This past week has been Homecoming in our local community. With all the fun and festivities of “Nerd Day” at the Middle School, the King/Queen coronation, the parade, the Lynx Games that kicked off the week, it reminded me of the community support and thus, sponsorships.
Everywhere you go there are sponsorship opportunities. As a small business owner you are flooded with great opportunities every day. It is no wonder that sponsorships are becoming the fastest growing form of marketing in the United States. When done correctly it can provide your business with many benefits.
Let’s first take a look at what a sponsorship is. It is the financial or in-kind support of an activity or a cause used to reach specified business goals. It should never be confused with advertising and is a powerful complement to a marketing program.
So why should you consider sponsorship as part of your marketing program? Well, sponsorship help a business acheive several goals at once with the most common reasons being:
- It enhances a company’s image and helps shape consumer attitudes;
- It helps drive sales;
- It creates positive publicity and increases visibility of the organization;
- It helps differentiate from the competition;
- It helps with the “Good Neighbor” role; and
- It enhances customer relations – builds that relationship with existing and potential customers because of the common connection.
Small business owners don’t have to look too far – whether a charity, school, sporting, church, or community service event, the opportunities are there. By thinking outside the box for a unique idea, you can create higher visibility for your business and strongly influence customer relations at a very cost effective price. For example, providing popcorn bags for the concession stand at school functions puts your business name in front of each person that purchases the snack, as well as, everyone that sees that person enjoying their purchase. This sponsorship does not cost a lot but has as much visibility and impact as sponsoring a scoreboard, for example.
Regardless of the type of sponsorship, there are a few key things to consider before moving forward. You should ask yourself:
- Does the opportunity help achieve my marketing plan’s overall goals/objectives?
- Does it reach my target audience(s)?
- What will I receive in return for my sponsorship?
- Does it fit into the budget?
You should also look at the promotional strategy for the event/cause including all advertising, Public Relations and marketing planned for the event. This is important so you can coordinate your efforts to increase the success of your sponsorship.
Once you make the decision to participate, you should track the results. There are a few different ways to do this depending on the type of event and should always be compared to pre-sponsorship activity. You can look the awareness levels or attitude changes, you can track sales results, or do a comparison of value-generated media coverage versus the cost of comparable advertising space and time.
Not all sponsorships are successful. The most common issue is that the business owner sponsors what he/she likes without consideration of the marketing objectives. Other reasons include the lack of promotion on the company’s part prior to the event; lack of a long-term sponsorship committment; and participating in too many sponsorships instead of focusing efforts and resources on one or two.
When approached with a sponsorship opportunity, it is best to run through these key steps to help you weed out the opportuntities that are not going to support your goals/objectives. This will also help ensure that the sponsorships you decide to move forward with are sucessful for your organization.