Optimy are the developers of a software solution that helps brands and rights holders manage their sponsorship activities, from request management through to assessment and audit and compliance. They work with more than 150 organisations worldwide. We spoke to their MD, Kenneth Bérard, about how technology is streamlining all areas of the sponsorship and engagement marketing discipline.
What’s your name and position within the organisation?
Kenneth Bérard, CEO
What benefit, to both brands and rights holders, is there to using a management software solution?
The goal of any management software solution is to simplify a process and make the life of the manager or its other users easier. Next to saving a considerable amount of time and resources, management systems help brands to focus on more important issues, such as developing a strategy, rather than being stuck with time consuming tasks. On the other hand, rights holders have a structured guideline to present their projects, ensuring that they don’t forget any important information so that every project has equal chances to be reviewed.
That’s what Optimy does for sponsorship and partnership professionals. It helps them save over 50% of their time by focusing on standardising and simplifying 4 relevant processes in managing sponsorships: Request Management, Project Management, Assessment, Audit and Compliance. On top of the time-saving factor it also simplifies the collection of project-related data, enabling brands to select the most suitable sponsorship projects.
Can you talk us through a successful case study of a brand / rights holder using Optimy software, and how it made the process more successful as a result?
For a while now, we have been working together with Engie, one of the world’s leading producers and suppliers of energy efficiency services. The group forms partnerships with universities and associations, and also accompanies and encourages sporting and cultural events worldwide. Before they used Optimy, they had all kinds of different databases for these activities which made coherent reporting impossible. First, we migrated old data from all over the world into one place to generate one consolidated source of information. Now they only need to use one tool to collect further data which mostly happens through a standardised form. Engie manages all projects from one single dashboard which includes a world map. This has automated the whole request management process including automatic emails being sent to all project owners. Since Engie is acting on a global level it is important to have a global view on all its sponsorship activities worldwide. They can keep track of everything through tailor-made and up-to-date reports on a corporate level. Through standardisation and automation they are now able to work in a far more efficient than before.
What areas of the sponsorship industry can benefit from management software?
The great thing about a software management solution is that it generally can be applied for all different kinds of projects in various areas. It is common knowledge that the majority of sponsorships happen in sports, but there are no limits to using a software approach. Our clients sponsor various causes, from areas such as culture, arts, environment, education, entertainment and so much more. It is nice to see the diversity in sponsorships amongst them and it is always exciting for me personally as well.
We know the importance of assessment and ROI metrics in all sponsorship campaigns. What lessons have you learnt by working closely with your clients on measuring their ROI and effectiveness?
When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a project, everything starts out with the selection of the right project. One lesson that we have learned is how much the decision for the right project is influenced by emotion, which can sometimes distort the results. We have an automatic scoring feature which allows you to automatically calculate the value of a project based on a set of objective criteria. Sometimes you compare 2 projects and while reading through them, project A sounds much better than project B, but the latter has a much higher score based on rational criteria. Project B is therefore more suitable for the brand and even though you might spend the same budget on this project as you would have on project A, the ROI will most likely be much higher.
Another aspect that should not be overlooked is the importance of data and its effective usage. Especially in sponsorship, you need to identify the right target group and select projects accordingly. This process can only be optimised if you have a coherent database that provides you with all relevant information to make the most rational and promising decisions. In the end, this will again lead to a higher ROI, since you can act more targeted and goal orientated.
How has this market changed over the past few years, and how is it going to change moving forward (new technology / new ways of thinking etc.)
As a matter of fact, sponsorship spending is increasing each year and is predicted to peak again in 2017. The market is highly competitive and as brands are forced to be more innovative and creative, having a reliable solution to improve these activities is an increasing need. With the latest developments in cloud computing, solutions like ours are made accessible to every business out there, whether it’s a small start-up or a multinational. Next to easy accessibility, this model holds further advantages such as lower costs, easier setup, higher security and minimal maintenance by the user.
One development being recognized by many brands is that the amount of sponsorship requests is increasing from year to year. Some of them receive thousands of requests each year and project submitters expect a response to each of them, which can be quite difficult. In terms of brand image, not meeting these expectations is not an option, since unhappy submitters can easily spread negative press on social media, etc. This is why businesses increasingly seek solutions that support them with the follow-up of every single request, for instance by automatically refusing projects that aren’t suitable and notifying their submitters right away.
Based on this, and the fact that cloud computing in niche markets is on the rise, I believe that in the future more and more brands will look to a specialised solution.
What are the 3 key bits of advice you can offer to rights holders / sponsors, now that you’ve worked with many over the years?
First of all, gather as much data as possible. Why? So you can make rational decisions based on a reliable source. The key to exciting and effective sponsorship is to choose projects that fit your business and, obviously, its objectives.
Don’t be afraid to use technology to support your management process. Many sponsorship managers don’t leverage their full potential because they are stuck doing tasks that can be done much faster with the help of the right technology. All other departments in a company use specific tools to improve their work process, so why shouldn’t the sponsorship department as well? Collaborate and Communicate! Sponsorships bring together all kinds of different people, both internally and externally. Think about all of its possibilities. Set your objectives with marketing; speak with HR about employee activation or recruitment; talk with your partners to ensure everyone is on the same page. Uncomplicated communication is key here.
What’s the most surprising result that you’ve seen achieved by one of your customers using the Optimy software solution?
Maybe not the most surprising, but certainly an impressive result, was achieved by a global customer of ours that collected data of the activities carried out by its branch offices to consolidate the follow-up of projects from all around the world. Optimy helped them to keep track of their budget, media visibility, audience, etc. With our assistance, this customer not only centralized all project-related data in one place, but also managed to create reports adapted to their needs effortlessly, while also accessing files from previous years. Therefore, Excel sheets were no longer needed and all information was shared through online forms as soon as a new project was selected. The whole process took only one month for our client to implement. It would have taken several without using the technology. And that kind of time saving can translate to a big reduction in spend.