The Myth of “Sponsorship Objectives” and Why Sponsorship is like Sculpture

The Myth of “Sponsorship Objectives” and Why Sponsorship is like SculptureI’ve been thinking this month a lot about industry myths, and next cab off the rank is the myth of sponsorship objectives.

The myth

That companies should have a set of sponsorship objectives that co-exist with a separate set of overall marketing objectives.

The reality

Sponsorship is just another tool for companies to achieve overall marketing objectives , every one of which will fall into one of the following categories: Changing people’s behaviours and changing their perceptions. These objectives can be across internal, external, or intermediary markets, at the corporate, brand, or local level, and long or short term.

What I have seen more times than I can count are very astute brand marketers who develop “sponsorship objectives” based on either a limited or outmoded understanding of what sponsorship can do, or based on mechanisms – like generating exposure or awareness – rather than results.

Worst of the lot are sponsorship objectives that are about the sponsorship. They follow some kind of crazy, circular logic that goes something like this: The sponsor invests in a sponsorship, with the primary goal being to get more people to say they are aware of the sponsorship this year than last year. In other words, the primary goal of the sponsorship – and the primary thing that they’re measuring – is whether people are aware of the sponsorship. How exactly does this relate to brand goals? How is this changing people’s perceptions and behaviours? It doesn’t and it’s not. In fact, it totally misses the point. It’s like wearing a gorgeous Dior frock inside out, because your primary goal is that people know you’re wearing Dior and you want them to see the label.

This is so limiting!! Sponsorship is an amazing tool for marketers. It has unparalleled relevance to a range of target markets, it is a catalyst that can make any or all of your marketing activities more powerful and relevant, and it is the most flexible of all marketing media. All other marketing media are like paintings – they can be masterpieces, but they are in some way constrained by their formats. Sponsorship, on the other hand, is like sculpture – it can be made out of anything, into anything you want, so long as it is structurally sound. And, my friends, solid, strategic objectives provide that structure.

When it comes to relating sponsorship to overall objectives, my advice to sponsors is to follow the 5-and-2 Rule. Every sponsorship investment should:

  • Directly contribute to the achievement of at least five overall marketing objectives.
  • Have buy-in and a commitment to leverage the sponsorship in a meaningful way from at least two divisions outside of brand management (for instance, HR and PR or customer loyalty and sales).

Yes, these numbers are somewhat arbitrary, but in my experience, about right.

If a sponsorship only has the scope to achieve one or two objectives it is probably not a  strategic, leverageable investment, although it may work tactically. If, on the other hand, a sponsorship has the scope to achieve five overall objectives, the chances are strong that it will achieve even more.

If a sponsorship has buy-in from divisions outside of brand marketing, it will be much more thoroughly and cost-effectively leveraged. And once there is some buy-in, and some commitment to use the sponsorship as a catalyst to make their activities more effective, you will likely get more.

What I hope you take away from all of this is very simple: Sponsorship is a very powerful tool for achieving overall marketing objectives. If you are not using these investments to achieve your larger goals, then you are wasting an enormous opportunity.

Need more assistance?

You may be interested in my latest white paper, “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.

If you need additional assistance with your sponsorship portfolio, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large and/or diverse organisations.

Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.

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