Delphine Baise was named on 9 March 2023 as one of the four inaugural recipients of the ESA Fellowship. In this Q&A, Delphine reflects both on the individual honour and the changing nature of the sponsorship industry during her years of service.
How do you feel to be selected as one of the inaugural ESA Fellows?
It’s an honour to be selected as one of the inaugural ESA Fellows. I have known ESA for a long time and greatly value the importance of the association for our industry. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to join other talented individuals in a community that contributes to the advancement of sponsorship as a key driver in building strong brands and making impact.
Being part of this group is not only a recognition of my achievements but also a chance to learn and grow as an expert. I’m excited to see what the future holds with all the Fellows in the Association.
What have been the most profound changes in sponsorship during your career?
Over the past 20 years, there have been several profound changes in sponsorship that have ensured my job has strongly evolved. The major changes I would mention are:
- In the past 10 years, an increased emphasis on data-driven decision-making, even more with the rise of digital marketing and data analytics. We are all now using data to measure the impact of investments, identify new opportunities, and make informed decisions about where to allocate resources. It is sometimes heavy but makes the whole industry work much more professionally.
- In the past five years, a greater focus on social responsibility through sponsorship. The emergence of purpose-driven marketing, where sponsors align their brand values with social or environmental issues, is for me a turning point for our future. It is an opportunity to do completely different things in the coming years: building on the learnings of the past, applying them to new ecosystems and reinventing ourselves again with both an impact on society and brand.
- We also saw the rise of influencer marketing to become a popular form of sponsorship in recent years, driven by the growth of social media. Sometimes unfortunately cannibalising money we could better invest in the real added value of projects. Something to be very careful with, I think.
- Not to forget, the pandemic confronted us with new challenges, like the all-digital activation of sponsorships or the negotiation of compensations for rights which couldn’t be delivered. New doors were opened for new types of collaborations and activation plans.
- Finally, our sponsorship models have evolved a lot over the past 20 years, with a greater emphasis on partnerships and collaborations. We are now looking for more integrated and collaborative relationships with partners, rather than simply purchasing advertising or signage rights. Branded content is key, the metaverse is coming and it makes this collaborative model even more essential.
On the flipside, what are the constants that make the industry remain strong across Europe?
First of all, we have, we maintain and we grow a large network of professionals. There are so many cases across Europe showing how strongly the industry is challenging itself and facing all challenges.
ESA figures confirm each year the belief that this industry will continue to grow. This is supported by a high recognition for the performance results of the most aspirational properties and activities existing in Europe. We all need these premium brands and huge scale projects to inspire us and drive all our sector to the next level.
Even if the pressure remains high on marketing costs and the sponsorship industry will face challenges again in the future, we really have strong assets across Europe, enabling us to build the most effective campaigns we can dream of.
Some examples: sports sponsorship has been a cornerstone of the sponsorship industry for decades, and this remains true in Europe. European countries have a rich sporting history and culture, with sports like football/soccer, tennis, cycling and basketball enjoying significant popularity. In parallel, sponsorship of events such as music festivals, trade shows and cultural events has also been a consistent driver of the industry in Europe.
We are a continent of culture. And, as we said, the rise of socially responsible projects will lead us to new opportunities, Europe has always been the cradle of new societal aspirations.
Who have been your role models / sources of inspiration in the industry and why?
Brands: perhaps because their European offices are located not far from my hometown but not only that, I always have Mastercard in mind as a leading brand in sponsorship and activations.
Overall, Mastercard’s sponsorship activations are characterized by their innovation, creativity, and ability to connect with audiences on a personal level. They are a great example of how sponsorship can be used to build brand loyalty, drive engagement, and create meaningful experiences for customers. The Priceless concept has been used for so many years with a strong relevance to people, which confirms that great ideas can stay for a long time and remain powerful.
Newcomers are entering the sponsorship domain with success like Airbnb or Uber on recent international properties. They will for sure propose new ideas, starting from their digital positioning and invading the real life of events. The recent positioning of Accor Hotels on the international scene is also impressive.
We see that global brands are strongly using sponsorship in their marketing mix. Before ending and, for our memory, I remember the audacious tone of Red Bull starting to offer content to fans with the Stratos Experience 10 years ago. It remains for me one of our key industry moments.
Personalities: Even more as a woman, I remember the important role that Karen Earl played in our industry and for ESA. I listened to her speeches at several events which inspired me a lot. Today the role of Andy Westlake is of course of great importance as well and we see him with pleasure representing ESA in Brussels each year. Their efforts to connect people together and give a real existence to the concept of ESA are essential.
In Belgium, I have two fellows of my own, the ones who connected me with ESA from the very beginning. Andy Hancock and William Fenton played a key role in the sponsorship industry the past years. Building real bridges between London and Brussels, bringing in a lot of knowledge and unforgettable speakers to inspire us. They founded the Belgian Sponsorship Awards, of which I was one of the first ambassadors, and made great steps for sponsorship in our country.