Sponsorship is one of the biggest areas of spend in the marketing world yet often one of the most misunderstood. Many non-marketing leaders tend to think of it as either slapping a logo on something or find it to be a giant waste of money, and depending on the organization and their use of sponsorships they could be right. I've seen many organizations misuse, underestimated or overcommit to sponsorship only to be soured on the experience or find their investment to be wasted. Given the stakes, it's important for marketers to leverage the power of sponsorship marketing yet provide realistic and practical knowledge to the organization so there are clear expectations.
Here are the three big traps that I see most companies fall in when they get into sponsorships:
- Sponsoring something that doesn't relate to the business at some level - since sponsorships are often big-ticket items, the decisions about what to sponsor fall at the senior levels of the organization, which for the unobjective person matches their interests and not the interests of the company. The biggest gap you need to close with sponsor dollars is where your customers are - not where you executives are. Matching those personas and connecting with them through sponsorship amplifies your sales efforts and reinforces the brand. Those are the main goals of sponsorship when you are thinking about marketing return on investment. Sponsoring other things is fine too (and appreciated) - just don't get caught in the jetwash of having to justify those spends through marketing KPIs.
- Forgetting about an appropriately sized activation budget - naive businesses will think that sponsorship begins and ends with the size of the check you write for the right to have it and they couldn't be farther from the truth. Depending on the level of sponsorship and the property involved you could spend even more on the activation of the sponsorship through advertising, materials, awareness, and engagement. If you don't have enough money to make the right investment in sponsorship, which means sponsor dollars and activation dollars your efforts will be underutilized and their effectiveness diminished. Make sure you have the budget to do all the thing you need to do to get the best out of sponsorship or right size you sponsorship to make it fit within your numbers.
- Failing to get the whole organization involved - there's a little bit of the first point in here too as senior executives tend to be the ones that get a lot of benefit from sponsorships...or at least get first pick. The best sponsorships I've seen work to get the entire company behind the idea and proud of their sponsorship. They are energized that their company is more well known in the community and they have something to rally behind beyond the day to day parts of the business. As you pick your sponsor properties think about employee engagement and how that will be impacted. As that becomes more important the more you can do to move that beyond paycheck and benefits the better.
Sponsorship marketing can truly be a great tool for a business to reach its customers, build esprit de corps, and support a brand but make sure you do it right. Just as a great sponsorhips lifts everything up a bad one can tear it down. Make sponsor decision with a broader landscape in mind and you will see a positive return on your business.