Sponsorship is defined as a sponsor - a brand or firm - providing cash and/or other compensation in exchange for access to an object's commercial potential.' This can be, for example, exposure and association with a cause or an event, or even an organisation.
In a digital world, traditional media is no longer the only means by which sponsors gain media exposure. Online and in particular social media channels especially, are becoming increasingly popular and a powerful way of offering engagement between a sponsor and the sponsee's audiences.
This increased media coverage is also one reason that approximately two-thirds of all sponsorship spending is directed at sporting events, leagues, teams, and players. Sponsorship of sporting events and sports personalities is an excellent way of getting a brand noticed.
But commitments should only be made with well selected partners, and as part of the overall marketing strategy. Successfully activating the sponsorship-linked marketing space demands an integrated and strategic approach (Crowther et al, 2014).
All too often marketers are linking their brands up with sports tournaments, music festivals etc without proper "due diligence" often resulting in huge sums of money being wasted on an event.
Brands associating with an event or a personality that either has little or no relevance to the brand's core audience or can bring the brand into disrepute.
On the other hand, sponsorships that engage correctly with their target audience, thorough research and considerable time spent on any agreements made, beyond mere brand awareness, allows sponsors to develop opportunities to create intimacy with customers through events in experience-driven environments.
They leave a lasting legacy and can make a powerful impression with those they interact with.
Drinks brands are masters in the sponsorship arena, with Red Bull, Guinness, and Budweiser offering many examples of getting it right.
For new brands, sponsorship is only really capable of building awareness, however for an existing brand, sponsorship exposure is found to impact positively on brand association, perceived quality and brand loyalty, suggesting that the brand-building role of sponsorship is one of reinforcement, rather than creation. (Donlan et al, 2013).
The key to successful sponsorship partnerships is getting it right at the planning stage. It has to be something that is relevant to the brand's strategic positioning at that moment in time. So before signing on the dotted line, here are four tips you can keep in mind:
- Your brand's attributes and strengths - How do you articulate the assets of your brand and what it means to be associated with it
- Target audience – Do you have a good grasp of who your market / community is and how they overlap with the sponsorship target audience
- Unique marketing initiatives – What does the sponsorship offer that puts it ahead of alternative marketing channels a sponsor could use?
- Outcomes and value – Given the above, how does the sponsorship improve your business? Increased sales, data capture, brand loyalty and engagement, brand awareness, volunteering?