Sponsoring a Book Prize

Agile Creative Director & Founder,
Alastair Giles recounts a memorable night at the European Sponsorship Awards

Before 2020, although our offices are based near Bath, you would’ve found me in Central London two days out of five. Most media-based industries are centred around the capital and book publishing is no different.
 
What a difference a worldwide pandemic makes, I’ve not returned to Soho since February 26th and I’m not sure when I’ll be back again, with Zoom calls seemingly the new norm!
 
As it turned out, my last trip was a cold late-winter’s night of much celebration, heavy drinking and two awards ceremonies:
 
Having run an event with the team showcasing the best Travel writers of the year in a successful Covent Garden ceremony for the first part of the evening, I left early to pop to The Brewery in East London for an intriguing time at the European Sponsorship Awards.
 
I was the guest of Core, an agency in Dublin whose client: An Post (The Irish Post Office) I’d just paired with another of our projects: The Irish Book Awards. Core had put together the activation campaign around the awards campaign and submitted the awards for two categories at the sponsorship awards.
 
I arrived halfway through the night, to a room seemingly full of well lubricated Sports marketing agency types. The An Post Irish Book Awards had already picked up the gong for both its two entered categories: Arts & Culture Sponsorship and Newcomer of the Year. By 11.30pm, I was being dragged onstage to celebrate with them, as it also won the prestigious Overall Sponsorship of the Year Prize too!
Agile Creative Director Alastair Giles with An Post Irish Book Awards Sponsorship Manager Louise Cronje and the Core team at the European Sponsorship Awards
Agile Creative Director Alastair Giles with An Post Irish Book Awards Sponsorship Manager Louise Cronje and the Core team at the European Sponsorship Awards
This was significant, because it’s the first time the gong has gone to a non-sports sponsorship. In Sport, sponsorship is a mature market, but within the Arts and Culture area, significantly less so. It’s even rarer to see sponsorship used as creatively around Books and reading.
 
It’s worth examining why. Perhaps, the most unique factor is the very personal connection people have with books; readers are incredibly passionate evangelists and word of mouth spreads rapidly. So, in addition to the personal passion, a community quickly builds and is fostered not only on social media, but also, between friends in book groups, in libraries and also book shops.
 
All this communication leads to something rarer that sponsors crave; longevity.
 
A book with an award sticker on it takes on average 6 weeks to read. A prize poster in a bookshop stays in a window or around a display of books on average 10 weeks. Official awards stickers, (with the sponsor logo integrated within) stays on a prize-endorsed hardback (or a consequently published paperback) book for around 9 months.
 
This is what An Post tapped into when they decided to sponsor the national Irish Book awards (effectively, this works as a celebratory affirmative action campaign for Irish writers, in every genre including children’s books, which now represents about 40% of the book market in Ireland).

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The abundance of stake-holding partners include; bookshops, libraries, junior sponsors and all forms of media and whilst publicity coverage online, in newspapers and within the official RTE TV highlights show is important, the fascinating reveal here is that across our project portfolio, official evaluations have suggested that over 50% of the value to the sponsor is taken from the official instore poster, shelf-edge strip and sticker displays in-store.
 
Books reflect society and the media. It’s not just about fiction authors. Today bestsellers are just as likely to be written by celebrities, TV stars, sports stars, chefs, bloggers etc. Association to that range of talent is another welcome benefit for potential sponsors.
 
Being able to vote for your favourite book is another important side product of the immersive passion of readers. Engagement is vital for sponsors such as An Post, who were looking to add relevance and content for community discussion. In addition to the ‘IBA Academy’, the public in Ireland are urged to vote on the various shortlisted books, resulting in over 100,000 votes online.
 
Prize-winning sponsorship campaigns aside, the world has changed in the last 6 months, but with events now largely virtual, this kind of reach, personal interaction and association longevity could be seen as even more valuable to sponsors.
 
Traditionally, sport is where sponsorship is at, but looking beyond and specifically at book prizes is worth bearing in mind. An Post and Core have done a great job eking out benefit from the Irish Book Awards, but, there are plenty of similar national and more tactical opportunities within the UK book market.
By Alastair Giles | Creative Director & Founder

Prize-winning sponsorship campaigns aside, the world has changed in the last 6 months, but with events now largely virtual, this kind of reach, personal interaction and association longevity could be seen as even more valuable to sponsors.

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