SponsorLive 2019: The European Sponsorship Association Summit – Key Takeaways
by Sophie Morris
Sophie Morris, ESA Board Director and Director of Millharbour Marketing, looks back on the European Sponsorship Association Summit, which took place 28-29 March 2019
18th April 2019, 10:33

By Sophie Morris, ESA Board Director and Director of Millharbour Marketing
SponsorLive: The European Sponsorship Association Summit took place 28-29 March 2019.

Now in its fifth year, SponsorLive partnered with ESA to create Europe’s must-attend sponsorship conference. In my role of concluding and closing the event on behalf of ESA, I noted the key takeaways of each session, which I have summarised for you below.

Vincent-Baptiste Closon, Head of International Sponsoring, BNP Paribas

We Are Tennis: Building a Worldwide Long Term Sponsorship Connection to Tennis

Vincent-Baptiste took us through the history of their sponsorship in tennis, starting back in 1973 right through to the present day and their ‘We Are Tennis’ proposition which they purposefully created away from the main brand.

The We Are Tennis channels have 2m followers and so allow BNP Paribas to engage with that audience in a non-corporate way

They are also seeking to modernise the spectator experience, which in tennis is typically quite reserved. Vincent-Baptiste sees a clear role for sponsors in the development of the sports they support and he is doing this through community projects, inspiring more children to try tennis. Employees are not forgotten with a special ‘We Are Tennis cup’ for internal staff, with 2,500 taking part in the competition.

Edel McCarthy, Electric Ireland

Case Study: Darkness Into Light – ESA Sponsorship of the Year & CSR Partnership award

Edel’s presentation was a great call for more sponsors to engage in cause related marketing and sponsorship.

Electric Ireland operates in a highly competitive and small market. They use sponsorship to create staff pride and become a compelling employer brand, to reassure existing customers and drive consideration amongst new ones. Their portfolio is diversified across three areas – Music with Electric Picnic, Sports with GAA and Charity with Pieta House.


It was the charity sponsorship that Edel took us through at SponsorLive.

Her advice for brands considering working with a charity is to take time to learn and understand the cause, especially with sensitive issues, while being realistic about what you can achieve and how quickly

The main challenge Electric Ireland wanted to tackle was to change the conversation around suicide and ‘wake people up to the reality of suicide’. Their support of the ‘Darkness into Light’ event provided significant shifts in commercial and colleague related metrics, but most important was the impact of the sponsorship on the number of people participating in the event, the funds raised and the reduction in suicides over the same time scale

Nick Read, Commercial Director, Vitality

Case Study: Inspiring Healthier Lives Through Sports Sponsorship

Vitality are also aiming to change lives by building a wellness ecosystem that rewards its customers’ healthy lifestyle choices. Nick told of the network of partners that Vitality has acquired to deliver lifestyle benefits that nudge behaviour. Customers using this rewards programme doubled their number of ‘activity days’ per month and increased the amount of healthy food in their weekly shopping by 19%.

Vitality have a large sports sponsorship portfolio that is used for brand awareness to promote the brand and this programme, for employee engagement and for creating VIP customer experiences.

Christian Voigt, VP of Marketing Development, International Olympic Committee

Keynote: The Olympic TOP Programme

Christian gave an excellent overview of the Olympic Partners programme and an understanding of the level of commercial revenue received from sponsorship and broadcast at $5.7bn, with 90% of that invested back into sport.

Partnering brands also benefit from a 90% brand awareness of the Olympic rings and 70% unprompted awareness of the Olympic values – a very strong movement to associate with. It’s also quite unique in the fact that the field is ‘clean’ of logos – at first glance this could be frustrating for some sponsors, but actually ensures there is no clutter and clutter can be a key deterrent for some potential sponsors.

Panel Discussion: Secrets of Success in Sport & Entertainment Sponsorship

• Dan Mathieson, Head of Sponsorship, Barclaycard
• Mehdi Hemici, VP & GM, International Consumer Benefits & Partnerships, AccorHotels
• Delphine Baise, Chapter & Expert Lead Sponsoring Events & Field, ING Belgium
• Cathrine Instebø, Head of Sponsorship, Equinor
• Axel Lintermans, Vice President – Head of Sponsorships Europe, Mastercard
• Moderator: Paul Samuels, Executive Vice President, AEG Global Partnerships

The panel was asked what is the best approach for rights holders to present their opportunities to sponsors.

Mehdi Hemici advised rights holders to do their homework, understand the business, its needs and when the ‘sweet spot’ of investment will come up. Outside of that window, very few decisions will be made. Data is also key, be sure what data you control and what you can offer to sponsors.

Answering on diversity, Delphine Baise called for diversity in sponsorship programmes and activation, but only where it’s relevant. Sponsors should not use women in their activations just because it is ‘trendy’, but because it is relevant to the end audience and the brand.

Cathrine Instebø also called for more female role models in sport. The community programmes that Equinor runs engage both boys and girls equally in their activities.

Dan Mathieson also spoke of relevance and purpose in sponsorship. It’s not just about putting a logo above a stage, but having a real and relevant reason to be there. 

Tom van Kuyk, Sponsorship Strategist, Rabobank

How To Win Sponsorship Gold

Tom explained the relevance of local groups and associations in the Netherlands and that, by identifying this and supporting those smaller groups, Rabobank is closer to its customers than if they just supported elite sports and cultural events. As a co-operative, Rabobank allocates two thirds of its communications budget to supporting local sponsorships.

He took us through three activation examples:

• The Volley Bowl
• What’s Happening – Lowlands
• Brasserie 2050

Marco Nazzari, Managing Director Europe, Nielsen Sports

Global Commercial Trends in Sports and the Impact on The European Sponsorship Industry

Of Nielsen’s 6 commercial trends, Marco took us through three: Clutter and Complexity, Entertainment Value and Economics of Live Experiences.

He observed that bigger events are getting bigger, smaller ones are getting more numerous and the middle ground is getting squeezed – finding it harder to seek investment.

New formats are being created to provide more commercial opportunities and live experiences are being developed to increase fan engagement. ‘Festivalisation’ in Formula 1, for example, has seen music events join the racing schedule.

Rhys Beer, Live Sports Partnerships & Programming EMEA. Facebook

The Sponsorship Revolution

Rhys started his presentation with the usual impressive figures we’ve come to expect from Facebook – 2.23bn people using Facebook each month, with 700m of which identifying as sports fans. He also showed us how popular media events, such as record football signings and kit launches, have changed over the last 20 years – from a standard photo, to ‘branded content’ music collaborations with leading artists released exclusively on Facebook.

Laurent Lachaux, Commercial Director, ASO

The Business of Le Tour De France

Laurent shared the commercial strategy behind the Tour de France – of particular interest to the SponsorLive audience, as Le Tour’s ‘Grand Depart’ takes place in Brussels in July this year.

When asked how he keeps the relationship with sponsors fresh, he advised on having a thorough debrief every year and being very straightforward with each other.


Arnaud Hanset, Director Europe West, AbInBev

Bringing People Together For a Better World

As the last speaker of the day, Arnaud reminded us that sponsorship needs to be part of a wider brand strategy that connects with an audience’s passion points. 

His five asks for rights holders are: customer data and innovation, access to athletes, focus on new media channels, to think like a producer and a commitment to results.

Belgian Sponsorship Awards

The SponsorLive Summit ended with the recognition of the best sponsorships in Belgium:

Best Sponsorship Activation

Gold – ING with ING Red
Silver – BNP Paribas Fortis with Purple Cam
Bronze – Carrefour with We stick #RedTogether

Best Sponsorship

Gold – AG Insurance with AG Antwerp 10 Miles & Marathon
Silver – ING with ING Music
Bronze – AG Insurance with Stop Darmkanker

Coup de Coeur du Jury

Belfius with New Sponsorship Strategy

Best of Belgium

ING Belgium with ING Red