Q&A – Arno Lenior, marketing director, Samsung Australia
Following Samsung’s new sponsorship deal with the Australian Rugby Union, and news in the same week that Vodafone cancelled its six-year sponsorship of the V8 Supercars and 11-year sponsorship of the Australian cricket team, the effectiveness of sponsorship is now well and truly in the spotlight.
In this Q&A, Marketing sits down with marketing director of Samsung Australia to find out why the consumer electronics brand continues its aggressive investment in sponsorships.
Marketing: Every marketing dollar is coming under greater scrutiny these days, and some are dropping out of long-running sponsorships to spend the money elsewhere. But Samsung obviously still thinks there’s a strong case for sponsoring…
Arno Lenior: We’re growing very fast. We really are doing very well in the marketplace, and sponsorship plays a role in connecting with Australia and with our local market. So we look to sponsorships to grow our affiliation with our local community. And right now, I think there’s a role for sponsorship, there’s a role for how we integrate our brand within sponsorships and how we take our brand to market. In terms of ROI, I think each company would look at it very differently and how they actually measure ROI is a bit different for each company. I can’t speak with the other companies but from my perspective, the ROI with our sponsorships is quite tangible. We look to leverage our sponsorships as broadly as we possibly can. There are some more non-tangible things as well, which are very aware of, but by the same token, we look to maximise.
Which of your marketing objectives does sponsorship achieve?
The key thing to me is to connect with Australians, with my consumers, and if I look at sponsorship such as the Wallabies, it provides a very unique platform for me to participate with the fans of that sport. The objective that I’m trying to make sure that I achieve is that connection and that participation with Australian audiences. We’ve got other sponsorships – some in the entertainment space, film and music space – and again they provide different ways in to connecting with consumers. We like to call them passion points, or what Australians are passionate about, and had a look at that, but we’ve done quite a bit of work with the a past agency of ours, Octagon, and had a very close look at how people connect, and then looked at whether there was a role for our brand within in that space, and if there is a role in that space, then how would we act within that space?
Really, what I’m trying to achieve is to actually enrich the experience, and to plan my role as a brand, to bring a better experience to my target consumers. From a rugby perspective as an example, we’ve got the right to do digital content, we’ve got the right to play it, we’ve got the right to all these different things, but it’s how we actually bring those to life that I think will be the difference, and how we can actually enrich fans, and have potential fans of that code or that sport to have a better experience, and with a view that consumers actually recognise that, and they go there’s a positive rub off for the brand in that respect.
So your sponsorship activity is more about forming those favourable impressions in the minds of consumers, than it is geared towards social responsibility or giving back to the community goals?
I think different sponsorships play different roles. If you look at some other things that we’re involved with, from a corporate social responsibility perspective, I would say that the role there is quite terrific because we do feel an obligation to give back to the community, so we work closely with some other partners in that respect. But lately, there is an opportunity for us to interact with it at a more entertainment level, and do it that way, as opposed to giving back to the community.
So there are a couple of different areas that you’re sponsoring, and slightly different goals for each. Can you give us a sense of the full portfolio of your sponsorships, and why it has been structured in that way?
We’ve got a range of sponsorship which include global sponsorships, so the Olympics being one of those. Local sponsorships like the rugby, we’ve got some of the entertainment ones and then we’ve got our CRM ones. We are conscious across the board that we have a good range of sponsorships which talk to different requirements.
For our sports sponsorships, the Olympics and the Australian Rugby Union forming two of those core pillars. We also sponsor local Olympians and the Australian Olympic Committee. We’ve got James Magnussen as an ambassador.
We did the AACTA Awards [The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards] last year, and are talking to some others around entertainment properties. We do Life Education [a non-government provider of health education to children and young people], from more of a corporate responsibility perspective. Those are the majors.
The other thing I would just add on to that is that it’s not a set in stone thing for us, so it’s a living organism within our organisation. We are consistently evaluating other new properties. We are currently evaluating the existing properties that we have and seeing how we can better them and how we can invest more, or broaden our reach. It’s a living beast for us, so we’re consistently reviewing all of it.
What are your selection criteria for a sponsor?
It varies based on our objectives, but I can tell you that what we’ll look for is brand fit and values, whether our values match up from an organisational perspective. Those are two very key ones, and then clearly we get down into the reach of the sponsorship, into the engagement of the sponsorship of property, how fans are engaging with a particular property. We certainly have a look at the complexity of the sponsorship and the number of other sponsors that are there, so will we have an opportunity to make our mark within that property so that we achieve our objectives.
If somebody came to us and said, “Hey, sponsor this event and you can get your logo here,” that’s not what we’re about; we don’t just want to stick our logo on something, it needs to be deeper than that. More and more we’re looking for sponsorship properties which are able to provide rich and entertaining content of a participatory nature, for something that humans can actually participate in, and as we’re moving to a much more social world that comes into it more and more.
So let’s use your latest one, the Australian Rugby team and competition, as an example. Why were they chosen?
We used Octagon as our selection agency on this. We looked at a bunch of different properties across the board, and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) was really a very interesting one because it had a very strong brand fit for us, we recognised that the sport is a premium property, it’s a national property, which was very important for us, and it was able to reach a national audience. The season was quite long so that the money that we would put behind it was able to be leveraged, so not only do we do the Super 15 competition, but we also do the Wallabies and their season as well. So it provides us with somewhere between 34, 36 weeks a year of opportunity to actually engage with an audience rather than a one off event, or a shorter season, which some of the other properties have. And I think ultimately, we looked at it to say was it really the right brand fit? Was it something that we could really get behind, and was it a passion point in Australian consumers’ lives. Other factors clearly come into it where you look at, like I said before, we have looked at it across the full spectrum of properties available and some instances, the categories, particularly that we operate in have been taken or the rights have already been taken, or had been signed away for a number of years, and you just can’t break into some sponsorship properties. Not that that was a major factor in this, but certainly it is a factor when you’re looking at the sponsorship property.
You spoke about bringing the sponsorship to life. What did you mean when you said that, and how will you do it through this ARU deal?
Well, the first thing to say is the ink is only just dry on that sponsorship, so we’re in the planning phase right now. I can’t give you concrete examples of exactly what we’ve done just yet because we’re still working on a lot of that at the moment, but I would say is bringing it to life means how do we actually engage the current and potential fans of that sport in a meaningful way? So whether that be through social participation, I think there is a really interesting platform there. We’ve got an extraordinary retail reach through our partners, our retail partners, and a huge amount of points of credence where we can bring that to life, so in terms of point of sale and what have you. But also through our devices, through our smart TVs, through our tablets, through our phones, where content is massively important to consumers, we’ve got all of those touch points where we plan to bring it to life as well.
Can you give any examples of how you’re bringing the sponsorship of the Australian Olympic Team to life?
We’re doing quite a lot of work around that, so socially – I’ll probably just talk about that one. We’ve got global bloggers where we’ve run local competitions searching for people who have a community of followers interested in being a live blogger at the actual Olympic Games, and so we’ve selected four people to actually go to the Olympic Games and be a Samsung global blogger. We’re taking people, two at a time, two for the first week and two for the second week, where we’ve give them exclusive access to behind-the-scenes events, access to teams, access to all the different events at the Olympics. We’ll then bring that to life through our social channels here in Australia. Another example is our sponsorship of James Magnussen, and as a brand ambassador for Samsung Australia, where we are using James in a variety of different ways. Whether it be at point of sale – we’ve used him to explain product features, conduct demos, at events, a bunch of different things – and we’ll be using him in some above the line marketing as well. We’re quite active in that space, and without giving the game away, that’s clearly what we’ll be doing with our sponsorship property as well.
With the measurability of your sponsorships, is there a certain way that you go about measuring your return on investment that you’re getting from them?
Reputation-wise, we use Repucon, but there are other factors that come into it. I would say that we use a gamut of different measurement devices, depending on what we’re doing. And ultimately, it comes down to what our reputation is, what our attachment is to that sport, and ultimately we’re doing a big promotion in sales. So there’s a number of different things that we’ll look at; it won’t just be one thing.
Are any of the sponsorship executed at a product level or do they usually stick to the Samsung brand level?
They’re pretty much done at the Samsung brand level but it does depend on the category, and I’ll give you an example of that. With the ARU, we are across all of our categories in the Super 15 competition, but we’re in all of the competitions minus the telecommunications products in the Wallabies, and that’s because that category is taken by another telco sponsor. But at Samsung, it’s Samsung first and the product second. But when it comes to actually bringing the sponsorship to life, we will choose, there may be a campaign around a specific product that you will see in store, but it will be based on the category that we’re allowed to talk about.
You said earlier that you usually steer clear of events that have a large number of sponsors, yet the Olympics is part of your roster. How do you keep the balance right when looking at the cut through a sponsorship will deliver?
The Olympics is probably an interesting one where there is actually not that many sponsors. There are global sponsors of categories, of which we are the telco sponsor of the Olympics, so there is no other telco handset provider that is able to say that they are the sponsor of the Olympics, the London 2012 Olympics. So that’s actually one which I wouldn’t say is really that cluttered. There are other properties, local properties, which I have certainly had a look through, particularly multi-layered properties, where there is a governing body, and then there are sponsors of teams, and there are sponsors of clubs, and all this sort of stuff. That’s when it becomes quite interesting because what you need to be able to do is really cut through all of that. So if there is a code of football, for instance, that has got a major national sponsor but then there is team sponsors and the club sponsors, you might be talking about 30 or 40 different sponsors that are all trying to scream the virtues of whatever the code is and their team is, and that becomes a little bit more difficult.
It depends on what your objectives are and how much money you’ve got to spend. And what you’re allowed to do within whichever sponsorship property it is, because each property will come with its own barriers in terms of what you can and can’t do, and it comes down to if I spend X amount of dollars on this, will I get the cut through that I need?