The terms sponsorship and strategic partnership are often used interchangeably by properties and brand executives. However, there is a fundamental difference that if understood can be leveraged. Sponsorships are formed around the simple exchange of value. A brand will pay a property through cash and in kind contribution to secure a set of rights that they believe will help to achieve their objectives. Access to the property brand, signage, activation space through which the property’s target audience can be engaged, these are the assets that a brand will assess and assign value to. Strategic partnerships, conversely, are founded on the premise that two organizations will work together and borrow from each other to deliver joint elevation of the respective brands.
Where sponsorships can be executed on easily and the relationship managers can always return to the contract for clarity on commitments and deliverables, strategic partnerships must be constantly worked at. If you have to go back to the contract to resolve an issue, you aren’t working in a strategic partnership. These relationships can deliver exponentially greater value than sponsorships if businesses consider the extent to which a partnership can help to solve a major business challenge or achieve goals that are seemingly impossible.
Properties that have typically approached brands as sponsors would do well to take a step back, assess their objectives and determine where a brand partner might be able to help them achieve key objectives through partnership in a way that would never be possible if they simply cut a cheque. As a property, ask yourself what your current and target customer is looking for and then assess who might be able to deliver on those needs.