TTG Insights: Canadian Sponsorship Forum 2015


Mike Spicer
, Associate Partner

The Canadian Sponsorship Forum is an annual institution in our industry showcasing the latest trends and research in sponsorship and experiential marketing. This year’s theme “Local Plays. Global Champions”, featured many international presenters – and a little international competition with delegates attending Canada’s first 2015 FIFA World Cup game. Here are a few key insights I picked up from this year’s conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

After taking in many presentations at the 2015 Canadian Sponsorship Forum which key learnings stood out?

As usual, there were many themes to this year’s presentations, I did my best to narrow it down to three messages which were fairly consistent throughout.

  • Act Locally – Consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with where they spend their time and money. While national and global partnerships bring brand awareness, it’s the delivery of tangible, local activation in your key markets that will actually influence consumer decision making.
  • Create Meaningful Content –With the amount of content available to consumers on a wide variety of platforms, your story better be meaningful, relevant and authentic story, or your consumer won’t see or re-broadcast your message. Your most powerful marketer is your customer. Engage them actively, find out what is important to them and do something that evokes an emotional response and they will amplify your message to an audience much larger than traditional advertising ever can.
  • Measurement and Evaluation are Crucial – It’s a theme that has been repeated for several years now. Brands and properties recognize the importance of measuring the impact and return of their sponsorship  activations, but still aren’t investing in it as often as they should. To add to that problem, many properties leave evaluation until the completion of the campaign or first year of a term as opposed to researching opportunities in depth prior to engaging in a partnership. Like my Dad taught me, measure twice, cut once. Measurement should happen at every step, allowing for adjustments to be made, decisions to be well-informed and partnerships to produce positive returns for both sides.

Which session left the biggest impression on you and why?

There were a number of fantastic presentations made at the Forum but the one which resonated the most with me was delivered by Airbnb’s Aaron Zifkin. The message of his presentation and, in fact, the message of the brand itself was to recognize the importance and power of human connection. Their guest’s stories are what build their brand. Stories of strangers-turned-family or lost friends reunited,  combined with striking imagery and inspiring scenes from across the globe; I couldn’t help but want to get online and book my next trip. If anyone wants to spend five minutes killing time, just visit their site and watch the short video clips that pass across the screen – good luck not getting a case of wanderlust.

How did you perform in the TSN street soccer tournament?

I was fairly confident that my performance on Thursday would provide the perfect appetizer to the World Cup opener on Saturday but the match proved to be less soccer and more cluster-ball as skills proved minimal outside the realm of trash talk. My squad was eliminated in the first round after a 1-0 loss, however, we may have been the biggest winners on the day as we secured the best seats in the pub, given our early exit, and thus the first beers of the day.

More importantly how were your cheerleading skills at the FIFA World Cup opening match: Canada vs China?

I didn’t have to do it on my own as a record 53,000+ poured into Commonwealth Stadium for the match. Everyone was decked out in their finest Canadian red and gave our women’s players loud and continued support, right up until the final whistle. For partners associated with FIFA and the WWC, take note, the country is passionately behind our team.

What was the most salient learning from CSF 2015 you will carry forward in your work with TTG?

The overwhelming theme of CSF Forum this year was the power and importance of experiential marketing and more importantly, creating the opportunity for a consumer to experience your brand on their terms, in a meaningful way. There were countless examples, from Bell taking their partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps outside of the stadium and into the community leagues through their “Show Soccer Some Love” campaign, to Mattel’s “Anytime is Game Time” campaign which provided unforgettable experiences to unsuspecting shoppers in Toronto.

Two simple facts to remember, 1) consumers on average are exposed to over five hundred brands every day and each one of them is hoping to grab your attention and hopefully, drive some kind of response 2) Over two-thirds of internet users go online “for no particular reason”, they are simply looking to be entertained. There are a lot of consumers who are increasingly educated and cynical about what brands are doing, so try providing them with true value or evoking an emotional response and yours may be the one brand they remember today.