One of the most challenging tasks for an event organiser today is gathering fitting brands to sponsor their event, similarly a brand too is always on the lookout to spend advertising money in the right space to engage its core target audience effectively. With experiential marketing properties, be it large or small, popping up every now and then in the country, for both event organisesr as well as brands, the online sponsorship marketplace seems like a viable option to explore opportunities that can be mutually beneficial.
For a couple of years now, online sponsorship startups have come in to being to bridge this gap between organisers and brands. On these platforms, brands can assess and earmark marketing budgets for experiential marketing opportunities to engage their core target audience. Similarly these platforms also help event managers and experiential marketing organisers to list their activations in lookout for brand sponsorships and partnerships. But how strong is the online market for sponsorships in India? And do marketers find online sponsorship platforms a feasible option to park their marketing and advertising spends?
Tenzing Niyogi, Business Development Director, India, Sponsorium International believes that it is imperative to filter or evaluate the unsolicited and untargeted proposals coming a CMO and his team’s way and Online Sponsorship platforms places various optional properties/ events/ sponsorship packages in a marketplace model. It becomes a two way street where events makers/ sellers congregate to avail sponsorships requests.
Hitesh Gossain, CEO, Onspon.com says that the answer is same as that for online real estate search, travel booking or online matchmaking search about 15 years back. There was always a demand but people were not looking online for it and were looking at ‘agencies’; which were utilizing information arbitrage as a way of making money without adding any significant value. Mr Gossain further adds, “we aim to break the barriers of information arbitrage and make this decision based on knowledge arbitrage which can be resolved easily by brand stakeholders / agencies.”
Nitin Bajaj, Founder, SponsifyMe.com, has a different thought. He feels that the online market for sponsorships has just started to shape up as there is a strong channel shift that is happening these days where in traditional business models are shifting to online commerce, which is same for online sponsorship marketplace. Mr Bajaj says, “marketers who are using online marketplaces are finding it easier to identify the right events and opportunities with few clicks online and hence it is easier for them to use it and explore it further. With brands competing on digital front majority of brands are now entering experiential marketing space.”
According to Statista, the total market size for sponsorships is 55 billion dollars with North America being the biggest market with 20 billion dollars and Asia around 12.5 billion dollars. Most of the above entrepreneurs believe, with the advent of online medium; and the need for reaching out to the customers in right geographies in the right way; online search, evaluation and engagement for right sponsorships is set to grow and develop.
Are sponsorship startups eating up agency services?
Agencies on record, be it public relations or activations, have always been the ones that have notified brands of external IPR opportunities and have pushed marketers to spend or park advertising monies with annual properties. With the growth of ad- tech startups such as Onspon, SponsifyMe or Sponsorium, do agencies lose out on one of the services in their offering?
Mr Bajaj says, “like the idea of online commerce eating into traditional retail stores was floated earlier, but retail businesses grew through ecommerce. We as a platform are a complement to the services that event planners and communication executives provide to their clients. We are enabler of business by providing them extended and faster reach and by using technology we help them evaluate the right event opportunities and hence by using our platform or any other platform the event planners and communication executive can actually consult their clients better.”
It seems the way job portals have actually helped recruitment agencies; and online real- estate marketplaces have helped consumer interfacing organizations achieve better engagement parameters; online sponsorship marketplaces has helped communication executives in reducing time-to-market and better decision making for clients. Event planners have started engaging with brands directly by increasing their brand outreach multi-fold without investing in their fixed infrastructure.
Mr Niyogi feels that business is still very agency driven as far as option gathering is concerned for a brand. Brands nowadays are keen to look at newer platforms which reduces time and increases efficiency. The rapid adoption of technology has been re-defining the way we do things. No sooner than later, the ability to provide multiple layers of options will surge ahead than a singular entity providing information.
All the players feel that sponsorship startups will be in demand more due to their real-time data mining and analytics, which might see newer collaborations between agencies and start-ups in the future. It makes economical sense from the promoters and right holders perspective to achieve multiple client touch points with leading brands with pre-screened client criteria which essentially means more engagement with minimal effort.
In 2015, the game changing trends that Mr Niyogi saw were exposure and customisation as sponsorship no longer is attaching a corporate name to a property. Rather a triangle of association between the sponsor, the event and the passionate fan or consumer in case of brand activations.
On the other hand Mr Bajaj says, “several companies have entered into event sponsorship as a medium to engage their target audience like OYO Rooms, UBER, OLA Cabs, Peppertap, BigBasket. All these young companies have entered the route of event sponsorship for brand building and creating experiences around their brand. Companies like Pepsi, Coke, automotive brands and alcohol brands are highly active in event sponsorship. Hence, the trends are in positive direction as far as market opportunity is concerned.”
In the next half decade, the space will become a competitive marketplace as cloud based systems which build thousands of cross-referenced reports and access a real-time dashboard of a brands portfolio will bring about the need to approach each sponsor systematically.
Mr Niyogi explains, “brands in the western part of the globe have embraced the method of scoring sponsorship proposals against criteria’s and brand KPI’s. This majorly assists in understanding how well the sponsorship needs meet the overall brand objectives. Similarly, with the insurgence of proposal monitoring systems and online sponsorship markets in India, brands will have the micro view of the eco-system to decide where to invest marketing budgets and the data will be the brand’s to manage, share and evaluate for progressive sponsorship.”
There will be a strong demand generation from brands which is currently very passive, feels Mr Gossain, as sponsorships and event partnership will become a vital part of marketing budgets. “Niche categories like luxury, baby products, gadgets, apps, banking services, will be the ones which will use sponsorships very extensively – like the way they do in the western world. Adding to the same will be ‘experiential led’ purchased categories like real estate, speciality electronics, automotive etc.”
Mr Bajaj says that there will be a steep rise in online sponsorship market as the space is evolving in India and many startups and established firms are using this route as a medium for communication. “We feel that startups working in this space should focus more on event validation, valuation and right metrics for ROI measurements which could bring more marketers to use the platform in near future, as this is lacking at present.”