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Sponsorship Principles of Success Through Creativation

Say what? Creativation, now that’s a new word! Mike McCann, Senior Manager, Global Sponsorships at Amazon shared the game-changing term when we welcomed him as a featured speaker at the Sponsorship Mastery Summit this year. Mike coined the word, explaining “they are twins, where one is not more important than the other” when used in sponsorship.

Mike’s session became an instant fan favorite and had everyone, including me, on the edge of our seats. I was inspired by the big, bold thinking that has driven Mike to create some of the most engaging activations around. I am going to share some of his insights and the fascinating origins around creativation and how that methodology helped inspire one of the biggest and most innovative naming rights deals in history.

Creativity + Innovation = Creativation

Both are equally as powerful when applied to the development and execution of partnerships. One really does not exist without the application of the other. Creativation starts with five foundational principles. Mike has used these principles when developing partnerships over the course of his successful career.

The 5 principles are:

1. Build strong relationships with your partners
2. Define how you are going to measure success
3. Be laser focused; activate the partnership across all touchpoints
4. Get creative in acquiring new assets that will advance objectives
5. Push, challenge, expect BIG breakthrough ideas from the team

A Partnership Rooted in Sustainability

Amazon developed the most progressive and innovative sustainability initiative in the world and integrated the initiative into the historic naming rights partnership with Oak View Group – the Climate Pledge Arena.

The arena will host the new NHL team, Kraken, the WBA team, Storm, hundred concerts and musical events annually. Simultaneously, Amazon had co-founded the Climate Pledge, which challenges organizations globally to commit to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2040, ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement. Kudos to Amazon and all the signatories!

Here are a few other ways that are paving the way in sustainability:

• All electricity powered by off-site solar farms
• only fossil fuel free, net zero energy facility in the world
• Rainwater recycled off the roof directly to the ice rink.
• The Seattle Kraken will skate on the greenest ice arena in the NHL
• 100% free of single use plastics by 2024
• Even an electric Zamboni and more!

Want to read more about the Climate Pledge? Click here.

Rewriting the Creativity Playbook

Amazon didn’t need their name or logo on top of the arena to further brand awareness in Seattle. It also would not meet their number one objective of being “customer-obsessed.” So in the Amazon spirit of creating BHAG’s (big hairy audacious goals) Amazon handed over the naming rights to the Climate Pledge. Before this deal, it was unheard of in the sponsorship industry to name a building for a cause. Was it disruptive? Absolutely. But this was the opportunity for Amazon to further their passion for innovation while considering their long-term objectives. This opportunity was where they could walk the talk.

So, how to bring Climate Pledge alive? How do you activate a cause? Back to customer-obsessed, of course. In sports marketing sponsorship (or any sponsorship for that matter), the fans’ experience rule.

Start With the Customer and Work Backward

Instead of taking their “cause” to educate on-site, Amazon chose to inspire and create optimism about the future of our planet. It’s important to step outside of yourself and focus on the fan first. Time for more BHAG! The Amazon team went back to creativation and big, scary ideas. Here are a few that fans will see when they visit Climate Pledge Arena:

• Echo and Alexa devices installed in suites for ordering food, and even checking traffic updates for the trip home after an event.
• AWS technology installed at food locations throughout the arena so the fan can use their phone to swipe, experiencing a touchless transaction and no lines to wait in.
• AWS will also be used for the arena big boards so that when that hockey “slap shot” happens, the technology will translate how fast the puck was going and how long it would take for it to reach Vancouver at that speed… in real time!

Elevate the Experience, Don’t Just Integrate Your Brand

1. Challenge yourselves to think bigger. Break out of the expected and come up with absurd ideas because you can always pull back.
2. Challenge your partner and find a win-win always.
3. Start with the customer first.
4. Build real relationships. It will pay dividends now and for years to come.

So go forth sponsorship marketers! Use your creativation to ideate those BHAG’s and look at sponsorship through a fresh lens.


Paula Beadle

Founder & CEO

Paula Beadle is a partnership marketing thought leader and sponsorship industry trailblazer. Over her illustrious 30+ year career in sports, entertainment and life-style events Paula has been recognized as a transformative leader who drives growth, creates innovative strategies and builds high performing teams. She is well-regarded for her business tenacity and ability to inspire, motivate and create meaningful change. She is a mentor with a style that energizes and empowers individuals and organizations to thrive.

Paula is the Founder & CEO of Caravel, a national consulting company specializing in strategic sponsorship and partnership marketing. Caravel develops winning strategies, fosters bold ideas, increases revenue and creatively connects the right partners. Paula’s reputation as a results-driven leader stems from success buying and selling a range of diverse sponsorships, including securing multi-million-dollar naming rights partnerships, forging renown purpose driven partnerships, and a track record for developing long-term signature partnerships with iconic events and global brands.

Paula is also the Founder & CEO of the Sponsorship Marketing Association. Paula is a visionary leader and an avid champion of the industry. She founded SMA to strengthen, unify and advocate for the industry’s continued growth. Paula is on a mission to help marketers master the art and science of sponsorship.

Paula is a sought-after speaker, a Mentor for Women in Sports & Entertainment (WISE) and serves the Red Cross, Seattle Sports Commission and Washington Fairs and Events Association.