f1 recruitment specialists provide insight into finding a career in sports/ entertainment sponsorship:
NB. Sponsorship has become a highly significant area of marketing. Its main functions often overlap other areas of marketing and therefore job titles, agency nomenclature and responsibilities can disguise the fact that the role is centrally linked to sponsorship itself e.g. roles in sponsorship are sometimes disguised within such functions as ‘sports marketing’, ‘relationship marketing’ or ‘experiential marketing’.
What is the role of a Sponsorship Account Executive? This is the generic entry level job title
A classical definition of sponsorship involves a commercial agreement between two parties (a sponsor and a holder of rights) in which finance is provided (by the sponsor) to obtain a set of rights (defined by the rights holder) which can then be used to derive considerable commercial benefit, in order to enhance the reputation of the sponsor’s corporate or brand image. Therefore, a typical sponsorship account executive will be responsible for:
- Helping to obtain appropriate publicity for the sponsorship in line with pre-set objectives for the relationship, including targeting, media type and identifying appropriate messaging
- Assisting with the management of events – supporting areas such as event branding, ticketing and hospitality, media relations and all consumer interaction points
- Recording all aspects of the sponsorship activity to help evaluate the success, or otherwise, of the activity against a number of pre-set key performance indicators, KPIs.
Roles in sponsorship can be within a:
- Sports marketing agency
- Rights Holder e.g. the RFU, NBA, ITF , FA
- Sponsor Company i.e. a Brand or Corporate e.g. Red Bull, Vodafone, HSBC, Investec, Carlsberg
- Media Owner – Sky Sports, BT Sport.
Over a sponsorship career, it’s ideal to have experience in all four pillars of the sector.
The most entry level roles in sponsorship can be found in sports marketing agencies. And this is the route that most people take as their first role.
What would such a role entail?
The work of a sponsorship account executive can be very varied and will depend on the type of sponsorship activity, or the nature of the business involved. For example, sponsorship embraces a number of different types of marketing relationships, such as messaging targeted towards consumer, business-to-business (B2B) or corporate audiences. The aim is always to influence the audience to look more favourably towards a brand or corporation through the nature of the relationship. Therefore, typical job functions will include:
- liaising on an everyday basis with clients and rights holders to ensure the smooth running of all sponsorship activities – often events – via phone, email, reports etc
- relationship building and networking with clients, colleagues, selected media and rights holders
- working as part of an account team to ensure that key objectives within the sponsorship plan are met
- being part of a team that has responsibility for the success of all events linked to the sponsorship and undertaking allocated tasks that contribute to this success
- preparing regular client reports and attending client meetings to assess the progress of the sponsorship campaign
- understanding and addressing all publicity requirements and implementing any media-related activity as appropriate
- regularly liaising with suppliers who contribute goods or services for an event, ensuring that the quality, price and delivery schedule are in line with pre-set standards and limits
- helping to manage any specific elements of the sponsorship activity – press conferences, promotional activity e.g. pre-event publicity stunts, hospitality programmes, branding requirements, use of sponsors’ products, media management etc. – as required
- liaising with all of the client’s marketing partners to ensure a smooth flow of information to ensure a constant and widespread flow of information in relation to the sponsorship activity
- collating and analysing resultant media coverage
- assisting the sponsor with any internal employee engagement activity which might be part of the sponsorship plan
- taking responsibility for the measurement and recording of all of aspects of the sponsorship that have been identified as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) against which the performance of the sponsorship will be assessed
- undertaking research for new business proposals and contributing material for presentations to potential new clients
- doing ‘whatever it takes’ to make a sponsorship successful!
Where could I work?
Opportunities to work in sponsorship may be found in specific sponsorship-led consultancies, other marketing-led consultancies that have a sponsorship function, corporations that have a sponsorship division, or rights holders that sell sponsorship opportunities. The majority of positions can be found in sponsorship consultancies providing independent services to their clients. Many consultancies specialise in specific areas in one specific industry sector, or several, for example:
- personality management/ representation
- social/ CSR marketing
- participation marketing
- event management
- strategic consultancy services
- government and public affairs
Some larger, full-service marketing consultancies i.e. PR, advertising, promotional marketing agencies, have a department dedicated to sponsorship, just as they may have a creative, design and/ or digital marketing department. Opportunities for sponsorship executives can exist in such agencies; such roles may require account executives to work closely with other internal departments to deliver integrated marketing campaigns to clients, which enables the development of knowledge of other elements of marketing.
Sponsorship is, perhaps, more niche than other forms of the marketing mix, so the type and size of consultancy offering sponsorship services varies greatly. Some are part of large marketing groups offering a range of integrated marketing services, of which sponsorship is one. Some are independent and therefore, by definition much smaller.
What could I earn?
A typical salary for a sponsorship account executive is likely to be in the range of £20,000 to £25,000 + benefits. Can expect to be earning £25,000 to £27,000 basic salary within a year to 18 months.
Account managers with five years’ experience can generally expect to earn between £35,000 to £40,000.
Salaries at more senior levels i.e. Account Directors can start at £45,000 and for Associate Directors can be up to £80,000.
A Head of Sponsorship at an agency can expect to earn £100,000+ depending on the number of employees and amount of fee income they are responsible for + bonus.
In-house heads of sponsorship can earn from £60,000 to over six figures depending on the sector they are working in e.g. banking and finance pay higher than consumer brands.
How could my career progress?
In the current post COVID-19 market, sponsorship/ marketing agencies may decide to hire through paid placements, as well as their graduate and apprenticeship programmes. Paid short term placement positions are well worth accepting, because they are often ‘probationary trials’. If a company likes you and sees potential in your performance, then they are likely to either offer you a job immediately once the ‘trial’ has finished, or keep you front of mind until a suitable opportunity arises. Either way, you get a chance to build your CV and experience and decide if this is a career for you.
Companies also take on new graduates in a full-time capacity who may begin their career in sponsorship as a trainee account executive, although some of the more traditional programmes may be put on hold in 2020. Promotion to account executive takes place after three months to a year. Depending on the client and size of the consultancy, sponsorship executives may play a responsible, strategic role on accounts very quickly.
A good sponsorship account executive can expect to be promoted to senior account executive or account manager in two to three years. Account managers will have the responsibility of managing client accounts, in addition to managing more junior members of the team. After a further three to four years at this level, many sponsorship professionals often have enough experience to seek promotion to account director, where they will have responsibility for higher profile clients and all staff working on the account teams, including account managers. The next step is generally to company director, taking responsibility for all client accounts and PR staff.
At any stage in this process, it is possible to move to a similar position within a large company that sponsors, or partners with sports & entertainment properties and events (this is referred to as ‘moving to the client side’), or a rights holder, or vice versa.
Career progression is generally the individual’s own responsibility, with consultancies rewarding those who show professional ability, initiative and commitment. Some sponsorship professionals may find it advantageous to move consultancy/ organisation to obtain a more rapid career progression. Professional qualifications may also assist with career development (see below).
What qualifications do I need?
Entry into the sponsorship world is not easy. It’s a sector that has been built through recommendation and word of mouth. Having a passion for marketing and sport/ arts/ entertainment is a good starting point and being able to demonstrate a passion to enter the industry normally carries weight. But researching and understanding the industry is vital. The European Sponsorship Association runs the ESA Diploma in sponsorship which has become a mandatory qualification for those wishing to practice in the industry. It is a distance learning course which takes place over seven months every year (January-August) and aims to give a complete grounding in the role played by sponsorship in today’s contemporary marketing environment. It is designed for people with a basic understanding of the industry, while also catering for graduates who are keen to acquire knowledge and skills in advance of (or in conjunction with) seeking employment. ESA offers a reduced graduate/ unemployed rate for the Diploma.
Otherwise, good A levels (ABB) and a university degree from a Russell Group university (2:1 ideal) would be helpful at entry level. Degree subject doesn’t really matter. A sports science degree is not necessarily an advantage, though is always taken into consideration.
Science A levels and degrees are of as much interest as humanities, as the market moves to being data driven and companies seek to measure their ROI (return on investment) and the effectiveness of their sponsorship campaigns and strategy. Good sports credentials from school / college and university are also of benefit. BUT you don’t have to be a great sports man/ woman to break into sports marketing as a career.
Am I suitable?
- Relevant pre-entry work experience is paramount and can include vacation work, work placements, shadowing or volunteering, often as per the ‘work experience’ placement described above
- Such positions are rarely advertised (except, very occasionally, in specialised marketing press), so a relationship with a recruitment consultancy is important
- It is worth visiting ESA’s website (https://sponsorship.org/) to gain more information about how the industry works, and to identify the key ‘players’
- Researching the top agencies is vital, as this will provide a basic knowledge of the industry, so visiting websites is essential
- Employers may prefer graduates/ entry level candidates with experience of writing, self-expression, problem-solving and creativity, and having some knowledge or experience of being involved in a sporting or artistic environment is likely to be considered highly relevant
- Consider related jobs e.g. working on events in some capacity, for work experience, as employers often find the skills and experience gained in these roles transferable to sponsorship.
What qualities/ skills do I need?
Potential candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
- flexibility, determination, enthusiasm and the ability to cope well under pressure
- good teamwork and negotiation skills
- ability to think strategically
- business awareness
- thoroughness and problem-solving skills
- excellent organisational skills, with the ability to work on more than one project at a time
- creativity and imagination
- ability to use initiative
- analytical skills.
How can I find useful contacts/ websites?
Activative – www.activative.co.uk
BAME2020 – https://www.bame2020.org/careers/
Campaign – https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/
f1 recruitment – https://www.f1recruitment.com/
Marketing Week – https://www.marketingweek.com/
SportBusiness – https://www.sportbusiness.com/
The Drum – https://www.thedrum.com/
The Guardian – https://www.theguardian.com/ (Mondays and Saturdays)
The UK Sponsorship Awards – www.sponsorship-awards.co.uk
The European Sponsorship Association (ESA) – https://sponsorship.org/