IEG held its 35th annual sponsorship conference this past week in Chicago. As always, it was chock-filled with content. Spread out over three days, over 900 people attended the conference and heard from executives like Al Guido - President of the San Francisco 49ers, Erika Nardini -CEO of Barstool Sports and Pat LaCroix – Head of Global Media and Alliances for Bose. Topics spanned sponsorship, brand identity and motivational aspects, but the most interesting part was the social enterprise piece.
More than ever, sport teams and brands are looking to integrate (CSR, community relations, social enterprise, social partnerships… call it what you may) within their overall business. This was evident by the breadth of people in attendance at IEG. There were executives from non-profits, community relations people, sports philanthropy professionals and more. Erin Combs, Senior Manager of Community Partnerships for Starbucks Coffee spoke and led a great conversation around social partnerships.
T-Mobile’s VP of Sponsorship, Meredith Starkey, spoke about the company’s crown jewel activation… HR4HR. Through its partnership with MLB, T-Mobile donated $10,000 for every homerun hit in the 2017 MLB Playoffs (later upped to $20,000) and $1 for every tweet with the hashtag #HR4HR (later upped to $2). In total, the company donated over $2.7 million to hurricane relief (the latter HR piece). With a positive net sentiment of 84%, a full 20 points higher than the previous month, this demonstrated that integrating cause within partnership is critical and needed in today’s world.
When you include the round table sessions that focused on maximizing local partnerships, increasing the value of sports partnership with social good overlays, aligning brands between non-profits and corporate partners and giving back through team partnerships, it’s obvious that this is a key focus across the sports and sponsorship world.
What’s the takeaway? No longer can brands focus on simply the business at hand. Sports teams and brands are corporate citizens who must play a role in improving our communities and helping strangers. It’s not a “nice to have,” but rather a necessity. At the same time, non-profits and community partners must get better at amplifying its brand and providing value to corporate partners. Stop thinking of themselves as non-profits so that it can be a mutually beneficial partner that adds business value across the board. Only then, can we take CSR/CR/social enterprise to the next level.