Things have been crazy busy! I am 9 days away from Menchie's South Nash Dash and although it is coming together, I am really feeling the pressure from some of my other clients who feel as if they have been on the back burner. I wish they all knew how often they were in my thoughts and actions!!!
But due to my crazy schedule, today I am going to share less of the personal today and more of the info...Today I want to share with you a few things I have learned about sponsorship over the years. If you aren't in the industry, it may bore you. But then again, it may give you a different perspective on why sponsors do what they do..
So Here You Go...
There is a belief out there that if an organization embarks on a sponsorship with one company, it disadvantages other companies in that category. Not to put too fine a point on it, but…yeah!
To a sponsor, sponsorship is all about creating a point of difference from the competition. Through a sponsorship, they will make connections with their target market(s), meet their objectives cost-effectively, and position their brand.
If you are selling sponsorship, you are selling a point of difference. The benefits you offer in exchange for their money create that point of difference. There is no way to create a partnership with one company - while taking their money to help underwrite your costs – and to ensure a level playing field.
If we want to sell sponsorship, the first thing we need to accept is that there is no level playing field. That said, there are some things we can do to ensure that providing a company with some benefits that give them an edge with their markets is not the same thing as giving them preference to our organization.
What we are selling is about meeting the sponsor’s objectives with our program’s target market. As all sponsors have different objectives and markets, some will be better suited as partners for a particular program than others.
Our sponsorships are about marketing return, not buying influence.
Sponsorship can provide more relevance and excitement around things on which the sponsor is already spending money, such as advertising, promotions, e-commerce, loyalty marketing and employee programs. The net effect is that sponsorship is supporting the overall marketing program, not the other way around. There is a rule of thumb that states that for every dollar a sponsor spends on a sponsorship fee, they need to spend another dollar to leverage the sponsorship.
Sponsors often think that leverage will cost a large amount of money. In fact, integrating sponsorship with the existing media integration can ease the burden of additional costs by fully utilizing all of the marketing vehicles that the sponsor is already paying for. They can drop their costs dramatically, making their whole sponsorship program more cost effective.
The best ambush protection a sponsor can possibly have is to leverage their sponsorship fully. If they have created a strong program of support for their investment, any activities mounted by their competition will look weak and stupid by comparison.
Sponsorship is the most emotional and personally relevant of all marketing media. If you don’t know who your markets are, you won’t be successful at any kind of marketing, much less with sponsorship.
Interesting thought: Forty years ago, sports grounds had billboards. The signs actually said something about the brand or the product, not like the logos that now plaster every surface of every modern stadium. That was followed by the more-is-better logo-driven approach. Still common, the problem with this approach is that the massive preponderance of signage is unwelcome. It is clutter – an interruption – that detracts, rather than enhances, the audiences’s experience with the event. Research has shown that people tend to equate signage with sponsorship and sponsorship to making an event run, which means that they tolerate it, but that is all they do. If you want your brand to be an invited part of someone’s life, there is no more powerful way to achieve that than to add value to their experience and align with their values and self-definition through something that they truly care about, and no worse way to do it than to disrespect their experience than by intruding on it. The wisest of sponsors understand that signage and other branding is not the cake, it’s not the frosting, it is merely the cherry on the top. In a fully realized sponsorship program, it can serve as a reminder of the sponsorship’s substance, but a conscious effort is made not to be intrusive.
The most powerful thing that a sponsor can do to effect a marketing return from sponsorship is to add value to the event/cause/team/whatever experience – to amplify the good stuff and mitigate the bad stuff; to make it more accessible, convenient, or interactive; to give the target market more input, control, or voice; to make the target market feel understood and valued and respected.
People choose to have these experiences – they care about them and make them part of their lives – and the sponsor who makes that even better for them will be valued and their contribution to the experience advocated. It’s about creating small, meaningful “wins” for a lot of people, and it is incredibly powerful.
Contrast that with sponsors who take the selfish route – who choose to interrupt the experience, to be overbearing and intrusive, to disrespect the audience; who are so are so focused on getting people’s attention that they conveniently forget that those people are there for the primary goal of paying attention to something else.
Best practice sponsorship is built around the idea of win-win-win. The third “win” is for the target markets. The goal with best practice sponsorship is that a large proportion of the target markets should receive small, meaningful benefits through a sponsorship, not just the chance for one person to receive a giant prize.
The event experience, however, provides the scope, longevity, and flexibility to create amazing, bespoke sponsorship programs. How? Think about this… Do people stop being fans of a team when the game ends? The season? Does the concert really start with the first crushing chord and end when the lights go on? Is your Louvre experience over when you re-emerge into the Paris dusk? Do you stop caring about the charity once you’ve finished the walk-a-thon? Do you have to attend a conference to be interested in the content? No. No to all of it.
The way most sponsorship is done, however, you think the event itself was the be-all and end-all. The fundamental reason for this is the flawed (and outdated) idea that the primary relationship is between the sponsor and the sponsee, hence, the focal point is the event. In reality, the primary relationship is between the sponsor and their target market(s) – with the sponsorship seeker in the role of “conduit” – so the focal point must be the people who make up the markets, and for them, the event is only part of their event experience.
The event experience starts the moment an event comes into consideration and doesn’t end until the last memory fades, the last story is told, you turn the concert CD into a coaster, the t-shirt into a rag, or simply decide to care about something else. The event experience is longer, broader, and deeper than the event itself. It encompasses anticipation and memories, logistics and mementos, it is emotional, functional, educational, social, and so much more. The event is created by a production company or team or association. The event experience is created by individuals. And because there are so many ways to have an event experience – so many components, so many touch-points – many people create one for themselves without even attending the event.
I am not talking about simply running a sales promotion (or whatever) that is anchored on the event, but happens outside of the event, although that certainly can be part of a leverage program. I am talking about extending the basic concept behind best practice sponsorship – that sponsorship is now win-win-win, with the third win being the target market – across the entire event experience.
Creating those “third wins”, those small, meaningful value-adds for the target market, falls into two main categories: Amplifying or extending the best parts of the event experience and ameliorating the worst parts of the event experience. There are as many ways to do this as there are aspects to an even experience, but here are some ideas to get you started.
An IEG/Performance Research survey indicated that ‘increasing consumer loyalty’ was the top priority of corporate sponsors.
Allow race participants to use their bib number for a discount at your store
Hand out a coupon during the day offering a discount at your store
Offer door prize, have the enter to win bowl at your table and keep the database
Have a kids area (coloring pages or posters, play doh, etc…) around your table that will allow the parents to hang out at your table longer
Offering sunscreen mini packets
What are the best things about this event experience to my target market?
How can my brand improve that experience?
Does my brand respect and enhance the audience’s emotional connection with the event?
Does my brand provide meaningful added-value to the audience’s experience with the event?
Does my brand enhance the target market’s community in a way that impacts, even in a small way, on ordinary people’s lives?
There are sponsorship seekers – big and small – who are sailing through the GFC. Why? Because they have the skills and approach that make them appealing to these very picky sponsors.
If every single proposal you prepared were customised for that sponsor, and provided ideas for how they could use (leverage) that sponsorship to achieve their objectives and create meaningful bonds with their target markets, your proposals would be at the top of the pile.
If your proposal included ideas for how various departments and business units could benefit from (leverage) the sponsorship, it will make it easier for the sponsor to sell the proposal internally.
If you approached the brand manager with your fabulous, customised proposal, you would have a clearer run to the ultimate decision-maker.
If you add value to your sponsor relationships, putting yourself in the position of “problem solver”, rather than “contract enforcer” or “arse kisser”, you will showcase your value as a partner, not just a communication channel.
If you help your sponsors create amazing leverage plans and show flexibility with benefits when a great idea demands it, your sponsors will find you a refreshing joy to work with.
If you invest in educating your sponsors, creating networking events, and showcasing the work of your most effective sponsors, you are adding value not only to their results with your sponsorship, but giving them skills and ideas that they can use across their whole portfolio.
The best sponsorship seekers in the world are not necessarily the biggest or sexiest, they are the ones who balance strategic skills and creativity to help their sponsors achieve their goals, thus differentiating themselves from the hoard of sponsorship seekers who can’t be bothered. Let them fill the “dead wood” column, because you don’t have to be there, no matter what the economy does