits share in common is that they are externally facing. This means that they focus on customers and are targeted at changing customer behaviour or customer perception of their brand as a way to increase sales or market share.  

What value are sponsors missing out on from the sponsorship?

What the reasons and benefits referred to above lack is any mention of an organisation’s most important asset: their people. Sponsorship activation aimed directly at engaging and enabling their employees is referred to as internal activation.

Our excitement about internal activation of sponsorship emerged through our involvement with sponsors of London 2012. Working with these organisations ahead of The Games, we were able to use Olympic values, language and insights from how athletes, teams and nations achieve Olympic level performance in our leadership and team development programmes with them. We were also able to leverage their sponsorship assets by using talks by Olympians and coaches within these programmes and give employees experiences they otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to have.


The result:

  • 15% increase in employee engagement with Coca Cola
  • 9% rise in in a customer service KPI with BT
  • Employee engagement score of 83% following programme with Lloyds TSB 


Wanting to build on this work with sponsors of other events, we were surprised to find that internal activation is not common practice. In an enlightening piece of research that we carried out with Synergy through YouGov last year, we found that using sponsorships to drive employee engagement and performance is a largely untapped opportunity. Surveying 50 leading companies (of whom 40% had a turnover of at least £1 billion, and with a median sponsorship spend of £5 million), we found that internal activation through sponsorship is often either low priority, or not considered at all. Indeed, many leaders questioned were completely unaware of the potential for using sponsorship in this way.

This is particularly surprising because in addition to a long list of impacts on organisational performance, employee engagement has the potential to impact on some of the external benefits that sponsorship activation targets. KPI’s such as customer satisfaction and revenue growth are positively affected and often in a more long-term and sustainable manner than if solely achieved through sponsorship activation. External activation will always be the key focus when planning a sponsorship campaign, but we believe that organisations could vastly increase a sponsorship’s value by putting thought and planning into using their assets with their people.

The Champions League final on Saturday is undoubtedly a fantastic opportunity for a brand to associate with one of the biggest sports events in the world. The improvement in public awareness and perception of the brand is clearly worth the investment. We would just encourage organisations to keep their employees front of mind when planning their sponsorship campaigns in order to truly maximise their sponsorship deal's potential. 





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