Does sponsorship really work?

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This is the big-ticket question for almost all marketing managers and brand specialists. 'Does sponsorship really work and how can you be sure?' The answer is always the same. Sponsorship works when you have a strategic intent for the sponsorship and when you know how to maximise value from the sponsored relationship. Sponsorship for sponsorship's sake is worthless. It's like throwing money to the gutter and expecting some kind of return.

Here are five key actions brands can take to ensure your sponsorship is working for you.

1. Know your sponsorship objectives

The key to maximising value is for a sponsoring brand to have clear, focused and measurable objectives before entering into any partnership. You need to know why you are sponsoring the event, club or organisation and what the assets are on offer that will be of greatest value to your brand.

2. Have a sponsorship strategy

Your sponsorship strategy tells you how you're going to go about sponsorship as a whole. Will you be aiming for 'vertical integration' which is most common in sport where a brand sponsors everything from grassroots through to professional league in the same sporting code? If well executed, this type of sponsorship can prove a brand's authenticity. Or perhaps a 'community' approach is more relevant to your brand. This is where you create strong ties with a community by sponsoring and getting involved across a whole range of smaller sub-cultures. These types of sponsorship require a greater leveraging investment.

3. Know your audience

This is easily one of the most misunderstood aspects of successful sponsorship yet it should be one of the first considerations. Ask yourself, 'who is your target audience?' Is the sweet spot for you mums aged 30 – 35 who live in Brisbane's western suburbs and enjoy keeping healthy or is it males aged 44 – 50 who live in Melbourne, are executive types and are fans of AFL? You need to be able to break down who it is exactly that you are trying to appeal to through your sponsorships and make sure then that these people are passionate about the events, charities or clubs that you sponsor.

4. Select carefully

Sponsorship selection is an important part of the process. The wrong choices can leave you with a random portfolio that leads nowhere. Depending on your budget and factoring into account your sponsorship objectives and strategy, there are a number of sponsorship options available for brands. Entities can range from schools to sporting clubs, teams and individuals, festivals and events to charities and other non-for-profits. When you know your audience and where they hang out, you will know the right way to reach them.

5. Leverage

It counts for little that you're sponsoring an event or club if you don't leverage the sponsorship. While a sponsee will always have their listed benefits and inclusions at the time of negotiation, you've got to decide what works best for you. Bespoke sponsorships tailored to meet the needs of both parties will always trump tiered sponsorships. Look beyond the standard inclusions such as a logo on a website, field signs or playing shirts. They count for little with fans. What matters most is that you are engaging with your target audience in a meaningful and memorable way. Think of all the things you can do that will make the experience better for fans. Can you also partner with a technology provider to provide useful statistics about players that improve the game experience? Can you provide parking at a nearby location to the event precinct? There's lots of different things you can do that will keep you front and centre in the hearts and minds of fans.

6. Manage expectations

The fact is, sponsorship is generally misunderstood – both by the sponsorship seeker and by the sponsor. Managing expectations is one of the biggest challenges of a successful sponsorship and knowing the limitations from the outset can help ward off some uncomfortable discussions.

Sponsorship works and it can be one of the most powerful marketing platforms available today. For best practise sponsorship you must have clearly defined sponsorship objectives; have a sponsorship strategy in place; know your audience and how to reach them; select your sponsorship portfolio carefully, leverage and manage expectations.

For more on best practise sponsorship, please visit our website www.eventsponsors.com.au or follow us on Facebook.

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