By John Reynolds on Monday 23 March 2020
Earlier this month, Starling announced it had become an official sponsor of Team GB for the Tokyo Olympics.
Financial services companies have long seen the value of sport sponsorship: vast audiences and association with sporting excellence has lured in the likes of Visa and Allianz to global Olympic sponsorship; while the AIG and Standard Chartered have plastered their logos on the jerseys of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Fintechs and crypto companies, perhaps because of their youthfulness, lower marketing budgets and preference for word-of-mouth and social marketing, have hitherto shied away from sport sponsorship.
However, this might be about to change: a number of fintechs have recently entered the marketing mainstream, debuting TV advertising campaigns, like Tide and Starling Bank, which has also recently announced it's to sponsor Team GB for the Tokyo 200 Olympics.
While there is mounting uncertainly as to whether the games will go ahead, given the coronavirus outbreak, AltFi spoke to Starling’s Head of Brand Rachel Kerrone about the Team GB sponsorship, which was announced just days before the outbreak of the virus.
How concerned is Starling about coronavirus? What contingency plans are in place should the Olympics be postponed?
"We are closely monitoring the situation and are in daily contact with Team GB, who are keeping us fully updated. If the games are postponed, we would still remain the official bank of Team GB - the timings would just differ.”
“We have contingencies in place from a campaign perspective, but the most important thing is that we are positively supporting our athletes whatever happens.”
What is the rationale behind the tie-up with Team GB?
“One of our key 2020 goals is to increase awareness of Starling right across the UK and our partnership with Team GB will help us to do this. This partnership is brilliant because it unites two British brands celebrating national spirit and belief in the extraordinary.”
“Team GB is also one of the few widely recognisable brands that Brits are truly proud of and to have an association with this by way of partnering with the team is an honour.”
How will sponsorship be activated?
“One of our main goals was to ensure that this was a partnership that genuinely helped athletes – we didn’t want to just put the Team GB logo on our marketing materials or promote our product features. “
“In the build-up to the games, Starling will be offering over 350 athletes a Starling account with £100 deposited to help them achieve their next financial target. We will also be adding a Team GB medal tracker to our mobile app so all users can support the team during the games, and we have other activity in the pipeline.”
Does this sponsorship mean that Starling has entered the marketing mainstream?
“Starling is on a mission to become a nationally recognised and loved brand throughout the UK (and beyond). To do this we need to move beyond attracting early adopters, instead reaching the mainstream market and expanding outside of the London bubble.”
Is Starling contemplating doing more sports sponsorship?
“We have already done a small sponsorship with GB Archery through our Chief Banking Officer and former Olympic archer, Helen Bierton and definitely see the value in sport to reach new audiences.”
How important is Helen Bierton, Starling’s Chief Banking Officer and former British Olympics archer, to this deal? Will Bierton be heavily involved in the activation?
“As a former Olympic archer, Helen knows only too well how valuable this kind of support is for athletes. She’s extremely excited to be working in a company which is sponsoring Team GB.”
What the experts say about the Starling deal with Team GB.
Simon Dent, founder, sports marketing agency Dark Horses
“This is a great deal for Starling and the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and build an affinity with the nation,” says Dent, who says one of the best ways to connect with people is through "cultural imprinting" such as a major sporting event.
Dent says that a sponsorship partner needs to find an "authentic role to play" and that it "can't be a badging exercise."
"You would think that the disruptive nature of the Starling brand will lend itself very well to activating in a novel way," says Dent.
“If the value is right and the activation clever, then sport sponsorships can be very effective. It's a great way to raise awareness, build trust and become part of the conversation around an incredibly emotional and shareable moment in time."
Andy Sutherden, International Head of Brand Consulting, Creative Artists Agency
A key point for Sutherden is the boost the sponsorship will give to staff.
“It will be a tremendous uplift to staff. It will spread the energy and enthusiasm to Starling 's own staff in supporting Tokyo,” says Sutherden.
View from crypto startup on sport sponsorship: LIFElabs sponsored two European Tour events, including the British Masters golf tournament in 2019.
David Pugh-Jones, Chief Marketing Office, LIFElabs, explains why the startup decided to sponsor the British Master golf tournament.
Why did you sponsor the event?
“This event aligned perfectly with our schedule, while its audience, footprint and reach made us more determined to try out the new partnership.”
“In the case of this event, all the associated elements including location and brand positioning strategy made us make the unified decision to test out a new marketplace. Blockchain technology and its association with cryptocurrency is still in its infancy and education with new fans played a part in shaping our story and messaging.”
Why golf and not another sport?
“Golf is just one sport we tested. We’ve also invested in supporting local community efforts as part of the company’s philanthropic mantra, by sponsoring a local league football team, stadium and the associated youth clubs and charities that use the facilities. Rugby Internationals and UEFA Nations League games were also tested with TV pitchside advertising placements.”
How important was it that LIFElabs was the first digital currency to sponsor the event?
“The opportunity to be the first was too good an opportunity to miss out on. The reach was absolutely incredible with special moments televised across the world on both TV and digital platforms.”
Plan to do any further sponsorship?
“Absolutely. We’re currently investigating with partners now on how we tell our story and build brand and product awareness going forward. Esports is clearly a huge opportunity for us to target and reach tech-savvy consumers that are intrigued to know and understand more about digital currency and the future of blockchain technology.”
“Other sports we’re in discussions with include the likes of motor racing, world rallying, snowboarding and water sports to name just a few. Influencers across a variety of categories will also play a part in our messaging. From music to sports right through to the wider entertainment industry intrigues us.”