Getting the most out of corporate sponsorship?

May 1, 2011

When growing companies think about communications tactics to reach new customers or further develop existing relationships, they often think of traditional advertising (e.g., print, broadcast) or perhaps, today, social media techniques. One other opportunity is through the corporate sponsorship of an event, program or initiative.

Smaller, community-oriented companies are frequently approached by an employee or friend to sponsor a local sports team or recreation program. Many companies view this as part of their charitable giving or community support initiative. They contribute to the cost of the team’s uniforms and get the company logo slapped on the back.  This is great community-level support but true corporate sponsorship is different and has become very sophisticated.  It can be a powerful tool but to get the biggest return on investment, it pays to enter into these arrangements strategically.

Sponsorship vs. charitable giving

Many organizations have a charitable giving program. Larger organizations sometimes provide matching programs for employee-driven charitable initiatives. The receiving charity may acknowledge this gift by publishing the name of corporate givers or including them on the “donor wall” for all to see.

This is not sponsorship in its  purest form. Sponsorship may have an altruistic aspect to it but its primary purpose, for the sponsor, is promotion. A company provides money to a non-profit or community event in exchange for the opportunity to promote the company’s name, products and services. Sponsorship activity is usually paid for from the advertising budget.

Sponsorship should be selective

Growing companies should examine sponsorship opportunities carefully to ensure that the one(s) they choose meet their business goals and will reach the right audience. When evaluating a sponsorship opportunity, consider the following:

  1. Fit – The sponsorship should have some relevance to your business or its stakeholders so that you can reach your target audience. A pet food store would likely do better to sponsor a dog show or an animal shelter than a jazz festival, for example. Unless, of course, their market research reveals that most of their customers listen to a lot of jazz.
  2. Level matches exposure – Organizations offering corporate sponsorship usually have various contribution levels that provide corresponding benefits/opportunities. Examine these different levels and choose the one that will give you the best exposure for the cash. Events/non-profits that closely align to your organization’s business goals/audience will be of more value to you than those with a broader appeal.
  3. Opportunities to leverage the package – The best sponsorships are those that provide sponsoring companies with a way to build in other opportunities. For example, if your company is sponsoring a performance event, does the sponsorship provide you with a block of tickets that you can use as a special perk for good customers or that you could raffle off as an employee morale booster? Feel free to suggest spin off activities to the organization offering the sponsorship to see what kind of flexibility there is to tailor your package.
  4. Evaluation – As with any other advertising or PR endeavour, evaluation is important. Does the organization offering the sponsorship provide a report after the event? This report should include the amount and quality of publicity the event received, number of times your company’s logo appeared on banners and in advertising etc. You can then integrate this information with what you see on the company side in terms of sales, increased awareness, staff morale and the like.

On the Charity/Event Side

There is a lot of competition out there for sponsorship dollars. Craft the sponsorship offer for your non-profit event/initiative well by using the resources at CharityVillage.com. This helpful site has lots of valuable information specifically on  corporate sponsorship.

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*This popular post originally appeared in this blog on September 11, 2008
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