Partly due to our having been involved in a lot of large scale events over the years, and partly as one of our main specialties is sport communications and marketing, we have often been involved in sponsorship; sometimes working on the side of the sponsor, and sometimes the sponsored party. Recently, too, we are meeting with a lot of companies that have plans to organize events or other activities and need a sponsor in order to get going….. It doesn’t matter where we are involved, however, there is no doubt that there is an awful lot of confusion out there regarding ‘sponsorship’ and what it all means.
First of all, if you are a company/individual, that has been asked to sponsor an event or similar, there are a few things to think about - although, if you want to do it because you like the event/project and/or your friend is organizing it, then go right ahead! But if you are thinking that such a sponsorship would add to your marketing effort, then you really need to approach it in the same way as you approach everything else relating to marketing; first of all, by asking yourself who is the target audience and does it match with my target customer?
For example, years ago I was very involved in the sponsorship of one of the beer companies here of ice hockey: who was the beer company’s main target audience? Men between the ages of 18 and 45 (give or take a few years!). And what do Czech men of this age like to do? Watch ice hockey. Go figure, as my American colleague would say. So think about your own sponsorship in the same way.
Assuming that the target audience of the event/project IS your target group, then you need to ask what you are going to get in return for the sponsorship (and, if you are on the other side and are looking for sponsors, you need to think about this too!). Is it enough to just have your logo on the materials (I was told by the sponsorship boss of a large company recently that everyone in the country knows them anyway, so what possible value is there for them in having their logo on a few billboards and so on…)? Probably not.
Of course you need to be reasonable – if you are only paying a small amount, you can’t expect too much… but then is it worth it at all? If the likely results of the sponsorship are better than they would be if you spent the same amount on, say, advertising – then OK, that probably works. But if you are paying a reasonable amount, then you need to be given more than just a bit of branding… Will you be mentioned in the PR campaign (attend the press conference, have your name in the press releases, etc), will you be able to invite people of your own (free tickets), will the organisers do anything to assist with getting you in front of their key guests, media, etc? I know this all sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often I have been met by blank looks when I have asked companies that are looking for sponsors what we will get in return… !
Right now, there are not so many companies willing to sponsor things – the smaller companies are watching every penny and sponsorship is a long way from their minds (if they are doing marketing at all) and the bigger companies are being approached all the time and have very clear strategies on sponsorship – if their strategy is, for example, to sponsor football, then they are not going to sponsor tennis - plus some of them can take so long to agree on doing the sponsorship in the first place that the event/project is over before they have made a decision!
Finally, if you are thinking to try and get a sponsor for an event or project, think very carefully – over the last twenty or so years, we have been involved in the organization of hundreds of events and we have yet to find the secret to actually making money on them! If you need a sponsor in order to organize something, I would say, just now, don’t bother! And if you don’t, but the sponsor will be the icing on the cake, then make sure that you offer them as much as you can in return – sponsors are a very rare breed and need to be nurtured!