3 Keys To Nailing Sponsorship Marketing

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


Project Management & Marketing

One of the keys to success in marketing - as an individual or for an entire department - is effective project management.  The slate of marketing deliverables across multiple channels that have to coincide with the proper market timing requires that several items are in queue simultaneously. The fact that some take longer than others and there are usually revision points and key gates that have to be met in order for everything to be ready on time demands a strong hand on the wheel with the proper project management skills and tools.

As for skills, organization and communication tend to be the ones that separate the good from the great.  I always felt that my borderline OCD provided me an advantage in managing projects, time and budgets.  If you are not naturally organized look below at the tools paragraph to see how they can help.  Communication is an art as we all know and good project managers understand the importance of open and visible communications about where things are and what roadblocks are ahead.  It may even border on overcommunication, but with so many people and departments in the mix more information is better than less and will make sure you are on top of everything.

There are also more tools available for project management than ever before.  The internet has exploded the number of free and SaaS-based tools that help you organize tasks and timelines, which are all great and you should find one that fits your style and needs.  However, you don't need fancy tools to be a great project manager, and having great tools doesn't guarantee that your projects will run on time.  I've seen big projects run well with only an Excel spreadsheet or a giant whiteboard because the people leading the project had things under control.  Make sure you have the skills and experience underneath the tools to make the tools work for you.

Several large marketing departments have set up project management offices (PMOs) to deal with these challenges, while others rely on their brand professionals and/or the management teams to ensure delivery on time in the proper manner.  Both have their merits and the decision to establish or not establish a PMO is basically a cultural or organizational one.  My one negative about PMOs in marketing is that it can push the responsibility of project success into one group's hands, where in my opinion everyone should own it.  That doesn't mean PMOs won't work but everyone in marketing should understand their role in the department's ability to deliver.

If you don't have the right project management skill inside you or within your team invest the time and training to get them.  It will benefit your ability to get things in market better and faster.


The Impact Of Facebook's Data Nightmare On Your Marketing

Everyone by now has heard about the pickle that Facebook is in with Cambridge Analytica, the U.S. government and most of America.  It's never a good thing when you've exposed data on 50 million users and the fact it's compounded by political ties and tales doesn't help it settle well with people who have given most of their information..and a good chunk of their lives...to a company they trusted for years.

Regardless of your political leanings or your personal thoughts on the matter, this situation does provide some valuable lessons for marketing.  As marketers, we are constantly working to learn more about our customers and prospects and transfer that knowledge into databases that will make us more accurate with our messaging and positioning.  The inherent understanding of collecting and using that information is that we will use it properly, protect it from outside breaches or influences and only use what's relevant for our business purposes.  It appears that Facebook failed on all three measures.

I think we've all accepted that companies have a lot of information on us depending on our level of interaction with them, but social media sites like Facebook take the cake about what they know about us.  We put a lot of stuff in these platform about ourselves, but I think we all feel there is a line about what should and shouldn't be used.  I can accept a company targeting me about my job or that I like music, but using it for purposes beyond selling me something that I may find appealing based on information I've put it is where the line gets blurry.  This is where a data code of ethics can help your company truly understand what data is collected, what it can be used for and what you can't do with it. 

It also appears that Facebook was a little fast and loose with their control protocols and marketers should take note of that as well.   Lines do have to be drawn about who can access data and procedures about its use have to be in place.  It is flawed logic to think that everyone is your marketing organization should have the ability to access data.  Have the control structure in place to make sure that your data is used in the right way and only for the right business purposes.

I hope that all the marketers take some good lessons from what has happened with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.  If you have an issue you may not end up on the front page or in front of a congressional committee, but it will impact your career with your company for sure.  Be the data steward you should be and you will continue to add value to the organization.





Creativity Matters In The Digital Age

For those of us that have been in marketing for a few years, we remember what it was like to have our marketing messages centered around print ads, brochures, postcards, annual reports and the like.  We rejoiced when the web came along and gave us even more creative freedom by making things more interactive.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to 2018.  As digital media has moved into the spotlight, the spaces where our creative exists has gotten smaller.  We now live in a world where ads are not always in paragraph form - they often exist in the handful of characters Google Adwords gives us.  Our press releases are now relegated (to some degree) to the 140+ characters that Twitter allows.  Finally, our art and pictures are becoming icons or parts of banner ads that are getting lost in a sea of other art and pictures that each web page hits us with.  With our world getting more complicated and bombarded with more and more messages, the bullhorn we get to use is shrinking.

Does that mean that creative isn't important anymore?  Far from it!  The ability to creatively get a theme, message or point across with smaller spaces and fewer words demands even more or our time and energy.  Just because we have smaller windows and even shorter attention spans doesn't mean we just throw our creative energy in the trash and think all is lost.  Like with any advancement, marketers need to adapt to the challenges and come up with new and exciting ways to get our brand out there.  We just have to think of the best ways to do with the medium and the audience in mind.

The good thing about this challenge is that marketers can push the envelope of the channel and get what we want.  We run the system and the technology will adapt to us more than it ever has, and when it doesn't we can create it.  All the advancements in video, messaging, social and community are basically from marketing, so our ability to push and drive the change we want to see will make our creativity soar as well as have the channels to match it.

Save all your large print formats - they will become antiques, but don't let yourself become one.  Push your creative thought processes in the mediums we have today and be excited about all that is to come.


How To Build The Right Culture For Your Marketing Team

Building the right team regardless of your discipline is one of the hardest things to do in management, and one of the most important things to do in team building is create a culture that supports the organization as well as the marketing mission.  Obviously, it starts with the right people, but culture must go beyond people if you want it to sustain itself as people inevitably leave yet the culture stays behind.

One of the first things to do is to make sure the organization knows that marketing is a little different.  The people and processes that make up marketing require some parts that may not make sense to other groups.  Having the support of the company to give your marketing team leeway to build it for success even though it may look slightly weird to others is important.  That being said, make sure you don't go off the deep end either - there should be some sense of the overall corporate culture as you're building the one for marketing. 

Another thing to think about is the environment in which the marketing team lives. The creative element that is essential to marketing success has to be fostered and nurtured environmentally.  I'm not a big fan of the foosball table or action figures on the desks, but the marketing team can't live in a place that looks like it was made for accountants.  Try to create a place that enables collaboration and creativity and it will help bring the best out of your marketing team.

It's also important to make sure fun is included.  Everyone does the team outing and birthday lunch thing, but try to go beyond that and do little things each week or month that brings out the spirit of the group and add.  Have games or get-togethers tied around your schedule that people can look forward to, but just as important is creating a daily sense of enjoyment among the team and in the process.  We all know that we face a lot of pressure from our clients and the market so the more we can keep things fun within the walls of marketing a defining culture will emerge.

Finally, you need to think about rewards and recognition that embody the culture you want and the kind of behaviors you want to instill.  We all want to be noticed for our work and part of the joy of being in an effective culture is the opportunity to do good work and know that it's appreciated.  Knowing that you will be recognized for great work pushed good work forward and helps the entire team do better.  This is true for individual rewards and group rewards as well, so think about ways to reward departments or teams that go above and beyond.

Culture is important and it's worth creating and defending.  A winning marketing culture will help the company because it will yield the best marketing programs that exemplify creativity and excitement and will make the marketing team a true asset to the organization.  It will create great marketing professionals and build a cast of future marketing leaders.  Most importantly, it will help build a legacy that will go beyond tenures and leaders into something more everlasting.