Thursday, 3 May 2018

Unleash the Power of Sponsorship; Maximize your ROI!

Written by Robyn T. Braley 

Sponsorship can add power and energy to your brand. Whether you are motivated by philanthropy, public relations or advertising, understanding the subtleties can result in a sponsorship experience second to none. 

There are four questions every sponsor and organization being sponsored must ask before joining hands to skip down the sponsorship trail.
  1. Is there synergy between your company and the cause or event you are about to sponsor?
  2. What are your goals?
  3. How will you achieve them?
  4. What could go wrong?
What could go wrong indeed! If the goals of your company and the organization you are about to sponsor are not perfectly aligned, trouble may lie ahead. And that is trouble with a capital "T".

Begin by discussing and understanding what each other's expectations are. Are they compatible?

What rights do sponsors have? What are the boundaries?

Having honest discussions before the sponsorship agreement is finalized will pay dividends once the program is implemented. As each sponsorship may be packaged differently depending on needs, insist on a written contract or memorandum of agreement.

The Big Question

Enough about the risks. From this point on our discussion will be about rewards. 

First, let's settle the question, "Does sponsorship work? 

That's a good question. My friend and colleague Brent Barootes has built a consulting business valuating and helping organizations to structure sponsorships. He has written a book called, ‘Reality Check-Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing.’

Sponsorship specialist Brent Barootes

Brent also speaks at conferences and provides training for companies, municipalities and not-for-profit organizations throughout Canada and beyond that want to improve sponsorship performance. 

When asked whether sponsorship works, he answered with an unequivocal, “Yes! And, why does sponsorship work? I could give at least 30 reasons. I have narrowed the list down to four key elements.”

Brent’s Top Four Picks

  • Engagement – Sponsorship engages people
  • Targeting – Sponsorship allows you to target an audience segment
  • Branding – Enhance audience experiences to build brand affinity and customer loyalty
  • Traffic – Drive customers to your brand

How it Works

At the risk of being over simplistic, this is how I explain the relationship between sponsors, the general public and their target audience.

If people feel good about a good thing
in the community, they will feel good about
the companies and other organizations that
help to make that good thing possible.
- RT Braley
Allow me to explain it another way. You may not like opera or bluegrass music. However, you believe both make valuable contributions to the cultural fabric of your community. 

When you see a television, radio, newspaper or social media message promoting the event with, “This concert is sponsored by XYZ company” above the sponsor's logo, you think their support is a good thing.
In practical terms, there may be a particular audience segment you want to 'feel especially good' about your company, products or services. A marketing campaign can be built around the sponsorship to let those people know about the good thing you are helping make possible in their community.

Funding Sources

Funding may come from your advertising or donations budget. The gift may be driven by a well thought out marketing campaign or public relations strategy. 

Or, the donation may be given simply because it is the right thing to do. When it comes to corporate tax requirements these questions will come up!
  1. Can an acknowledgement package around a philanthropic gift be structured as a sponsorship? 
  2. At what point does it become advertising even though the acknowledgement package looks similar to a donation? 
  3. If the acknowledgement package looks like advertising, can we still issue a charitable receipt?
These are questions you need to ask your accountant as regulations differ around the world. 

Are you confused? There is more. Here is the final kicker. 
The components of the acknowledgment package of one sponsorship deal maybe completely different than that of another even though the funding amount is the same.
Why? Successful sponsorships are driven by meeting clients' needs. The first sponsor’s needs may be entirely different than those of the second.

Why Organizations Sponsor

Sponsorship is used by large companies, small businesses, government and not-for-profit organizations to achieve specific goals and objectives.
To build a strong sponsorship plan you must be clear about what you want to achieve. The ultimate goal is to build a win-win strategy that will achieve your goals as well as those of the organization you are sponsoring.
  • Positioning with a particular cause or event
  • Building your brand
  • Selling products or services
  • Strengthening community, investor, government or employee relations
  • Accessing influential people
  • Acting on what the Owner or President likes

Corporate Stories

For a number of years, I was the Sponsorship Manager for the public broadcaster in the Province of Alberta. We produced programs that were broadcast or used for educational purposes in Canada and other countries around the world.
We broadcast our own content along with programs like National Geographic Specials, nature programs, documentaries, how-to programs and other educational shows on our TV and radio services. 
I quickly learned I needed to identify the unique needs of each sponsor. Once that was accomplished, we designed an acknowledge package for each one (More about that in Part II)
  • Chevron wanted to be seen as a contributing member of the community
  • Esso wanted to be seen supporting innovative youth-education programs
  • Safeway and Sunrype Juice wanted to support family specials
  • Alberta Travel wanted to be seen producing Alberta specific travel programs
  • Fanny's Fabrics wanted to make seamstresses and homemakers aware of their products and services 

Never Assume

I secured a grant for $50,000 from a historic foundation that had a legacy of funding worthwhile community organizations and events. They wanted to help produce a cause-related program. 

As the agreement was being concluded, I committed the greatest sin a fundraiser can commit. I failed to ask questions about their public recognition expectations. With a know-it-all attitude, I spewed forth about all the cool things we could do to draw attention to their gift.
The foundation people immediately blanched and tensed up! Why? They explained that such a campaign would undoubtedly be highly successful in drawing more attention to them by increasing their community awareness.
That was exactly what they did not want! A higher profile would bring hundreds of funding requests from other not-for-profit organizations like the one, I was representing. 

They explained that most proposals would not fall within the foundation's interests but would require staff time to review and formally reject them. Hmmm! I hadn't thought of that! 

They finally settled for a standard 10 second 'thank you credit on the front and back of the program they were helping to produce. And, of course, a tax receipt.

Putting it all Together

There is no simple description of packaging sponsorship acknowledgements. A package might include a 'full meal deal' of thank yous in different forms. 

On the other side, there may be little public recognition involved. As a sponsor, you may only want a tax receipt, a letter of thanks, a plaque on a donations wall, and perhaps lunch with the influential Chair of the not-for-profit organization.

10 Ways to Acknowledge a Sponsorship    

  1. Full or partial naming rights
  2. Signage - traditional, digital, laser, onsite, offsite displayed around the town, event
  3. Social media, website and other online mentions
  4. TV, radio or newspaper ads that 'thank' the sponsor
  5. Permission to mention the sponsorship in company advertising and other avenues
  6. Public relations events like media stories, free product distribution, brochures, personal appearances
  7. Exclusive access to influential leaders, customers, politicians, celebrities
  8. Fashion-wear featuring sponsor logos worn by event staff or given away to those attending
  9. Exclusive merchandising rights like product sampling, displays or coupons
  10. Cross promotional opportunities

I want to hear from you. Have you had positive sponsor stories? Any nightmare stories? What innovative acknowledgements have you received? Please comment below. 

The end

Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. He is a media commentator and co-owns UniMark Creative which designs websites, produces videos, provides media services and graphic design. He speaks about improving personal communications and maximizing the power of personal and company brands.

Contact Robyn

Twitter: @RobynTBraley 

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