I’m a big fan of experiential marketing. I read a lot of books on the subject, speak at experiential marketing conferences, and believe that if you combine the authenticity of a good sponsorship with the techniques of experiential marketing, you’re really onto a winner. Almost.
In all the experiential marketing rhetoric, there is a basic concept that is inherently flawed. And as those techniques make their way into the sponsorship industry, that flawed thinking is coming right with it. There is this idea within experiential marketing that if you create a whiz-bang “brand experience”, the people who experience it will want to be part of your “brand story”. Not to put too fine a point on it, but wrong.
The customer or potential customers may enjoy or appreciate the experience, they may even tell others about it – both good things – but do those people consider themselves to be a part of the “brand story”? Do they even want to be part of your “brand story”? Unless you are Apple or Harley Davidson, it’s unlikely.
Your job as a sponsor – your job as a marketer – is to make your brand a part of the customers’ stories. To understand their needs and demonstrate how your brand fits with their functional and, even better, emotional needs. It’s to demonstrate an alignment with your customers’ and potential customers’ priorities and motivations.
You can definitely do that, experientially, but you need to get over yourself. An experiential marketing project – whether sponsorship-driven or not – should not be about amplifying your brand’s personality to a deafening roar. It’s to amplify the relevance to individual people’s lives, to showcase your brand’s alignment to what those people care about, and to add real value to whatever experience they are really trying to have – whether it’s enjoying and event, cheering for their team, holiday shopping, or communing on the subway – because wherever they are and whatever they’re doing, your brand experience is not epicentre of their days. They may come to your party, but they’re there for the party, not your brand.
Swap brand selfishness for brand respect. Swap short-sighted glitz for genuine care for your target markets. Because when it comes right down to it, people buy things that are part of their own stories and they recommend brands to others because of the way they enhance or fit into their own lives. Those are facts that the biggest road show in the world will not change.
For all you need to know about best practice sponsorship selection, leverage, measurement, management, and more, you may want to get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
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