Why backing Blackpool could put my business in the Premier League

Online money lender Wonga has made a radical departure from its usual marketing activity to secure shirt sponsorship of Blackpool Football Club in their debut season in the Premiership. Founder and chief executive Errol Damelin explains to Growing Business what he hopes to achieve


Online money lender Wonga has made a radical departure from its usual marketing activity to secure shirt sponsorship of Blackpool Football Club in their debut season in the Premiership. Founder and chief executive Errol Damelin explains to Growing Business what he hopes to achieve

There’s a strong affinity between our existing customers and football, but the chance to sponsor Blackpool FC in their first ever Premier League season was about putting our brand in front of a nationwide audience. Although this market is a broad one, it’s a good fit for Wonga. We provide a solution for occasional and short-term cashflow shortfalls – which is something that can affect anyone.

We started thinking about sponsorship when we decided that, in order to keep growing at the speed we have been, we needed to explore new avenues as well as evaluate the effectiveness of existing marketing activity. We were already looking at how well football fitted with the interests of our existing customers. Working with a sponsorship specialist, we looked at a number of clubs that were in search of a shirt sponsor. Blackpool seemed the perfect match from an early stage. 

Exciting prospect

We put a lot of time and effort into the negotiations, and it was clear to the club that we were genuinely excited by the prospect of getting involved. We were flexible in our expectations and demands, wanting to make sure that we secured certain objectives, while, at the same time, reaching an agreement that satisfied both parties. 

So, why the Seasiders? Well, we love what the club have achieved in just a few years, and their success mirrors the rapid rise of Wonga. Blackpool will be the smallest club in the league in a number of ways, but they’re big on passion and ambition (just like us!). So the deal is not about a customer acquisition opportunity in the region, but supporting a club that we expect to receive plenty of national interest.

Getting involved

The work isn’t over now the sponsorship deal has been secured. In order to make the most of it, we’ll be getting involved at a local level, helping to make it a memorable season for the fans and Blackpool in general. We’ll continue to work closely with the club, looking for stories and creating some talking points of our own.

We have lots of plans, but also remain open-minded and will keep evaluating what works best as the season progresses. We spend a great deal of time and effort analysing the results of all our marketing activity. So we’ll be tracking brand awareness and consumer attitudes over time. We expect improved awareness, credibility and interest in Wonga, which should also rub off on the performance of customer acquisition activity.

But although the sponsorship will play a key role in establishing awareness of Wonga over the next few years, we don’t expect to rely on this activity alone. It’s part of the mix, and we’ll continue strengthening our existing marketing strategy and trying new things. As an online lender, we do most of our marketing on the internet, through methods such as pay-per-click, natural search and working with lead generators. Customer acquisition will still be driven by such marketing activity, while the sponsorship is about really putting us on the map and helping to raise nationwide awareness. We do expect, though, that the high-profile platform will have a favourable impact on all of our marketing channels.

Beyond the shirt

The sponsorship has an internal impact, too. Everyone at Wonga is buzzing and we’re looking forward to supporting the club and accompanying them on what’s sure to be a rollercoaster ride of a season. Staff will have opportunities to attend matches and contribute new ideas about how we can engage with fans. So although this sponsorship is certainly a new direction for our marketing strategy, we’re confident we can make it work for us through realistic expectations, careful analysis of what works and some well thought out activity around it.

Our main goal is to go beyond the placing of our logo on the shirt of Blackpool’s players and help make the season enjoyable for the fans. This will allow us to ensure that our involvement with the club has real impact and is as memorable as possible.      

Sponsorship secrets

Make sure your sponsorship resonates with your target market and reflects your brand values. Accounting software firm bluQube sponsors sailing events and personalities. Marketing manager Mat Kirby says: “Sailing echoes our own company culture and it appeals to senior management and finance professionals. Matching up the most suitable sponsorship vehicle has really paid off. We’ve seen a 500% return on our original investment.”

Realise the work continues once the cheque is signed. Kirby advises: “Create a detailed 12-month plan that includes a list of all activities, whether it’s for PR or corporate hospitality. Also, get your staff involved from the start, so they can benefit, too, and generate interesting stories that help maintain continual contact with customers and prospects.”

Ensure you know exactly what you want to get out of the activity. Whether it’s attracting new customers, getting regulars to buy more or enhancing brand reputation, remember to benchmark and find ways of measuring the impact. Find out where customers are coming from, monitor media exposure and measure brand awareness. Get the best deal possible. Powwownow sponsored the Six Nations rugby last year, and had advertising around the stadium.

Chief executive Andy Pearce says: “I always book late to get the lowest price possible, and ensure the agency sends me excellent images so we can really extend the reach using PR and social media.” Smaller companies may also be able to pay in kind.

Be creative with the surrounding activity. Flybe has sponsored Exeter City FC for nine years. Director of marketing Simon Lilley says: “We’ve gone beyond appearing on shirts, such as launching the Flybe Community Cup, and providing football coaches for school competitions.”

 

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