Brands want to 'be seen' by people to be doing good, just in the same way Meghan Markle wants to 'be seen' to be doing good. There's a halo effect that says, if you're perceived to be doing good here, then you must be a good brand, or a good person there. This is usually the way it works and the halo effect is a big reason for brands sponsoring cause-related events. It's also called event social responsibility.
Meghan has built her brand off being seen to be charitable but it ultimately fulfils a much deeper desire to be liked. In the same way, brands seek deeper engagement with their target market, in the hope of increasing brand consideration.
Everybody wins here in this triad, or do they?
Charities primary aim is to grow their awareness and funding. Meghan turning up to a women's refuge, even for twenty minutes, achieves that. Press photos of her at the refuge receive global circulation giving an immediate injection of awareness and trickle on funding. It's more than they could have ever hoped for. The charity is happy.
Meghan likewise, generates more positive PR. Candid photos of her often holding both arms of women while in animated conversation emerge to paint a picture of a deeply caring, empathetic princess. Her likeability soars. Meghan feels fulfilled.
Brands who sponsor cause-related events by providing funding or in kind support promote their involvement with the event across social, digital and offline channels. Brand awareness increases but does engagement? The answer is no and here's why.
To truly engage, sponsors need to make it about the event participants – not themselves. 'Being seen' to support a charity is not enough. Brands need to build emotional connection with the audience and the only way to do this is to make it about them. Brand communications need to meet the psychological needs of participants – those with whom they are trying to target. Motive Disposition Theory states there are three universal human needs which we all share to varying degrees. The need for achievement, for belonging and for power. Self-determination Theory shares a similar set of needs with autonomy (or control over oneself) substituted for power (control over others). I would be suggesting there's an alternative need to power or autonomy and that's the need for significance (to feel important).
How can sponsors fulfil participant needs if these are universally agreed? This is where sponsors fall short. Their relationship is with the charity, but rarely do they complete the circle and engage with the participants. In the same way, participants engage with the charity event, but not with the sponsors. Brands who foster and nourish a community of followers meet the psychological needs of participants by recognising (significance) and rewarding (achievement) their collective contribution (belonging).
What to have help with your sponsorship strategy? Register on www.eventsponsors.com.au and upgrade to ASSISTED for weekly consultations.