The other day, I had someone ask me how to ensure a sponsor’s sponsorship portfolio was “balanced” across sponsorship categories. Her concern was how to ensure that there was an even spread of sponsorship across sports vs charities vs community, etc, particularly given that sports sponsorship tends to be more costly.
Oh, the alarm bells all of that set off!
Now, there are a lot of ways to balance a sponsorship portfolio, but balancing categories isn’t one of them. When building (or auditing) a sponsorship portfolio, it’s all about what sponsorships are most relevant to your target markets, and will be leverageable for the greatest benefit to the brand. Those can fall into any category, and trying to hit some fixed figure for arts vs community vs sports is making a rod for your own back.
The other implication was that there was some percentage in the community/charity category that would tick a box for the sponsor, making them “responsible corporate citizens”. I’m actually going to address that particular mindset in a separate blog, but suffice it to say that simply spending money on community/charity sponsorships to “tick a box” is doing both your brand and the organisation a disservice. Treating it like a real sponsorship and leveraging it properly is vastly better for your brand and the organisation you’re sponsoring.
Okay, back to this whole portfolio-balancing thing and how to do it.
You should ensure that your sponsorship portfolio is geographically balanced, so that you have sponsorships that are relevant across all of your priority regions. Note, I did not say “taking place” across all of your regions, because that isn’t strictly necessary. It is absolutely possible to use leverage activities to create real relevance across multiple regions, nationally, or even globally, using sponsorship of an event, team, or other property that is physically located somewhere very concise.
Creating that relevance across regions is a bit of a trick, but can make a smaller sponsorship punch way, way above its weight. Some of the keys to making this work are:
- Negotiating for flexible, leverageable benefits. Check out this blog for a rundown on the benefits you should be wanting: “Sponsorship Benefits Every Sponsor Should Want”.
- Creating content that will be immediately relevant and shareable by fans, whether they are in the region or not.
- Creating durable content that will be compelling to people interested in the larger themes of the sponsorship for years to come. Sponsoring a marathon? Your YouTube video about mind tricks to survive your first marathon could become a classic.
You also need to ensure that your portfolio is balanced across your key brand timeframes. If your brand sells evenly year-round, that may be a twelve-month spread. If you have specific sales epicentres, such as end-of-financial-year sales or a summer-centric brand, your portfolio should reflect that.
Again, you can use leverage techniques to extend the timeframes around whatever you sponsor, because as long as fans care about the property, or the larger themes around the property, it is leverageable.
- Can you pass through some kind of control of or influence over part of the event?
- Can people nominate themselves or someone else to participate or have some kind of meaningful experience around the event?
- Can you crowdsource an element of your leverage plan?
- Can you create some durable content and make it available afterward?
- Can you create some kind of keepsake, especially a customisable keepsake?
There are many, many other options to extend the timeframe. For more on using larger themes around a property to extend its leverageable value for your brand, see “It’s Not the Size of the Sponsorship, It’s What You Do with It”.
Looking at your overall objectives for the brand, you need to ensure that your sponsorship portfolio is leverageable across all of them. That doesn’t mean that every sponsorship has to achieve every marketing objective, but every sponsorship should move you toward several of them.
This shouldn’t be difficult, as one of the most beautiful things about sponsorship is its flexibility. As long as the property has some relevance for your target markets, you can use creative leverage to make it achieve almost any marketing objective you have.
My rule of thumb for clients is the 5-and-2 Rule. You shouldn’t invest in a sponsorship unless it will achieve at least five separate overall marketing objectives (not the same objective stated five different ways, which I’ve seen). It also needs to have buy-in and a commitment from at least two departments outside of the immediate brand team for meaningful leverage.
If you need a process for building that buy-in and multi-dimensional leverage plans, I strongly suggest you get a copy of The Corporate Sponsorship Toolkit, which goes through a bulletproof process step-by-step.
The upshot is that I want you to stop thinking in absolutes. Don’t think of a local festival as being necessarily a local sponsorship. Don’t consign that warm-weather sport to being a summer sponsorship. And definitely don’t think your portfolio needs to hit some fixed balance of categories. Invest in relevance. Invest in fan passion. Let leverage balance the rest.
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. If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting, sponsorship training, and strategy sessions. Please drop me a line to discuss.
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