Can the big sponsorship coup also succeed beyond the typical premium rights such as main sponsorship or naming rights? With the right strategy and appropriate activation concepts - definitely. In theme partnerships, brands have the opportunity to stay in their zone of expertise and to score points primarily through content and activation.
They exclusively occupy a certain topic that fits their offer and/or their values: Be it as a mobility partner, sustainability partner, health partner or technology partner. In doing so, the rights holder uses the services of the sponsor, and the sponsor in turn receives activation rights to launch joint actions and tell stories via their channels.
This is both the challenge and the opportunity: theme partnerships stand or fall on the right activation. There is no attention-grabbing basis like a logo on the jersey that provides visibility on its own. The great opportunity lies in positioning oneself in terms of content in one's area of expertise and with one's products and in building a strong connection to the fans through interaction.
How can this work?
What is particularly important for successful thematic partnerships
Common Why: Sponsors and rights holders need a common goal that goes beyond sales and brand awareness. Why does it make sense for these two partners in particular to come together? Applies otherwise too, by the way!
Suitable product or service: If you want to set an example through a thematic partnership with products or expertise, there must of course be a need from the partner and be used authentically.
Target group understanding: Nothing is worse than finding yourself out of place at an event that you're unfamiliar with. Without a good understanding of the target group and their consumer behaviour, the effort comes to nothing.
Added value: In order to reach the target group, the sponsor must offer real added value and establish a connection between fans and services. For example, through customised product developments for club supporters or helpful content on the specific topic.
These 3 best cases show how this can look in practice.
Telekom as technology partner of 1. FC Köln
From the 2021/22 Bundesliga season onwards, Telekom will be the official technology partner of 1. FC Köln and, in addition to its visibility in the stadium, will also play a key role in shaping the Effzeh's digital presence. For example, the club's technical infrastructure will be transferred to a cloud, and Telekom will also take over the hosting of the app and online platforms in the future. But the cooperation includes even more: Together with Infront, both partners are currently working on an innovation game that will show how football can be experienced in the future. A great initiative to make technological progress and potentials tangible for the fan and thus also to bring Telekom's services closer.
TK as health partner of the ESL
Techniker Krankenkasse already ventured into the new territory of esports in 2019 and positioned itself as a health partner of the ESL (Electronic Sports League). In doing so, they specifically address the needs of gamers and focus on the topics of compensatory sport, mental strength and nourishment for the nerves.
They activate this partnership live on site through health campaigns at esports competitions and computer game fairs. But TK also shows how a thematic partnership can be extended into content marketing independent of events.
This is how YouTube videos such as the Gamers Guides are created, which are produced with esports experts in a way that is suitable for the target group:
ROSE Bikes as bicycle partner of SC Freiburg
The bicycle market is booming - all over Germany. Freiburg has always been a bicycle city and also has the topic of sustainability firmly anchored in its DNA. The perfect point of contact for the bicycle manufacturer ROSE Bikes. Because the family-run company from Bocholt is growing rapidly and stands for the same values. Since 2020, ROSE has been the exclusive bike partner of the SC pros and also occupies their jersey sleeves. So here, thematic partnership is combined with a great right. Visibility, but also activations, from the bike handover to the team to the sponsor bike tour, provide the perfect mix.
These 3 examples illustrate how versatile the possibilities for activating a theme partnership are. As a sponsor, it is important to find the perfect intersection of your own expertise and the interests of the target group. With the right activation, the potential of a theme partnership is enormous.