Interview with Nathan Homer, P&G Global Sports Marketing & Olympics Director – winner of both a Gold and Bronze Lion at the recent Cannes Advertising Awards
Q: Following the success of the P&G partnership with the London Olympics, do you think P&G will be entering other major global corporate sponsorships?
We are open to consider additional partnerships at a corporate level for P&G. However P&G needs to be able to leverage any global partnership across all its territories and multiple brands, and to be able to make a global property also feel genuinely local. Currently there is only one property we’ve seen that we feel really fits those criteria well.
Q: Does the P&G Marketing model impede its brands from fully exploiting the opportunities which sport offers? If so, why?
For P&G it is about the commercial model, not just marketing. This means it needs to drive sales as well as work as a communication platform.
P&G brands need to engage 3 groups of stakeholders; our customers, retailers, and media. Therefore any sponsorship proposal should appeal to all 3.
Also P&G thinks of sponsorship across all areas of what we call “branded entertainment” so it is not just sport. For example, gaming or music can be just as relevant area of consumer passion with which to engage with stakeholders.
Q: Brands often criticise rights holders for not understanding them, not offering business solutions, only focusing on money etc. Why do you think this is?
I think often they think sport is the answer, and that they just need to tell you why their sport is the best. This is easy for them because they can make the same pitch to every target, but it can come across as a little lazy and sloppy, because the rights seller has not invested the time and effort needed to at least demonstrate they know P&G or an individual brand to at least a moderate extent.
Instead they need to show why the partnership would be a good business decision for the specific P&G brand they are targeting. To do this they need some basic understanding of our business model, and to show how their proposal helps us to achieve our business needs.
I understand that this presents a challenge to the rights seller because they inevitably need to target a large number of brands and make a well-prepared pitch to each. But it is essential to increase their likelihood of success in our case at least
It also seems that there can be a lack of genuinely experienced sales people within rights holding organisations. This may be because they are often short of staff resources and have to multi-task across many areas. By contrast I have found some of the higher end athlete agents, more skilled, often with a background in sales or negotiation in other areas of business prior to their current role.
Q: Rights holders can find brands frustrating because of seemingly inconsistent decision making processes, lack of activation, and because the answer always seems to be football! How could brands improve the way that they work with rights holders?
P&G is very data driven and makes calculated business decisions and this can be frustrating for rights holders who may be hoping for a more emotional decision, and who may get one elsewhere! You have to also remember that each P&G brand is looking at a very large number of options on which to spend its budget, of which sponsorship is just one possibility, and even if a sponsorship opportunity is very attractive, there may be a better option elsewhere.
One way that brands can stand out is to be much more creative in showing how the partnership can be activated. Think where Red Bull have taken sponsorship.
Q: Which rights holder would you say most gets it right and why?
I would say that the WTA is a great example of how a property has evolved and shaped what it offers sponsors and is flexible to meet their needs. They know that they are selling more than just events.
Also everybody at WTA, the coaches and players and staff understand that they are all part of what WTA is and this makes a big difference.
Q: What advice would you give a rights holder who wants to pitch a P&G brand or any FMCG brand?
See the bigger picture of what a sponsor brings. I have seen some properties realize that P&G adds a lot through its marketing activation and spending and having a premium brand onboard gives a strong sign to its stakeholders, and hence the rights fee has been a secondary consideration.
Prepare your approach and understand the P&G processes, so your offering something that can help them to achieve their objectives, not just your own.
Q: What would a new model of partnership between brands and rights holders look like?
Where the property and sponsor understand and respect each others’ objectives and work together over the long-term as true partners to achieve them.