This episode of Secure the Future looks at Argo Group’s strategy for sponsor partnerships. Group Producer Management and Marketing Leader, Gary Grose, shares his approach to partnerships that align directly with Argo Group’s core values of innovation, teamwork and sustainability, and explains why Argo chose to align itself with the America’s Cup and Formula E racing.
So once you decide on where you’re wanting to go and what you need to do for your brand, I think, you know, this is a pillar you can look at. For us, this pillar works because we have some very definitive brand messages that we associate with Argo Group, and that’s innovation, teamwork, and sustainability. And so when we look across the spectrum and realize that sponsorships and partnerships were a viable alternative, in fact, probably the most viable alternative to help us get consideration, recognition, and hospitality out there, these two sports really set us apart and differentiated, they’re focused on innovation, and they truly are the cutting edge of their sports and I would suggest in the sporting world. Seems like daily changes are taking place in these two sports, teamwork, even the drivers at Formula E say that nothing is gonna happen without big change in the garage and their support teams. And then, you know, these are two sustainable sports. They don’t, you know, exist in large numbers, but we found this match, and we think the match is perfect for us.
The next step in forming partnerships with specific teams required a thorough vetting process. Gary tells us how Argo chose each team.
So in America’s Cup, we decided to partner with Artemis, the Swedish racing team. We talked to a lot of teams, and we think that, for us, the work that they do with their teams, and their colleagues, and the messages that they represent was probably the best match for us when we looked across the teams. And so we saw that all the teams, you know, carry forward that message of sustainable sports, and teamwork, and innovation, but we felt that Artemis really held to those values as strong as any that we saw. And we also that their team manager, Iain Percy, was committed to those ideals. So those that was a perfect match for us.
Formula E really came down to a couple of things. One is the match to the three pillars. But also we have a match with us in a very social media conscious world and the messages that we’re putting out there in pairing with Faraday Dragon Racing, which are our partners for Formula E, and utilizing their large push through social media to get the word out. And, in fact, obviously, the team owner for Dragon is Jay Penske and Penske Media Corporation and his teams there really focus on driving their message out, and in turn, we piggyback on that. And so we’re utilizing these teams and their messages to resonate with our clients and our prospects and help us push the brand message out for us, as opposed to, you know, the millions we have to spend on general market advertising to help get that done.
The decision to focus on niche sports rather than highprofile sports was a strategy to highlight Argo’s focus on innovation, teamwork and sustainability. Gary provides his rationale for this approach.
I think that the key is you can look at as a marketing head and say this isn’t, for instance, Premier League soccer, this isn’t the NFL, this isn’t Major League Baseball. You know, we are looking to tag our brand to innovation, and teamwork, and sustainability. I probably say it too much, but I think that the focus is important. And these sports are really making headway and the moves as far as leading, especially in the innovation category. And so you can sit back as a marketing leader and say, “Well, I could go into some of the broader reach sports, but the cost is gonna be significantly more, or I can tag to these,” and it’s a good value buy for us. And I should also mention, these are not long-term deals. We negotiated short-term deals with a full approval of our partners. And I think that offers us a flexibility and the continuous input with both of them that allows these partnerships to work out to the best possible result for both parties.
In a world with a high noise to signal ratio, it can be a challenge to differentiate brand messages. Gary explains how the America’s Cup and Formula E give Argo the ability to stand out amongst the crowd when it comes to offering sponsor value to clients.
I think that as the…what we found out and what was very important for us is that the world is becoming a much busier place, in our mind, and to ask our clients to come to something on a weekday or a weekend, it really needs to be differentiated. It can’t be just another golf tournament, or just another suite at a box, or something along those lines. And so we get a very unique hospitality experience in both of these sports. And so these sports offer professional athletes up close and personal. I’m not aware of another racing sport, for instance, with Formula E, that our clients are allowed to be on a starting grid within five minutes of the start. Another example with Formula E, in the garage watching the drivers come in halfway through the race and make the turn as they jump into their other car, only 10, 15 feet away from the cars as it speeds out. Turning to America’s Cup, hospitality with the members of the team interacting with you during the race, providing input as to why the team is making a turn or changing its tack into the wind, and so forth. So it’s that interaction that differentiates us, and our clients continually mention that in post follow-up surveys and the feedback we receive. It’s the reason they accept it, because it’s different. Not everybody, I can assure you, is necessarily a racing fan or a sailing fan that joins us. But it’s different, and it’s a completely different experience
Rather than just one team, Argo Group partnered with two teams in two different sports. Gary discusses the benefit of diversifying partnerships.
So, I think the key is that the two sports work together for us. I have no doubt that the principals of both of these teams would argue that their sponsorship with us alone would work, and I appreciate that. But these two sports are so heavy on our pillars around innovation, teamwork, and sustainability. It’s a big circle that comes around and basically keeps working, especially in an area like sponsorship where the dates are different for the events. So it seems like we’ve always got something available on the calendar, no matter what time of year it is. And that keeps it in the front with our colleagues so that they can invite the right clients to these events.
They are distinctly different, but I do find it interesting that, when we introduced the two teams to each other, they have spent significant time on engineering overall discussions, things like communications between the teams. So they’ve benefited from the introduction as well, and we think that’s part of a good partnership.
B2B partnerships have some different goals than B2C partnerships. Gary compares B2B goals to B2C goals.
So I think that the difference is that we’re in a relationship business. You know, if you are a consumer brand and you’re looking to sponsor, you know, even America’s Cup, or a golf tournament, or something like that, you’ve got to pound that name up there regularly to get consideration and recognition, because you’re just in a B2C relationship and you’ve got to have your name top of mind. We utilize that to help drive recognition and consideration, but ours is much more of a relationship business where we build into the relationships the fact that it takes time to develop trust. And the hospitality is simply another way of reminding our prospects and our clients that we’re here and available and can meet their needs. It hardly ends with a hospitality or begins with this hospitality. These are relationships that are developed over time to be successful in our business. And so this is just another piece that goes along with it, and it helps build that relationship.
Beyond building client relationships, Gary talks about how he measures the ROI of partnerships.
So we look at a few things. One is we survey our clients afterwards and then get their impression. So we keep a tab on just overall reaction. That’s the first part. The second part is we actually do look at their overall firms, you know, production and numbers, and are we headed in the right direction. Most importantly, we use these to invite the client firms that we want to grow with. So this is a way of making sure we have something available to the firms that we want to grow with that is differentiated and sets them apart.
Argo Group’s partnerships with Dragon Racing and Artemis Racing have yielded more than just consistent messaging. Both teams have worked closely with Argo to provide true client engagement during hospitality events.
So what I learned that surprised me is the delivery of these teams on all aspects of the contract that we requested. And in the credit to both of these teams, the amount of time they are willing to put forward to engage our clients has been a breath of fresh air for me. Because I’ve been part of sponsorships where you have to constantly chase the team to deliver on their pieces that we’ve agreed on through a contract. And this just isn’t the fact with both of these partnerships. Maybe it’s a little bit of a cynic in me, but I enter sometimes an agreement thinking, “I’m gonna have to chase constantly,” and that’s been a great surprise. The second part is truly the amount of innovation going on in these two sports. It seems like every time I visit Faraday Dragon, they’ve made a change to the car based upon some engineering finding that they’ve realized, changes in the electric battery. And America’s Cup is just constantly tinkering with the boats to, you know, get another second on a leg in the race, because that can mean the difference between winning the Cup and not, and it’s amazing to watch that. And for the true sports fan that is very interested in the engineering side, which we have a lot of our clients on that side, why they come to these sports, they’re just engrossed in learning about that when they come to these races.
The decision to form partnerships takes a strategic plan that aligns with core brand values. Gary highlights three ways that Dragon Racing and Artemis Racing have been ideal partnerships for Argo Group.
I think that two points that are important in the decisions as to why we went with these sports, one is, you know, as we talked about our pillars. Two is Bermuda is our home, so that was a natural factor in deciding to sponsor America’s Cup. You know, we are very much engaged in the business culture and part of running a business in Bermuda, and so that being our home and that being the home of America’s Cup, that made a lot of sense. The third part would be more along the lines of engagement and agreement in our leadership team. I’ve been really pleased with the fact that, you know, we kind of vet all of our ideas through our executive committee and talk about the reasons why we would or wouldn’t sponsor or partner with somebody. And you’ve gotta have that engagement from the CEO down as to the belief as to why we do these.
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