Sponsor after sponsor tells this lie. Of course, they don’t think it’s a lie, but that doesn’t make it true. This is the typical exchange:
Me: So, what are you trying to achieve out of this sponsorship? What are your objectives?
Sponsor: We want to engage with our target markets.
Me: How are you planning to use this sponsorship to engage with those markets?
Sponsor: Heavy branding at the event, of course. Plus, venue announcements, advertising in the program, website cross-links… you know, the usual.
At that point I control the urge to take the sponsor by the shoulder and yell, “are you kidding me?!” Instead, I mentally smack myself on the forehead and, in the kindest words I can find, explain to them that they are delusional.
Putting a logo in front of people is not engaging them. Neither is an announcement plugging your product, having your strapline pulled across the bottom of a broadcast, program advertising, weblinks, press releases, or any of that one-way, outbound communication that is so typical of an old-school sponsorship. Even those oh-so-typical drawing-style promotions don’t qualify. How is getting someone to part with details about themselves in exchange for a long shot at a prize “engaging” them? It may be a transaction, but it’s hardly engagement.
Engagement is about creating and nurturing a two-way relationship with a target market. It’s about actively connecting with a target market, engendering belief and alignment that make your brand their natural choice. That’s the mission, and you don’t get that by simply being in front of people – no matter how big, loud, slick, or brash you may be.
Sponsorship is one of the biggest power tools for engagement that any brand has. You have the unparalleled privilege of connecting with people and adding value to your relationship with them through something they already care about. (For more on that, see “Five Ways Sponsors Abuse the Privilege”.)
Honestly, if all you’re trying to do is communicate a message to a market, you may as well skip sponsorship altogether and put your money in advertising or direct marketing or some other one-way marketing vehicle, because you are totally misusing this amazing, multi-faceted marketing opportunity.
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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