Finding the Secret to a Successful Corporate Sponsorship Campaign

Ann-Tyler Sangston is an associate vice president of CRT/tanaka and heads the firm's office in Charlotte, NC. Here she evaluates the most effective practices in the realm of brand marketing. It seems everything these days has a sponsor. From stadiums and sporting events to entertainment tours to the pumps at your gas station, - corporate America is spending lots of money to get their brand in front of the consumer, with the hopes that they will decide that they can't live without your product or services. According to Chicago-based sponsorship analyzer IEG SR's 21st annual industry forecast, North American companies will spend more than $13.39 billion on sponsorships in 2006, a 10% increase over sponsorship spending in 2005. Sponsorship and event marketing can be extremely effective in getting your brand and your message noticed - if done properly. So, what are the secrets to a successful sponsorship? The answer, of course, lies in staying true to the brand, knowing your audience and matching the two in a meaningful way that achieves your business goals. It sounds obvious, but often the obvious is where PR practitioners go wrong, by either overlooking or underestimating it. The brand-audience-business trifecta applies whether you are the title sponsor of a nation-wide music tour or supporting your local 5K race. It also applies to companies who are new to sponsorship and those who are evaluating their existing sponsorship portfolio. Before a company starts to evaluate sponsorship opportunities, you should clearly define what it wants the sponsorship to achieve for the product, service or overall corporate image. Do you want to market a new feature, appeal to a new demographic, broaden your geographic reach, or possibly gain brand awareness? Or, do you want to be known as a good corporate citizen in your hometown? All sponsorships should produce measurable business results for the sponsor; otherwise, they waste valuable marketing dollars. Next, develop an in-depth understanding of your target audience. Consumers today are increasingly savvy to marketing and advertising. They are bombarded with commercials, direct mail campaigns, Internet pop-ups and signage - most of which become increasingly invisible in the clutter. Consumers are most likely to pay attention if the messages are delivered in a way that makes them relevant to their current lifestyle. Obviously, reaching stay-at-home mothers will take your company in an entirely different direction than if you are targeting the highly-coveted 18-24 demographic. The more you understand your audience - both from a demographic and psychographic perspective - the more efficient and effective your sponsorship choices can be. As your company begins looking at sponsorships, start with properties that most appeal to your target audience's lifestyle. From this list, a company can identify properties that best reflect its brand image and provide the right opportunities to reach the goals of the sponsorship. Once your company narrows the list of possible sponsorships, negotiation begins. Many properties are becoming increasingly flexible in the assets they provide to each sponsor. They realize that the relationship must be mutually beneficial, and are more often willing to tailor sponsorships to fit a sponsor's needs. A potential sponsor can maximize this relationship by knowing beforehand which assets are and are not important to make the sponsorship successful. Buying a sponsorship is only part of your company's investment. Allot additional budget to create programs to maximize the value of the sponsorship. The development of these programs, typically referred to as "activating a sponsorship," is the key to making your brand resonate with a number of different audiences. Typically, a company should know how it can activate the sponsorship before the deal is crafted. Knowing what your activation plans are early allows you to better negotiate to get the assets that are important to your plans. Knowing that you need a lot of tickets to use in consumer promotions or internal sales incentive programs but don't need advertising in the event program enables you to be more effective when negotiating your initial sponsorship. Activation programs can cover a wide-range of audiences and business objectives. Event tickets can be used to create employee-incentive programs or used as prizes in a large consumer promotion. The opportunity to create unique hospitality experiences also can be used in a consumer promotion, but it might be more effective to cultivate and strengthen relationships with your key business customers. Big crowds might provide the opportunity for your company to sample your product or create an interactive exhibit that provides consumer trials of your product. Increasingly, companies are using their sponsorships to showcase their reputation as a good corporate citizen. Some are sponsoring charitable events and some are creating charitable tie-ins as part of their activation of a larger sponsorship. As an example, Sprint Nextel used its title sponsorship of NASCAR's premier racing series, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, to increase visibility and impact for its charitable efforts. During the inaugural year of the sponsorship, Sprint Nextel increased donations to the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services by introducing its Donate-a-Phone program to a much larger audience through its sponsorship. In order to make sure that sponsorships are meeting expectations and continuing to address business goals and objectives, companies should evaluate the sponsorship and all associated programs on a regular basis. As you design programs to activate your sponsorship, build in measurable elements that can help you demonstrate that you are achieving your goals. This can be as simple as targeting a list of customers you want to spend quality time with, or more complex, such as giving a coupon and measuring redemption rates. The important thing is that you ensure that the sponsorship continues to make good business sense. Sponsorship has become a mainstream tool in corporate America's marketing mix. Using these guidelines, your company can determine the best way to utilize sponsorship to deliver your brand message in a way that is relevant to your target audiences and helps in achieving your business goals. Contact: Ann-Tyler Sangston, 704.342.4142,

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