How to elevate your next sponsorship with experiential marketing 

Guest column by Gavin Coffey, Global Digital Director at Because Experiential Marketing

Effective experiential marketing of your sponsorship must employ a fine-tuned method of storytelling in a balanced and concise manner to be successful.

Storytelling is at the heart of all good marketing, be it brand, product or service. Showing the world what you’re about, where you’ve been, where you are now and how you got here is vital to success.

When taking on a sponsorship you must be sure that the relationship will further this cause, and that both the brand and the property can leverage it in a mutually beneficial way.

Once you’ve weighed up the merits of all the property’s assets, the relevance to your audience and the credibility with which you can deliver, it’s time to channel your inner Roald Dahl to weave your individual stories together.

You now have three stories to tell, your brand, the property, and the reason you credibly align. Therein lies the nuance and intricacy of effective sponsorship amplification and activation – balance!

Knife edge

This balance teeters on a knife edge. You need to educate and entertain from your brand’s perspective, whilst tying your key messages to the sponsorship. And it works both ways: the property should leverage your assets for its own benefit too, with the financial element playing an obvious part.

Lazy sponsors will fall down here though – this isn’t just blanket advertising, you need to be more than just a logo on a banner. And that’s where experiential marketing comes in.

Clever brands will find a way to activate alongside the property, a mutually beneficial moment which excites, engages and enhances the experience for those attending.

Remember, they haven’t come to see you, don’t be naive enough to think you could or should try to overshadow the property. Understand that your role is to supplement the moment rather than replace it, and time is of the essence.


Time is precious; the more of it you ask for, the less you’re going to get. For example, asking consumers to stop and to take part in your four-minute VR game before they enter a theatre to watch a movie lessens your chance to engage them, and reduces the opportunity to momentarily distract them from the primary reason they’re there in the first place.

Your window of opportunity is small, so ensure your brand experience uses time economically.

A deep understanding of the need states and mindset of your audience at the point of contact is crucial. Are they in flux – moving from one point to another? Or is there dwell time which can be chomped on like a minute-eating version of Hungry Hippos?

In both states, you need to wow them to register any attention at all, and you must constantly innovate to cut through the white noise of the world.

“Go big or go home” is the mantra in high footfall areas where the audience is in flux. Bigger is always better, but budget or circumstance does not always permit it.

Eye-catching stunts or creating touch-and-go instant gratification experiences work best here when your target is time poor. Keep in mind, they might have minutes to fill at a later stage, so leaving a little reminder which they can catch up on is important.

You may only have them for five seconds now, but that can be multiplied later with a smart user experience. The most basic format to engage a time-poor audience is through sample, merchandise or high-impact visual stunt form.

The City of Cardiff Council installed a giant rugby ball into its iconic castle wall to mark the Rugby World Cup in 2015. It became one of the most photographed activations in the UK that year as rugby fans and passers-by snapped throughout the tournament.

Better Chance

In places where the audience is stationary, you have a better chance of engaging them in a more time-consuming experience. One-to-one ambassador chats, interactive screens, data capture, branding booths and gaming and more become a viable option. The audience is more relaxed and aligned to your influence.

Dulux’s sponsorship of the Color Run is a prime example of sponsorship activation at a property where the consumer is stationary pre-race (in ‘holding pens’) and post-race (at the Finish Party), open to brand engagement and immersed in the brand story.

Whether your audience is moving or not, the mindset and reasons they’ll enable you to amplify your sponsorship story and activity do not change. We can break them into three categories;

  • Emotional response– people engage, interact and amplify stories that evoke an emotional response. With emotions on the wide ends of the spectrum garnering the most attention; humour, happiness, love to rage, hatred, fear and disgust. If your experiential can trigger an emotional response strong enough to make them share, and assuming it’s a positive sentiment, you’re doing the right thing.
  • Incentive– yes, we’re a greedy lot. If we feel there is a reward for engaging, we will. There’s a reason the word “WIN” is so heavily aligned to the “thumb-stopping” phenomena in social media. It’s not just gym lovers who are looking for gains.
  • OTB– the opportunity to brag is rooted in humanity’s inherent narcissism. The reason social media exists is to amplify our personal brand message to our peer network and beyond. “Look at what I’m doing, look at me showing you this, isn’t this great” is a modus operandi for social media sharing. If your experiential can deliver on the OTB then your sponsorship story and brand audience grow with it.

Creating experiences that lend themselves to a sponsorship is much more intricate than most would give credit for. Capturing your consumer’s attention and influencing their behaviours whilst balancing the brand and property messages means you must constantly sharpen the pencil you write your story with.

Gavin Coffey is the Global Digital Director at Because Experiential Marketing, a member of Entertainment for Business and host of the Because Masterclass taking place on March 27th


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