The challenge of benefitting from interaction at sponsor activations

Activating sponsorships, quite often include some sort of event where the brand has the opportunity to exploit the physical meeting between itself and an audience in order to create well sought after relationships, which in turn will justify the investment. It goes without saying, that the basic comfortabilities as food, shelter and entertainment ensure the backbone of a pleasant event, and positive perception of the sponsor. But if you want to create more than merely entertainment, then what elements will make the activation engaging, memorable and likeable – for everyone? The target group for a sponsor activation will generally be broader than that for the sponsor’s products, hence it is highly relevant to create content relevant for the whole audience.

At physical meetings with an audience – facilitated by brands in the form of sponsorship activations – it can be hard to fight the urge to brand every surface of the physical space, from where the meeting takes place, to ensure that logos and branded messages are available for the audience. This rashly necessity has occurred on a whim that it won’t be evident, who the sponsor of the activation is. It might create improved awareness, if the audience manage to get anything out of the activation, otherwise it is dubious whether people will remember an area plastered with branded content, since they are overthrown with brands every day. In turn, an activation taken place within a branded area, might have difficulties creating likeability or preference for the brand, unless something else is added.

Unfortunately, this is here some project planners fall short. You have the branded area and you have the comfortabilities, now it is up to people to have their own great time, right? The obvious possibility provided by the physical meeting between brand and audience, is the unique opportunity to create/strengthen relations through physical interaction. The brand needs to distinguish the overall communicated message, and how it is activated, in order to achieve the preferred relations.

 

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Within the activation audience, individuals from one or more product target groups have hopefully  found their way to participate in the activation. Through other communication channels, the sponsor would use cleverly crafted branded messages and pre scripted talking points designed to directly influence these target groups – so why not continue this strategy at an activation? While this strategy can be utilized through physical interaction – where the branded messages are communicated through a point of contact to the audience, it is ultimately only received and comprehended by participants within the product target groups, hence it only ensures interest and interaction within this limited amount of participants. Unless the product target groups represent the majority of the audience, it is inexpedient to ignore the part of the audience that lies outside the product target groups, and thereby ignore possible relationships with the brand.

An alternative or addition to creating interaction through pre-determined branded messages and scripted talking points, is the concept of personification. By exploiting personification, the point of contact uses selected participants from the audience and use the context of the activation and their personal motive for participation to co-create content that resonates with the whole audience. The personalized content carries more weight and relevance that those of branded messages, since a larger portion of the audience (including the product target groups) will be able to relate, since they themselves experience the brand and activation in the same context. This strategy requires a clear organizational agenda based on the overall message, from which the interaction can take its departure and enable participants to enact the agenda instead of receiving it through classic communication. Thus, personalized content carries the possibility of interaction with a whole audience, while branded content only addresses participants within the target audience.

What is left to discuss, is whether the point of contact should be branded or non-branded. The evident choice is to create interaction with a branded point of contact, since they will serve as a direct extension of the brand. By extending the brand through a point of contact at an activation, it allows the sponsor’s identity to be overtly present.

However, by bringing in a non-branded point of contact for an activation, it enables the creation of authentic and spontaneous engagement. The personalized content does not need to be facilitated by a branded point of contact, since a visual connection with the brand is unnecessary, in order to take departure in the overall agenda, and create the desired interaction. Arguably, it is possible to achieve awareness and recognition, as well as creating relationships, through a non-branded point of contact. This is due to the fact that focus should be on the co-created personalized content, which creates urgency and authenticity – non-achievable through the static use of pre-determined branded messages.

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