Since when has writing a cheque engaged anyone long term, beyond the transaction? In the grand scope of sponsorship, a general cash donation is the bare minimum form of participation, and doesn’t maximize the vast opportunity that sponsorship presents as part of your community engagement. Your job is far from done when the cheque is cashed and if you’re calling it quits there, you’re missing out on a huge increase on your ROI.
It’s all about the power of relationships and when you invest in building relationships with your sponsorship partners, both sides profit in a far greater way than sending money and slapping a logo on an event ever could. In order to be worth the spend, sponsorship needs to be truly leveraged by the sponsor in order to get a return. Otherwise, you’ve effectively wasted your budget. If you are spending the money on sponsorship and community initiatives, you may as well get the most out of it. The alternative is a disappointing experience for everyone involved.
So where are we going wrong? A large part of the issue lies in sponsor expectations and a passive approach to execution. When your audience is inundated with sponsors, the status quo simply isn’t going to work anymore.
“So who’s going to be at this thing anyway?”
Every event or campaign should have a well-defined target audience. Right from the start, you can’t afford to be sponsoring events or initiatives that don’t align with your target market. Knowing who’s attending is key to determining if you should sponsor and how you should craft your message. If you’re playing in a saturated field, knowing your audience’s concerns and your competitors’ messaging gives you the greatest opportunity to differentiate.
For example, if you’re sponsoring a campaign to raise money for women’s health issues, and you know your competitor is doing corporate donations to a variety of pre-selected non-profits, differentiate by letting the customer select the non-profit that matters most to them, then activate them as a customer with rewards for their donation.
You know what the others are doing, so now you can do it better by knowing what the audience cares about.
“We’ll put up a banner!”
The go-to move of painting an event in your corporate color and branding everything from pens to breadsticks is simply unimaginative. Event sponsorships are an unbeatable opportunity to put your brand in front of a targeted audience that is going to be unable to avoid you for a set period of time. If you can honestly name the sponsors’ banners that were standing at the side of the venue at the last event you went to, I’m impressed.
Attendees are bombarded by sponsor communications at events, so the challenge lies in really engaging your audience while you have prime real estate right in front of them. It’s an outstanding opportunity no marketer should squander. Start thinking of things that will draw people in and stick with them after they leave. If you’re going to have a branded banner, have a photobooth with it. No one’s going to delete those photos, and you’ve effectively ingrained yourself into their memories and mementos from the event in a more meaningful way.
“Maybe we’ll even get some leads/sales.”
If you’re only shooting for a maybe on the leads front, why are you even bothering to spend the money? Brand awareness is great, but sponsorship shouldn’t be a gamble. Your goals should be clearly outlined before you spend a single dime. Sponsorship is something that can (and should!) be planned to make sure the outcome will be satisfying for the organizer, sponsor, and audience. Of course it’s difficult to predict how many leads or new customers you’ll acquire from sponsorship activities, especially if you’re just throwing your brand around like spaghetti at the wall thinking something will stick. However, with a targeted approach, there’s absolutely no reason you can’t secure new business from a sponsorship.
Take the time to think about your sponsorship and be creative in how it’s executed. When you have built out the relationship, more often than not your partner seeking sponsorship is completely happy to be flexible in the form your sponsorship takes, and you can find the best way to ensure it feeds your funnel. Whether you’re sponsoring a conference or a sporting event, you’ve been given a golden opportunity to connect with your community and have a meaningful interaction with them – and thanks to the cause marketing revolution, there are more exciting and engaging ways to acquire new customers from these activities.