Giancarlo Bernini- Head Of Sponsorship, Sony Mobile Share PDF Print E-mail
Profile of the week
Giancarlo Bernini is head of sponsorship at Sony Mobile in London.
He joined Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) in March 2011 and oversees its global sponsorship assets such as the WTA, Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Billabong and other brand ambassador relationships.  Before joining Sony Mobile, he worked at Visa Europe for 6 years in several roles in sponsorship and partnership marketing with properties such as the Olympic & Paralympic Games (Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012), FIFA World Cup 2010, Rugby World Cup 2007 and partnerships such as Disney and AEG.
His start in sports marketing came in 2004 when he joined Visa International as a project manager for the Torino 2006 Olympic & Paralympic Games.  Prior to this he worked in sales and business development roles in the financial services sector.
Bernini has an MBA from London Business School, is a dual national of the UK and Italy and lives in London with his wife and son.
By Edward Rangsi
How has your experience in the financial world helped you with your involvement in sponsorship in the sports industry?
My experience at Visa gave me an insight into the whole sponsorship space. Going in and working for one of the biggest sports sponsors in the world was really useful for me in terms of having first-hand exposure of working on global properties like the Olympic & Paralympic Games, FIFA, Rugby World Cup and partnerships such as Disney and AEG.
What is your role and what are you expected to deliver?
I am the head of sponsorship at Sony Mobile Communications. I oversee our sponsored properties, so the WTA relationship, the Sony Ericsson Open and the recently- announced Billabong partnership, which we kicked-off globally from January this year.
What are the most challenging and, equally, rewarding aspects of your job?
This is an incredibly fast-moving industry and you really have to be on your toes all the time. Products change very quickly and innovations come in. One of the challenges is making sure that everything is fresh, everything is innovative and trying to do something new every time. But, equally, it’s also one of the most rewarding aspects because we’re always trying to do new things, different things and it’s great to see some of these things come to fruition. For example, last year, one of the digital activations that we did through our tennis sponsorship was Xperia Hot Shots.  An online platform that we had never done that before and it was great to see that come to fruition and the results it generated for us.
What do you look for when deciding to sponsor an athlete, team or event?
It depends. Obviously, we need to make sure where we’re investing is aligned with our business objectives. That’s always going to be at the forefront of every decision that’s ever made. So, back in 2005 when we decided to sponsor the WTA, it helped to build our brand on a global level across the WTA Tour.  I guess it really depends on the type of asset, what we feel it can bring and help us deliver as a business overall, whether it’s driving awareness, driving preference or driving purchase of our products.
You have to be selective in terms of who you sponsor. How do you decide between opportunities?
Ultimately it needs to be based on insights and focused on business goals and objectives. Our Billabong partnership is a perfect case in point - that’s a great opportunity for us to drive awareness and preference with our brand amongst a very targeted, but highly- influential demographic; extreme sports enthusiasts. It’s a great partnership to help us position our devices in a new way and is supported by the Xperia Active Billabong smartphone - a water and dust-proof device which suits the needs of extreme sports enthusiasts.
What are you looking to achieve through sports sponsorship?
We look to support our marketing goals all the time through our sponsorships. We look to drive preference for our Xperia Sony Smartphone brand, to ensure that people are aware of what we’re doing and ultimately it’s about ensuring that all the activities are helping drive sales of our products.
Sony Ericsson, now Sony, is heavily involved in tennis. What makes that particular sport an interest to you?
As I mentioned before, the trajectory of tennis stems back to 2005. At the time, we needed to grow our brand on a global level.  The WTA Tour allowed us to do that 53 events throughout the year across the world.  53 events in only 52 weeks in a year means there’s something going on all the time all around the world, which is great for us in terms of getting us a lot of exposure. Tennis is the fourth most-watched sport in the world, and the WTA partnership helps us to connect with consumers around the world. They have a digital fan base of well over 20 million people, so that helps us amplify our messaging throughout the world as well.
Is there anything the sport could do differently or better to increase Sony Mobile’s level of involvement?
The WTA is a great partner of ours. I think from a rightsholder perspective, they’re certainly one of the better partners at striving to innovate and trying to help sponsors achieve their objectives. I think it’s something all rightholders need to do more of, rather than taking a prescriptive sponsorship model and not really moving or being flexible with it. I think the WTA is a perfect example of a rightsholder that is moving with the times, constantly looking to innovate and do new fresh things to help its sponsors and ultimately grow its sport.
What does Sony Mobile look to do around a sponsorship to get most out of the association i.e. what activations do you believe are necessary?
Well, if you look at last year, our main activation last year was the digitally-led Xperia Hot Shots campaign, which helped us add a new dimension to our tennis sponsorship. So, giving fans insights into the lives off-court of six players and creating story lines, making sure people can follow them around the tour and really opening people’s eyes up to these tremendous personalities and what they do away from the court to complement what they do on the court. I think it was really great for us in that sense. It helped us grow an army of 825,000 fans on Facebook in just a few months, over 70 pieces of video coverage that we created with close to 4 million views on YouTube. So, we were very happy with the numbers and the engagement levels with us as a brand through what we gave to the sport.
With the constant media attention focussed on sports stars, sponsoring an athlete brings about increased risk of scandal. With this in mind, does it make more sense for a sponsor to look to deal with, for example, the Miami Open rather than Rafael Nadal?
Not really. It depends on the business and the goals that you have at the end of the day. Sometimes a brand ambassador can help you have a greater share of voice for a determined activity and sometimes it’s more about the event and the ‘globality’ or ‘locality’of that event. It really depends on what your business stated objectives are. I wouldn’t say it’s a question of whether you should you do one versus the other.
With the Miami Sony Ericsson Open now under way, does your role differ during an event?
If everything has gone well in the planning and preparation you should really have little to do.  However, you are always on alert to ensure everything goes smoothly onsite at events, that there are no issues and that your guests have a great experience. It’s great to be at the event to see everything come together.
Social media is a great way of reaching the public more quickly. Do you encourage players to use this medium?
We don’t actually tell them they should be using social media or not. It’s up to them and some have their own management who help them with that. We’re not forcing them to use social media but I do think it adds to the fan experience. They can get closer to their heroes and the athletes today in a way that would have seemed impossible even 10 years ago. I think it just adds another dimension, another facet, that wasn’t there before. Social media – people commenting on different things, that’s the way of life. It’s been going on for years and years.  You’ve just got channels to do it through now and we’re all media owners effectively.
Preferably, you would want them to be as active as possible...
You would. They’re all creating their own brands today and it gives them greater amplification and greater opportunity to talk to their fans and to connect and to grow their fan base.
How often does Sony Mobile meet their original targets?
We’re very KPI led so obviously everything we embark on doing, we’re very aggressive in what we want to set out to achieve and obviously we evaluate activity that we do in its own light, then obviously in the context of our marketing plans and activities throughout the business.
As a Liverpool fan, could I get your thoughts on why you believe Warrior Sports chose a team not living up to expectations on the pitch as way of entering the UK soccer market?
I’m actually really looking forward to seeing what Warrior does and think it’s a great deal for them to grow their brand internationally.  It’s a really bold and highly publicised deal, but irrespective of recent results, Liverpool remains a team with a huge global following therefore the opportunities and potential rewards could be huge.  I’ll be watching with great interest both professionally and personally!
Standard Chartered made a statement concerning Liverpool’s handling of the Suarez situation. How, if and when should sponsors address such situations publicly?
Obviously, the brands that are investing in these sports have a vested interest and they sometimes feel that it can reflect badly on them should certain things happen. With everything that’s going on, things happen these days that are brought up to the public attention so much more quickly through social media and you can’t really get away from it anymore, more so than maybe 20 years ago or so. I think sponsors are entitled to express their opinions provided they did it in the right way.  The same applies for rights holders too.

GB Cropped 1

Giancarlo Bernini is head of sponsorship at Sony Mobile in London.

He joined Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) in March 2011 and oversees its global sponsorship assets such as the WTA, Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Billabong and other brand ambassador relationships.  Before joining Sony Mobile, he worked at Visa Europe for 6 years in several roles in sponsorship and partnership marketing with properties such as the Olympic & Paralympic Games (Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010 and London 2012), FIFA World Cup 2010, Rugby World Cup 2007 and partnerships such as Disney and AEG. 

His start in sports marketing came in 2004 when he joined Visa International as a project manager for the Torino 2006 Olympic & Paralympic Games.  Prior to this he worked in sales and business development roles in the financial services sector.

Bernini has an MBA from London Business School, is a dual national of the UK and Italy and lives in London with his wife and son.

By Edward Rangsi


How has your experience in the financial world helped you with your involvement in sponsorship in the sports industry?

My experience at Visa gave me an insight into the whole sponsorship space. Going in and working for one of the biggest sports sponsors in the world was really useful for me in terms of having first-hand exposure of working on global properties like the Olympic & Paralympic Games, FIFA, Rugby World Cup and partnerships such as Disney and AEG.


What is your role and what are you expected to deliver?

I am the head of sponsorship at Sony Mobile Communications. I oversee our sponsored properties, so the WTA relationship, the Sony Ericsson Open and the recently- announced Billabong partnership, which we kicked-off globally from January this year.

 

What are the most challenging and, equally, rewarding aspects of your job?

This is an incredibly fast-moving industry and you really have to be on your toes all the time. Products change very quickly and innovations come in. One of the challenges is making sure that everything is fresh, everything is innovative and trying to do something new every time. But, equally, it’s also one of the most rewarding aspects because we’re always trying to do new things, different things and it’s great to see some of these things come to fruition. For example, last year, one of the digital activations that we did through our tennis sponsorship was Xperia Hot Shots.  An online platform that we had never done that before and it was great to see that come to fruition and the results it generated for us.


What do you look for when deciding to sponsor an athlete, team or event?

It depends. Obviously, we need to make sure where we’re investing is aligned with our business objectives. That’s always going to be at the forefront of every decision that’s ever made. So, back in 2005 when we decided to sponsor the WTA, it helped to build our brand on a global level across the WTA Tour.  I guess it really depends on the type of asset, what we feel it can bring and help us deliver as a business overall, whether it’s driving awareness, driving preference or driving purchase of our products. 


You have to be selective in terms of who you sponsor. How do you decide between opportunities?

Ultimately it needs to be based on insights and focused on business goals and objectives. Our Billabong partnership is a perfect case in point - that’s a great opportunity for us to drive awareness and preference with our brand amongst a very targeted, but highly- influential demographic; extreme sports enthusiasts. It’s a great partnership to help us position our devices in a new way and is supported by the Xperia Active Billabong smartphone - a water and dust-proof device which suits the needs of extreme sports enthusiasts.


What are you looking to achieve through sports sponsorship?

We look to support our marketing goals all the time through our sponsorships. We look to drive preference for our Xperia Sony Smartphone brand, to ensure that people are aware of what we’re doing and ultimately it’s about ensuring that all the activities are helping drive sales of our products.


Sony Ericsson, now Sony, is heavily involved in tennis. What makes that particular sport an interest to you?

As I mentioned before, the trajectory of tennis stems back to 2005. At the time, we needed to grow our brand on a global level.  The WTA Tour allowed us to do that 53 events throughout the year across the world.  53 events in only 52 weeks in a year means there’s something going on all the time all around the world, which is great for us in terms of getting us a lot of exposure. Tennis is the fourth most-watched sport in the world, and the WTA partnership helps us to connect with consumers around the world. They have a digital fan base of well over 20 million people, so that helps us amplify our messaging throughout the world as well.


Is there anything the sport could do differently or better to increase Sony Mobile’s level of involvement?

The WTA is a great partner of ours. I think from a rightsholder perspective, they’re certainly one of the better partners at striving to innovate and trying to help sponsors achieve their objectives. I think it’s something all rightholders need to do more of, rather than taking a prescriptive sponsorship model and not really moving or being flexible with it. I think the WTA is a perfect example of a rightsholder that is moving with the times, constantly looking to innovate and do new fresh things to help its sponsors and ultimately grow its sport. 

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