Is Sponsorship REALLY the Answer? (Ask These 5 Questions.)

Flickr User PranavianAccording to IEG, sponsorships are the fastest growing form of marketing in the United States, and for good reason. When planned strategically and executed properly, sponsorships can help enhance your company’s image with a targeted audience, build and reinforce brand awareness, cultivate and strengthen relationships, drive sales and differentiate the company from its competitors. Sounds great, right? And, these days, it seems like sponsorship opportunities are everywhere you turn, ranging from national, multi-million dollar sports and entertainment deals to local events and exhibits to industry associations. But, with only 18% of the average marketing budget dedicated to sponsorship, marketers must look closely at what they do – and don’t – sponsor.

Before you sign on the dotted line, consider the following evaluation criteria to determine whether or not the sponsorship makes sound, strategic sense:

1. Business Alignment

Is the opportunity aligned with your overall business goals and objectives? Think about how this sponsorship will help drive sales, enhance relationships or increase awareness. A solid sponsorship opportunity should help you in at least one – if not all – of these areas.

2. Target Audience

Who will you reach through this sponsorship? Does that audience match up with your target audience, and can you use this sponsorship to interact with them in a meaningful (i.e., more than putting your logo on a sign) way? It should come as no surprise that the financial services industry is the largest sponsor of the arts. Based on demographic research, banks and investment firms believe arts and culture are important to their customer base. Sponsorship opportunities with museums, symphonies, the ballet and others provide an avenue to enhance client relationships and build awareness.

3. Brand Positioning

How does the sponsorship align with your brand positioning? How will the sponsorship allow you to tell your story, provide thought leadership or differentiate your brand from competitors? Just yesterday, Advil announced its sponsorship of the NHL and its 30 athletic trainers. Seems like a smart move for a company whose latest product is positioned as “pain relief built for speed.”

4. Assets

What marketing assets will the company receive in exchange for its sponsorship? Remember, sponsorship packages should never be “off the shelf,” so don’t be afraid to ask for additional assets that make the sponsorship more meaningful for you.

5. Resources

What resources will you need to invest in order to make the sponsorship a success? Sponsorship fees are only one piece of the puzzle. You should plan to spend $1.50-2 for activation for every $1 spent on sponsorship fees. In fact, it’s not uncommon for a company to spend anywhere from three to five times the amount of the sponsorship fee on activation.

Depending on your overall business and marketing objectives there may be other factors you want to take into consideration, such as the ability to have exclusivity, the term of the sponsorship commitment and the ability to activate at retail. Every situation – and every sponsorship opportunity – is unique. What works for one brand may not work for another, so first and foremost when it comes to evaluating sponsorship opportunities, do your homework.

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