Sponsorship Value Lies in Being Invaluable

August 30, 2023 Sponsorship Value Lies in Being Invaluable

As sports fans’ eyes have done their annual turn to the Flushing Meadows tennis courts for the US Open, the role of longtime USTA partner IBM again comes into focus.

Just as it does at The Masters golf major each spring and Wimbledon, another tennis grand slam event, every summer, the technology giant plays an integral role in both the complex operations of the tournaments, as well as their fan engagement efforts.

For decades, these and other partnership platforms have been showcases for IBM’s technology—from developing their first websites in the 1990s to now deploying the latest AI applications to deliver unprecedented amounts of data and insights to information-hungry fans.

Although it may be easy for other marketers to shy away from trying to emulate IBM’s sponsorship success, citing the company’s incomparable role as a technology service provider, its partnerships demonstrate some bedrock principles that any sports or entertainment marketer could benefit from following.

Chief among them is the idea of providing value to fans, consumers and other stakeholders. And not just the type of value that comes from offering the chance to win tickets, merchandise or a VIP experience.

IBM and other successful sponsors make themselves indispensable. They adhere to the well-worn but still relevant adage that sponsorship activation works best when it positively answers the question: Would you be missed if you left?

In fact, the US Open has long been home to other partners that have made themselves invaluable to patrons, most notably American Express and its discounted bag check and free earpiece radios for cardholders, as well as Chase and its Chase Pass program providing lounge access and other benefits to all customers.

While those on-site amenities meet some elemental needs of fans, there is a larger opportunity for brand partners to become indispensable by meeting the higher-level desire for information around sports, music and events that people are passionate about.

Although not every company can develop data-driven content and power the property platforms that share it, as IBM does, partnering with the developers and distributors of similar information serves much the same purpose.

Consider the sources that supply your personal feeds of news, alerts and updates on your favorite teams, athletes and artists. Many carry advertising that is easily scrolled past or ignored. But the opportunity exists for brands to become more integrated partners with those content providers, whether they are the property’s owned channels or media entities such as ESPN, The Athletic or many others.

Once they can establish their role as integral to the information that feeds fandom, fantasy/betting, community, etc., they will have earned that indispensable status and would indeed be missed if they left—giving them every reason not to depart any time soon.