The view from the top: A CEO’s perspective on the business benefits of sponsorship
Marketing Directors are well sold on the benefits brought about by strategic sponsorship. The view from the boardroom, however, can often be more sceptical. To understand more about the impact of sponsorship on the business and the bottom line we spoke with Trevor Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of Stelrad Group plc, proud sponsors of the Newcastle Falcons.
Tell us about your sponsorship journey to become the principal partner of the Newcastle Falcons.
For our plumbing and heating business, we have a lot of customers in the trade. What we found was that many of these customers were avid football fans. Therefore, we started out by using our local club, Newcastle United, to entertain trade customers primarily to take guests to football games. As part of this programme, we were presented with some advertising opportunities. Now this was when Newcastle United was in their, shall we say, previous state. That worked well for us on both the hospitality and advertising sides.
At Stelrad we sell traditional steel panel radiators that your readers will be familiar with. However, as part of the business’s growth, we also manufacture and sell high-value decorative radiators directly to customers.
Our marketing team conducted research analysing the reach of the football club and discovered it was very much focused on certain socio-economic groups. We realised that our business model, particularly regarding premium products, would benefit from broadening our consumer profile. We saw rugby and the Newcastle Falcons as a way of accessing a wider socioeconomic profile.
Clearly, the cost of a front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with a Premier League Football Club is far greater than a Rugby League club. Consequently, we can do far more to engage with fans and support the Falcons which is important for us as a business.
As Chief Executive do you personally see the impact of the sponsorship?
Absolutely, particularly in the last two to three years of our agreement. We’ve been the main partner of the Falcons for five years now in the front-of-shirt position, which is the best position you can have, and it has increased our profile significantly amongst consumers generally.
It’s not just amongst consumers either. Since becoming a publicly limited company we have had significant contact with investors both regionally and in the City. I get a lot of feedback from people commenting on the sponsorship and how good it is to see the Stelrad brand in such a prominent position. The Sponsorship with the Falcons raises our profile on all fronts.
Why sponsorship and not just advertising?
Well, it’s not a case of either or, we continue to advertise in the trade magazines as we always have done but we also advertise to our consumer audience in the lifestyle and home magazines as well as our digital presence. Sponsorship is part of our mix and allows us to capture a far wider audience quickly and relatively cost-effectively.
With a sponsorship, we can engage with fans directly which we can’t do with advertising. We run competitions in association with the club, we run promotional programmes for fans to win tickets and merchandise. It’s not just about brand awareness but rather brand building over a longer period.
What tips or advice would you give any other businesses considering sponsorship to promote their brand?
You need to have a deep understanding of your customer base and what motivates them. Our marketing team engaged in a lot of research before our partnership with the Falcons, which is important.
We also find that people want to be inspired. Not just customers but employees too. Sponsorship creates a lot of goodwill and pride in the employees and that too is important.