That’s a good question, and one I get more than you would think. Over the past few years, sponsors all over the world have looked at the limited returns they were getting from old-school sponsorship and realising that things had to change.
Many saw the light and have made big changes to best practice sponsorship, and are now reaping the benefits. Some have realised that change is inevitable, but have put it in the too-hard basket, relegating their results to ho-hum (at best) until they pull their fingers out and do something about it. And some don’t see the benefits of best practice at all. Instead, they have consigned all sponsorship to the category of “failed experiment” and retreated to their comfort zones of main media, sales promotions, and uninspired social media.
This blog is for any sponsors out there – including any brand managers or senior executives or regional management – who don’t understand what all the fuss is about, and wonder if it’s worth all the effort. Because sponsorship is a lot of effort. Making it work is tough, but oh so worth it, because when it’s done well, it delivers three things for your brand that nothing else in your marketing arsenal can.
Personal relevance is not only a benefit of best practice sponsorship, it is a threshold need for it to work. Forget huge visibility numbers or “mass market appeal”, as neither of those big, sexy numbers tells you whether anyone gives a rat’s arse about it. Think of those numbers like TV ratings; they tell advertisers how many people have their televisions tuned in, but how many of us are recording the program and skipping the ads? How many of us are actually interested and paying attention to the commercial messages? With as many options as we now have to opt out altogether, not very many.
What matters now is how much they care about what you’re sponsoring. How relevant it is to their lives. If it’s not relevant, don’t sponsor it. If it is relevant, there is almost no limit to what you can do with it. This brings me to why this is an important benefit of sponsorship:
When you sponsor something that is relevant to one or more of your target markets, you have invested in the privilege to connect with them through something they have already decided they care about. Your brand becomes part of the experience they are choosing to have, and if you understand, respect, and add value to that experience, your brand will be an appreciated part of it.
Of course, the converse is also true: Disrespect an experience they care about – become overbearing and loud and selfish – and your target market will resent you.
Nothing else gets you closer to your target markets’ passions than sponsorship. Nothing else puts you in a position to align your brand with those passions or, even better, amplify them. Nothing else gives you such a powerful platform for adding value to your relationships with those markets – those fans.
I’ve said it before, and I do apologise for repeating myself, but sponsorship has a degree of flexibility that is unparalleled. If you’ve got a sponsorship with the requisite amount of relevance, you can create leverage activities that will make it deliver on virtually any marketing or staff objective you could have.
Stop thinking about just the obvious benefits of sponsorship to your brand and start thinking broadly. You can absolutely make a charitable sponsorship drive sales. You can create staff retention programs around a cultural investment. You can use a flower show to launch a new product. Need to make a local or regional sponsorship work on a national level? Or a short event work for longer? Take a step back and look at the larger relevance of the theme and leverage that.
For more, see:
- The Myth of Sponsorship Objectives and Why Sponsorship is like Sculpture
- It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What you Do With It
If you’re only achieving one or two measurable objectives from a sponsorship, there’s every chance the problem is with your lack of creativity and integration, and not with the investment itself. If you’re not sure how to unlock those creative ideas, you’ll find a step-by-step process in The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit.
Like personal relevance, integration is both a reason and a requirement for being a great sponsor.
If you want those out-of-the-box ideas, you need to involve stakeholders from across your organisation, who bring with them different objectives and perspectives. Getting those stakeholders involved will accomplish a number of things:
- They will integrate the sponsorship across their existing activities, adding relevance and meaning to their already budgeted activities. Got that? Money your company is already spending on marketing, sales, employee programs, etc will become more effective and reap bigger returns.
- They will extend the list of achievable objectives for any given sponsorship.
- They will have both the benchmarks and mechanisms to accurately measure what they achieve through the sponsorship.
- Their differing perspectives will create a think tank for creativity around your sponsorship activities that you won’t have with people just from your area (or worse, by yourself).
The result is a sponsorship that is thoroughly and creatively leveraged, with many of the results accurately measured by your own in-house experts. This means your leverage budget will drop considerably – the world’s best sponsors spend an incremental 10-25% on leverage, not 100-200% or more, for most of their investments – and your part in the measurement equation will be largely about measuring changes in perception using research. (For more on measurement, see the video tutorial, “Sponsorship Measurement Basics in About 10 Minutes”.)
What about social media?
There is the argument that social media can accomplish each of the above, and that is true to an extent. Social media allows you to put things into people’s virtual paths and interact with them, but you need to have something relevant and interesting to say. If it’s all about your brand, people will tune out, so where does that shared relevance come from? If you’re smart, a lot of it should come from sponsorship.
Social media has some flexibility, in that it is two-way, involves a virtual community, and can host aps that range from helpful to cutthroat competitive. But it all requires a screen and the internet to participate, so real-life iterations are limited.
Social media is integrateable, in that you can certainly put your handles or IDs or hashtags on whatever other marketing activities you have, but again, how many people are going to see your ad for acne cleanser in some women’s magazine and then follow you? Or use your hashtag? There has to be something more for those afterthought social media references to be compelling to more than a handful of people with way too much time on their hands.
Don’t get me wrong; I love, love, love social media, and it is one of the most powerful media for leveraging sponsorship, but they both work better when used in concert, and it’s sponsorship that provides the relevance and passion.
The upshot? Sponsorship is amazing
It is. Doing sponsorship well is a lot of work and it requires a certain mindset and organisational culture, but none of that is unachievable. And, frankly, doing sponsorship well is a lot of fun, both for the frontline people and the other stakeholders who are using it to achieve their objectives. Once that mindset is instilled and adopted as part of your corporate culture, just try to stop your team from doing it well.
I mean, really… what are your other options? Take the lazy approach and become nothing more than eminently ignorable wallpaper on the things you sponsor? Or give up on sponsorship and keep churning out slick ads and sales promotions that work a fraction as well as they did ten years ago? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Need more assistance?
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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