Defining the Value of Sponsorship for Non-Traditional Rights Holders

What role do less traditional rights holders such as entertainment, retail and arts organisations play when it comes…


Emily Clark


Defining the Value of Sponsorship for Non-Traditional Rights Holders

For decades, sport has been the golden child of sponsorship. The goose that laid the golden egg, with more than 80% of sponsorship spend being invested in sport.

It’s not hard to see why, when as Australians, we continually talk about how sport is the foundation of our culture and our undisputed national pastime. So when it comes to investing in sponsorship, to align yourself with the things that Australians are most passionate about, sport becomes a no brainer, right?

The eyeballs, reach, awareness and profile are undeniable and despite the ill fortunes of our nation’s cricket and rugby teams of late, sport still demands the lion’s share of brand investment. But, sponsorship in this fragmented media market is becoming so much more than eyeballs, it’s in the experience.

This begs the question – what role do less traditional rights holders such as entertainment, retail and arts organisations play here? They don’t have the broadcast but they do have a physical (and I would argue, more meaningful) reach that rivals that of even the largest sporting organisations.

Consider major theme parks that see 6 million+ visitors pass through their gates every year, or better yet, major entertainment destinations that see up to 30 million people visiting their properties annually.

These numbers are staggering and present an enviable commercial proposition, particularly considering the MCG sees 3 million visitors in the same period.

So why have many of these organisations been late to the party when it comes to using sponsorship as a genuine business function to generate inbound revenue?

Over the last five years, we have helped to stimulate significant commercial growth for these non-traditional rights holders and surprisingly, our involvement is often the first formal steps these organisations have taken towards generating such a business function.

These entities understand the partnerships model (and even have a toe in the water in respect to out-of-home advertising assets or one-off pop up activations), but do not invest in a formal partnerships program because their ‘business as usual’ activity often generates far greater financial returns. In the case of an entertainment complex or casino, one can appreciate that the $500k-$1m odd in partnership revenue that could be earnt in the first year remains negligible in comparison to their gaming, F&B and hotel income.

But for many of these entertainment complexes, shopping centres, arts bodies and attractions, incremental revenue is not the only benefit to be gained here, in fact it is only a small piece of the total pie.

There are a number of indirect benefits that a well executed partnerships strategy can deliver for rights holders, their brand partners and consumers, which will eventually lead to powerful business outcomes. These include:

Driving Visitation  

For example a retail district’s partnership with a cultural icon to stimulate additional appeal and visitation at a peak traffic period; such as Disney’s integrated Christmas campaign at Melbourne Emporium, where a premium Mickey Mouse themed Christmas Tree was revealed in conjunction with Mickey Mouse themed high fashion artwork.

Enhance the Customer Experience  

The perfect fit brand partners have an exceptional ability to enhance the experience for the rights holder’s audience, creating longer dwell times, and influencing purchase behaviour. The Lounge enabled by Samsung at the Sydney Opera House is a good example where the very latest in Samsung technology is used to engage guests in an immersive and relevant technology experience.

Rewarding VIPs/Valued Customers

Engaging and rewarding customers through the things they’re passionate about is a great tactic to increase brand loyalty. For example The Star Entertainment Group invited a collection of VIP customers to a private cocktail event to witness the unveiling of a McLaren supercar in a bar on site at The Star Sydney.

Changing Band Association and Perception

A shopping centre’s partnership with a celebrity chef or restaurant chain can help reposition a retail hub into a cultural destination, all the while appealing to whole new audiences.

Procurement Efficiencies

Rights holders can grow a supplier into a larger, more integrated partner which returns partnership revenue for marketing assets. An example of this is American Express’ ownership of the Taronga Zoos Twilight Series, where AMEX receive pre-release ticketing, express lanes for members, and exclusivity within payments systems.

I look forward to seeing more of these new world rights holders capitalise on partnerships to drive these outcomes and start to challenge the saturated sporting market. Afterall, greater competition and more options provide greater value for brands and will work to take the industry forward as a whole.



Bastion is a truly integrated, full-service marketing and communications agency founded in 2009. We are Australia’s largest independent agency, with an ambition to achieve the same feat in the USA.

We offer a wide breadth of specialist capabilities across the communications spectrum including market research, brand and creative, advertising, corporate and change communications, PR and social media, digital and customer experience (CX), sponsorship and experiential, film and content production, merchandise, Asia marketing and communications, data analytics and panel management.