The Value of Sponsorship

by Cassandra Moffitt on

Sponsorships can be a difficult area of marketing to branch into, especially if it’s your first foray. What sort of sales will you get out of a hanging banner at a school baseball game? What’s the real benefit of adding your logo to the back of a t-shirt? Or, most often, why should you choose to spend budget on a sponsorship over something more direct, like a television commercial or direct mail campaign?

We’ll explore the answers to these questions below, including the different ways your business can find value in sponsorship, what to expect from your ROI, and how to get the most out of every opportunity.

The Benefits

So just what is the value of a sponsorship? The answer is, like many things in marketing, different for every business. Factors include identifying what your business goals are (what you hope to get out of the sponsorship), what event or organization you choose to sponsor (are you positioning yourself in front of the right people), and how involved you are willing to be (working with the organizers to further your benefits).

We’ve put together a list of the most common, but certainly not an all extensive, list of the top benefits most companies see as a result of sponsorships of one type or another.

Distinguishing Yourself

This is one of the leading objectives for business to business service industries, such as banking, insurance or telecommunications. With many facets of your service being similar or the same as your competitor, you need to capitalize on every potential edge you can find. By aligning yourself with successful events or organizations, you may be able to give yourself the slight edge needed to bring potential customers to your door, instead of sending them away.

Lending Credibility

Sponsoring specific topical events positions you as being an expert in that field, and gives you access to a niche demographic that you know could benefit from your product or service. An accounting firm that sponsors an all day “boot camp” for start up businesses automatically positions themselves as being an expert in accounting for start ups, plus gives them the opportunity to network with new business owners who will have an immediate need for that type of service.

Introducing, Changing or Reinforcing Brand Image

Which events or organizations you choose will say a lot about your business. Sponsorships provide an excellent opportunity to introduce, change or reinforce your brand image. For example, when a financial institution sponsors a local high school sports team they are reinforcing the perception that their brand is invested in the growth and ultimate future of the community. Alternatively, if a restaurant that is known to be high end decides to sponsor an eating contest, they may be trying to realign their brand to be more casual and low key.

Accessing Media and Exposure

The hosts or planners for your chosen event will have a marketing plan that outlines how they will drum up attendance for the event. This may include interviews with local television stations, articles in relevant print media, or press releases announcing the details of the event. With the right level of sponsorship, and the right negotiating skills, you can ensure that your business receives mention in some or all of this media outreach.

Tax Write-offs

You probably already know that the cost of advertising your products or services is tax deductible - but promotional expenses such as sponsorships are also deductible so long as there is a clear connection between the sponsorship and your business. Having your name listed in the event program, or being allowed to display signage, is evidence that it is a promotional effort. As always, when it comes to tax deductions and what may or may not be allowed in your state, we suggest that you speak with your accountant.

Social Media / Public Relations

If your business is participating in social media (and really, it should be) event participation can lead to some really wonderful social media and public relations opportunities for your own business. By sharing your participation and support of the event, you can continue to grow brand loyalty among your followers, even if they are not attending the event. Press releases can also be used to announce your participation, gaining even more wide spread acknowledgement if it is picked up by the press.

Networking / VIP Access

Many events offer special opportunities for sponsors to network with each other. These can be get togethers or parties before or after the event, or even special access areas during the event itself. This can be a great opportunity to put yourself in front of larger businesses, or businesses that share the same demographic as you. After the event, organizers should also have a list of all attendees, which you can use to add to your own marketing lists.

Commitment to Community

Showing a commitment to the community you work in promotes a large amount of good will among almost every demographic. From young to old, the level of involvement that a business has in its local community can be a deciding factor in turning a potential customer into a current customer. By sponsoring local activities, you’re on the front line to receive that good will.

Driving Retail Traffic

Some specific types of events can help you drive additional traffic into your retail space. For example, if you are sponsoring a local fair, trade show, or other event where attendees have to purchase a ticket, most often you can arrange with the event organizers to sell tickets from your location. This takes some of the weight of selling tickets off of the organizer, and gives you more opportunity to get people through your doors. In addition, if the event is large enough, see about arranging to have a display for the event at your shop. This can be something as simple as a table with photos from previous events, or showcasing products from vendors who will be attending, to something more elaborate like a sports car if you are sponsoring a car racing team.

Showcasing Capabilities

Depending on the type of services you provide, or products you sell, you may be able to trade your sponsorship for supplying the event itself. If you are an AV company, you could offer to help wire up each display booth, or hang a projection video screen for promotions. If you provide security services, offer to staff the venue on the day of the event, or provide a security plan in case of an emergency. Many event organizers would rather work with a company in trade for their services, rather than hire a third party vendor.

Budget

There are often many opportunities for securing high levels of sponsorship without having to spend big bucks. Try to negotiate with the organizers to volunteer you or your staff’s time for setup or takedown at the venue, for registering people as they come in, or for handling phone RSVPs. Or, donate some of your products, or some of you service hours, to be given away in a raffle, silent auction, or as a “thank you” gift for attendees. There are a lot of ways to “upsell” the value of your involvement and secure a higher level of sponsorship than a direct monetary donation may allow.

Make the Most of It

When you do decide to sponsor an organization or event, make the most out of it. Never be afraid to work with the organizers to negotiate better terms. They need sponsors like you to make their event successful, or keep their organization running for another year. They know that they are asking a lot of you, and expect you work with them to get the most out of your sponsorship.

Don’t select sponsorship opportunities willy nilly. First, make sure you have your own target demographic properly defined. Then, work to find an opportunity that most suits your end goal. If you’re looking to market towards women aged 25 - 45, sponsoring a manufacturing trade show may not give you the results your looking for. Try asking the event organizers for demographics from previous events - they may be able to provide you with narrowed down information that can help you make your decision.

You don’t get a second change to make a first impression. Many people at the event may not have ever heard of you, or know what you do. Hire a professional marketing company that can assist you in designing whatever collateral you need, such as hanging banners, vinyl graphics, flyers, posters, or even video presentations. If your presentation doesn’t look polished and professional, you’re missing out on the opportunity that securing that sponsorship would otherwise provide.

Remember that the organizers want to promote their event just as much as you want to promote your business. Work with them on cross promotional activities, such as sharing each other’s social media posts about the event, collaborating on press releases or media outreach, or sharing the cost of a promotional campaign such as direct mail.

Measuring Results

Measuring ROI is an incredibly difficult challenge when it comes to sponsorships. How do you track someone noticing your banner at an event, going home, visiting to your website two weeks later, and ultimately closing a deal with you, and attributing that as being a result of your sponsorship? Sponsorships are about general brand awareness, garnering positive publicity, and remaining top of mind for people - that type of good will cannot be measured. However, you can keep a close eye on your marketing analytics to draw some conclusions. You may see an uptick in your website traffic for the two weeks immediately following an event, or you may see more engagement on your social media channels. Lastly, you should always be asking potential clients how they heard about you. Although by no means 100% foolproof, this will give you some general ideas about where the last touch point was with that potential customer before they contacted you.