Experts for Optimy: Talking about internal sponsorship activation

Here at Optimy we love sharing ideas and inspirations on how to make the best out of your sponsorship or grant activities. So why not having experts from the field joining our mission? Today we hand it over to Joachim Lange, who will share his view on the importance of internal sponsorship activation. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, he knows exactly that sponsorships are not only a marketing activity.

Now over to Joachim:

Sponsorship as a marketing discipline has seen tremendous growth over the past twenty years. In the mid-Nineties, when I entered the industry and was put in charge of Ford’s sponsorship portfolio in Germany which included UEFA Champions League and Formula One, brand exposure and hospitality were the main objectives for most brands getting involved. Since then, not only budgets, but also the scope of activation and levels of professionalism in the industry have increased drastically.

However, one area that continues to be underutilized by a large number of sponsors is internal activation. While those in charge spend a fair amount of resources on defining and reaching external B2B- or B2C audiences, they fall short when it comes to leveraging the sponsorship assets for their company’s employees. As a consequence, they do not only miss an easy opportunity to motivate and instill pride in their own colleagues, they also neglect to turn them into brand ambassadors vis-a-vis their family, friends and communities. In times of the much-quoted „war for talent“, this may prove to be a costly miss indeed.

Optimy: What is internal sponsorship activation and which are the most efficient ways to activate employees internally? Do you have any examples?

Joachim: In my view, internal sponsorship activation revolves around three areas: information, participation and motivation.

It is key that employees are informed and do understand what the objectives for any given sponsorship are, i.e. why the company or the brand decided to get involved. Participation can take many different forms, from special discounts on merchandise that help to visually communicate the partnership to presenting the sponsorship partner in employee events such as town hall meetings. Motivation is about making „money can’t buy opportunities“ available to employees that go beyond their duties or exceed their objectives.

Optimy: Are there markets or sectors where internal activation is more common and maybe even more advanced?

Joachim: From my experience, travels and research I have experienced that in the United States or within global corporations of US origin, internal programs are an integral part of most sponsorships. This may be down to the fact that employee fluctuation tends to be higher there and that involvement is the key to loyalty.

Optimy: What are the external and internal benefits of an increased employee engagement in sponsorship activities? How can you measure them (KPIs)?

Joachim: Somewhat simplistically, employees that not only understand what their company does in the area of marketing and communication but also why they’re doing it tend to be „on board“ more. As a result, it increases employee satisfaction and pride which in turn leads to greater loyalty and ultimately commitment. That is why I think internal activation is worth every penny of investment in this area. Some of the KPIs are employee retention, satisfaction and engagement rates.

Optimy: Where do you see the reasons for this oftentimes missed opportunity to leverage the internal business benefits of a sponsorship? What are the barriers?

Joachim: Sometimes, the explanation is as simple as employee loyalty is considered a given – which could not be further from the truth. Nowadays, perceived „soft facts“ such as corporate attitude and behaviour and corporate social responsibility in general are just as important to potential recruits as compensation elements. Other barriers such as tax regulations with regard to employee benefits in certain countries can be dealt with and solutions be found.

Optimy: How can the sponsorship and HR departments cooperate and communicate more efficiently to meet both external marketing goals and the internal employee performance objectives?

Joachim: One of the advantages of sponsorship as a communication discipline over other forms such as advertising is its relevance to the entire organization beyond marketing, sales and communications. „Employer Branding“ is a typical example that brings – at least – these departments and HR to the same table. This should not be an afterthought but happen at the very start or even before that when sponsorship programs are being evaluated against corporate objectives. Tools and technologies such as the Optimy software help to manage these processes efficiently and transparently in order to reap all benefits the sponsorship program provides.

In a nutshell: Our Takeaways

#1 Don’t consider employee loyalty a given! Employees need to be able to identify with your corporate values in order to be on board.

#2 Internal sponsorship activation can increase your employee’s satisfaction which may in return lead to greater commitment and better performance.

#3 Employer Branding happens at the start: Keep your HR goals in mind when choosing your sponsorship programs.

#4 Optimy can help you choose the right sponsorship projects that align your HR and marketing objectives.

About Joachim Lange:    


Joachim Lange started his career at Ford Motor Co in 1984. He held Marketing and Sales management positions in Germany, England and in the US. As Sales Promotion Manager, he was in charge of the automaker’s sponsorship portfolio in Germany (UEFA Champions League, F1, misc. club sponsorships, arts & culture). Since 2000, the MBA graduate of London Business School has worked for rights holders (Head of Marketing & Sales at 1. FC Koeln) and agencies (Global Head of Sponsoring at Ogilvy & Mather). In 2013, he started his own business COMASCO, advising individuals, brands and organizations on sponsorship strategy, activation and controlling.