Business Lead Blauw Sponsorship Impact Eva Gerritse

As a newly-fledged graduate, she was taken on as a junior researcher at Blauw Research. Now, Eva Gerritse has been in charge of the Sponsorship Impact team, an integral part of Blauw Research, for almost four years. Whereas a few years ago the team consisted of just four people, today a staff of thirteen are employed investigating sponsoring impact. In this interview, we discuss the power of sport sponsoring, the expectations for 2022 and the Football World Cup in Qatar.

Did you know when you signed up here as a junior, that sponsoring was the field you wanted to make your own?

Not as such. My main reason for joining Blauw was my interest in research in general. But when sponsoring crossed my path, my personal interest in sport made the choice an easy one. I am very much a sport lover; I believe in the importance of sport and it is a major part of my life. Blauw is a company that gives you a considerable degree of freedom to decide what does and does not suit your personality. By following my passion, I became involved in sponsoring research.

Where did you develop your passion for sport?

My parents were, and still are, active sports people. In other words, I come from a sporting family. In addition, my father is a massive sports lover and when I was a child he took me to watch cycling, speed skating and football. Sport is something I grew up with, and as a child I automatically adopted a love of sport.

You have achieved considerable growth here at Blauw. Did you know from the start that you would develop into a business lead?

It all in fact started with the change of direction within Blauw Research. We had always been involved in a variety of research projects, so there was no clear area of focus for all that expertise. The CEO at the time decided to select specific areas of expertise that we truly believe in and that offer growth opportunities. It was effectively an open invitation to everyone within the business to think about an area of expertise they believed was worth investing in. My suggestion was that we should consider focusing on sponsoring; it is something we are good at and that offers plenty of opportunities. In response, we established a sponsoring research team and launched Blauw Sponsorship Impact.

The Sponsorship Impact team has grown rapidly over the past twelve months. That development will not only have internal impact, but could also influence overall service provision. One of your qualities is the ability to deliver tailor-made research and personal advice; can you still do that in an environment that is growing so quickly?

We certainly can and we intend to continue doing so! We will never offer standardised research solutions, quite simply because the value of our research work lies in the fact that everything we do is tailor-made and focused on the specific brand objectives of our clients. It of course takes time and you need the right people; but if you can provide that kind of service, then clients are willing to pay for it. Nonetheless, even as the business continues to expand, we are constantly on the lookout for the best people so we can maintain the quality of our research, and offer advice that truly helps our clients move forward.

Why are new parties seeking you out more often?

In my mind, there are two main factors. Firstly, we already work for a number of leading brands active in sport sponsoring, and that in itself generates a certain degree of credibility. When brands see their competitors working with us, they follow suit because they are positive about what they see. The world of sponsoring is in fact quite small. For example, within our portfolio we already have six UEFA sponsors, and during the annual meetings in Switzerland they speak to other UEFA sponsors. They often tell each other what insights they use for their sponsorship activities, and are open about the agency they collaborate with. As we grow, we see that our name comes up more and more frequently. Our existing clients advise other sponsors to get in touch with us, too.

The second reason has more to do with content. We provide insights into how brands can use sport to help their brand grow. Whereas others often merely inform their clients how often people have seen their logo, we actively help our brands achieve their growth objectives. It is not enough to just look backwards. It is also important to gain insights that help you as a brand take the next set of decisions. We help our clients make choices that bring them closer to their goals. I am convinced that is something that sponsors and rights holders have not often experienced. In other words, we meet a need that itself is constantly growing.

Can you give a concrete example of a party you have been able to help by providing insights they did not have before you came along?

We have been carrying out sponsor research for Heineken and their international sponsorships for years. Several years ago, they decided to change their brand strategy, by focusing more on women. Previously, their strategy was always focused on men. In other words, they were tackling a new target group, and that is a brand challenge to which sponsorships must make a contribution. Our insights can be useful in making the right choices. For example, how can existing sponsorships be used for this new target group, and what potential sponsorships could help reach the new brand targets? Our analyses contributed to the expansion of their sponsoring portfolio (for example to include women’s football) and in reaching the decision to not always advertise with traditional Heineken bottles but to also include their 0.0 beer. Those insights have helped them improve the fit with their new brand target group.

What are your expectations for 2022?

As the team continues to grow, we are hard at work deciding how to organise that process. We will be introducing a more serious business structure, and further steps will have to be taken. That will above all be my responsibility. Everything has started to accelerate over the past few months, and 2022 looks to be a year of real opportunities.

There are also a growing number of brands that are looking to establish an emotional bond: how do we get in touch with sport fans? The focus is shifting towards how as a sponsor you can deliver added value, while still maintaining your credibility. All these elements contribute to growth of the brand and the long-term success of the sponsorship. It is no longer simply a question of consumers seeing your logo; the essence now lies in the sponsor playing an active role in making the sport more entertaining and more attractive for the fans. These are subjects that are becoming increasingly popular among sponsors and they are typical areas in which we and our insights can make a real contribution. We are able to demonstrate whether people recognise the added value and whether they actually believe in it. We of course monitor all these developments over time, so if campaigns are developed that are aimed at helping to achieve the brand objectives, we are able to see just how effective they are.

Looking forward to 2022, what are the most relevant developments for sponsors?

We are seeing many new types of business enter the sponsoring arena. Take for example TikTok and the portfolio that has managed to establish, in record time. For everyone in our world, these are very interesting developments. We also suddenly find ourselves in discussion with parties that deliver a new sense of dynamism. In the same way, new parties are very focused on the added value I mentioned earlier. They want to be the people who bring something extra into sport, for the athletes or for the fans. And because of the way they view sponsoring, our insights tie in perfectly with their strategy.

The Football World Cup in Qatar is clearly on the agenda, for next year. From the point of view of your expertise, what is your take on that particular event?

When it comes to delivering added value and creating a credible role for the sponsor, in my mind, things are set to become more complex in the future. Sponsors today are far more aware of their role in society. However, if you are involved in this World Cup as a sponsor, you are likely to be confronted with discussions in society that you do not necessarily want to see associated with your brand. If it comes to organising another Football World Cup in Qatar in fifteen years’ time and the situation there has still not changed, I have serious doubts as to whether sponsors will be willing to take part. Without a doubt, rights holders will feel under pressure to start thinking about issues of that kind.

If we get together again this time next year, what do you hope that you and your team will have achieved?

I hope that even with a larger team, we will still be having just as much fun, and still be at least as motivated to help our clients achieve even greater success with their sponsorships. Next year, once again, we will be adding new people to the team, and their arrival will undoubtedly result in a new dynamic. I am extremely proud to see how everyone works together in harmony, how much confidence there is and how much we all enjoy working together. I see it as my personal task to maintain that positive atmosphere and to ensure that we all retain the enthusiasm and motivation to continue our hard work.

As for the business, I hope that once again we will have added a number of attractive brands, with major, international sponsorships. We are already responsible for research into the impact of sponsoring in more than 35 countries. By next year, that number could easily have risen to 50. I have a wish list of brands that would perfectly match our portfolio, and I hope to have been able to tick off a number of them, by the end of 2022.

About Sponsorship Impact

We have been helping international brands optimise their sponsorship strategies for over 20 years. We not only prove the brand growth that sponsoring provides, but also identify opportunities to improve sponsorship strategies.

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Eva Gerritse
Eva Gerritse
Eva Gerritse
Eva Gerritse
Eva Gerritse

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Eva Gerritse
Business Lead
+316 113 550 95
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