A sporting chance

Australians – we’re a sporting lot. We measure the year in the winters of AFL, spring seasons of horse racing, and summers of tennis and cricket. With such passion and media exposure, it is little wonder that premium brands are attracted to sponsoring and supporting professional sporting events. Is there a place for Real Estate Agents among all this mega marketing in the sporting arena? Iolanthe Gabrie reports on how real estate brands, including small Agencies, are making sporting affiliations work for them.

“Australians are passionate about sport, and sport is typically an emotional experience,” says Charles Tarbey, Chairman and owner of Century 21 Australia. Harnessing emotion and connecting your brand with pleasurable enthusiasm is motivation enough for many corporations to sponsor sporting events and teams. Due to the size and international coverage of their brand, Century 21 have the strength to carry out substantial marketing strategies – including an advert during the recent US Super Bowl. But don’t think that this excludes smaller businesses or franchise owners from the competitive mix.

Iolanthe Gabrie
Iolanthe Gabrie

When estate agencies are smaller, it can be a challenge to think beyond the basics of running your business to profit and growth year-on-year. ROI is understandably front of mind for most business owners, and investing time (and money) in sponsoring community or sporting activities can easily be explained away as ineffectual and intangible. Tarbey has a different take on investing in sports events. “We believe that, through this experience (the upcoming Australian Women’s Open in golf) consumers make a powerful connection with our brand, and this in turn has a positive impact on the way our brand is perceived in the market. The increased attractiveness of a brand can attract more people to Century 21 offices, agents and properties.” This is big picture thinking – but how can you obtain a piece of this ‘positive experience’ pie for your agency?

Firstly, you’ll need to decide on the kind of sporting event you choose to sponsor. Century 21, says Tarbey, “are incredibly selective with the opportunities we take, and we look to achieve the right balance between cost and positive brand exposure. This has certainly been the case in Australia, where in recent years we have been fortunate enough to be able to support some key events on the sporting calendar while at the same time ensuring our level of support is cost-effective for our brand.” More locally, look to your niche sporting codes and community teams, and make time to attend some games. Which associations have the greatest crowds, and which competing teams have the biggest followings? As always, success leaves clues! Sponsoring the Australian Women’s Open might not be possible for you at the moment – but that doesn’t mean investing in state teams of lesser-publicised sports or popular community organisations is off the agenda.

Once you’ve met with the boards of several teams on your sponsorship shortlist, you’ll not only have met new and influential people in your community but you’ll have made an educated decision on where best to spend your advertising dollars for maximum public exposure and goodwill. Up in the Blue Mountains, Century 21 Wentworth Falls have taken this ‘micro’ approach – and are now in their eighth year of sponsoring local sporting events. They are the major sponsors of their local golf club, which sees them support five major tournaments per year, and they allocate 10 per cent of their annual commissions towards building and maintaining their local soccer club.

“The benefits of these sponsorship initiatives are multifold,” notes Charles. “They receive strong brand exposure through prominent signage at the clubs and events, by presenting awards at ceremonies, and through physically participating in many of these events on-ground. These types of targeted sponsorship activities allow the office to build strong community links and goodwill with its prospects and clients. Because the agency gives so much back to the community, many of the locals have developed a great sense of loyalty towards the office, which has been reflected in high levels of repeat business and referrals.”

Franchise groups who choose to sponsor larger, more prominent events can also benefit in many ways.

“Sponsorship may help keep the brand ‘front of mind’ for consumers; it may attract new customers that are participants or supporters of that particular sport, and in some instances franchise owners and key customers may have the opportunity to attend the event together and share the experience,” says Tarbey. In the highly competitive world of real estate franchises, having an edge to attract potential franchisees is essential. Sponsoring a popular sporting event or team may give your organisation an advantage in attracting new business owners too.

Making the most of your investment in sponsoring a sporting event – large or small – involves actively promoting your commitment to the marketplace. On a grand scale, Century 21’s sponsorship of the prestigious Australian Women’s Open will happily result in ample coverage on television and in print media. On a more immediate scale – one which is accessible to agencies with smaller budgets who are investing in local sporting teams – harness the people power of social media to promote the event (and subsequently, your brand). All estate agencies can benefit by engaging in regular, quality social media content.

That doesn’t mean putting up your listings or talking about real-estate industry related content. Quite frankly, that bores the pants off consumers and reinforces negative public sentiments. Your public want to see you in action, and once you’ve got their ‘followership’, you can take on a local leadership role by promoting your sporting event or sports team and giving them a helping hand. Have you a professionally-run corporate blog, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account? Take steps to do so now, and let the public you serve see you for the enthusiastic, community-minded business you really are. We’re sure that, in return, they’ll give you a sporting chance.

Iolanthe Gabrie is Director of Ruby Slipper Consultants, Australia’s leading provider of social media strategy and bespoke written content for the real estate industry.

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