Sep 14, 2009 at 12:57 PM
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Sponsownership, the Virgin Way

True to the Richard Branson way, Virgin is one of a number of companies pioneering the idea of "sponsownership."

In response to our previous post about the idea of "sponsownership," Stephen Rogan at Virgin Media UK offered up an interesting perspective on the Virgin Way:

"I think this is an interesting topic. I know for a brand like Virgin it is very important that we are seen to have some ownership and ensure it is clear to all fans that we are actively involved rather than a passive badge on the side. Creating properties from scratch can be very rewarding but as stated it’s a lot of work and there are risks. I think spotting properties ready for re invention, or properties that are big in other countries present an interesting op. Take Orange Rockcorps - Rockcorps was well known in the states but in launching it in the UK with Orange, Orange have managed to make it look and feel like theirs. With Red Bull Flugtag – Flugtag had been around for years but it was very niche, Red Bull saw an opportunity to reinvent it and it became huge. Our own V Festival started off as a Pulp concert that needed funding.

I think properties and brands would do well to look at how they can reinvent what is there already to deliver the ownership that sponsors will increasingly need. It would be interesting to see what others think."

And this entrepreneurial marketing philosophy spreads across all of the other Virgin companies. Virgin America puts a slight twist on it, by partnering with other companies on spons-ownered events.

"Our budgets are very small so we have to make our dollars work incredibly hard," Porter Gale, CMO of Virgin America, says.

"We engage [consumers] at events. One thing that has been amazing for us is our partnership strategy where we've been able to put on events. We recently did one with Google, a Day in the Cloud event, where two great brands came together put together an online scavenger hunt. We got tons of press from it. It hit a sweet spot that worked for both of us and it really extended our reach in a way that we probably couldn't have afforded," Gale says in the video interview below.

And Virgin Mobile's in on the game too. Last weekend, Virgin Mobile kicked off the fourth rendition of their "sponsownered" Virgin Mobile Music Festival, this year dubbed "FreeFest" in light of the recession. How could they afford to put on "free" at this year's festival? By leveraging existing partnerships with handset partner Kyocera, sister company Virgin America Airlines, IKEA and others.

So what does all of this mean if you're pitching a company like Virgin?

Don't come with standard levels and inflated prices. Virgin doesn't want to be an also ran, sliding into an event at bronze for $20k.

Instead, try pitching around how the company can use their brand equity to reinvent your property in a way that adds value to the event and brands a memorable experience in the minds of consumers.