Include a Sponsorship Strategy in Your Marketing Plan
Strategic marketing plans that include corporate social responsibility have been rising in recent years. In today’s world, more and more people are voting with their wallets by purchasing from businesses that share their values. It is a good time for companies who want to stand out against the competition - as long as you know how!
Local or targeted sponsorships are a powerful yet affordable way for businesses big and small to gain community exposure while supporting a good cause. But local sponsorship isn’t without its risks. Sponsor the wrong initiative, and you could stick your brand into the wrong corner. Politics and other sensitive topics can create some die-hard loyal customers while also dangerously alienating different segments of your market. Sponsor the wrong initiative, and you could stick your brand into the wrong corner.
This article will help you identify and sponsor worthwhile brand-building causes while mitigating risk to your business. First, let’s look at why you should (and shouldn’t) consider supporting a local event or organization.
Positive reasons for local sponsorships:
Sponsorship is one of the most effective ways to get your brand in front and memorable with new customers. For example, if you sponsor a local baseball team’s uniforms, every player and all fans will quickly become aware while attending games or following them on social media.
You can potentially get a tax break by donating to an organization. Whether it’s for charity or not, your business will enjoy deductions if you make cash payments and file these as charitable contributions on their income taxes. You can also deduct most sponsorships as advertising expenses.
You show your support by sponsoring events or causes important to the community. Sponsorship will generate goodwill in customers’ minds, and they will form positive perceptions of your business because it aligns with the campaign being sponsored.
Sponsorships can have a downside when aligning yourself with a specific organization. Your sponsorships may win you some fans, but it’s essential to be aware of the risks.
Negative possibilities of local sponsorships:
Sponsorships are often overlooked as an expense, but they still have a price. Whether your company is giving time or money, sponsorship is an expense. It may not be as expensive as most advertising opportunities, but it still is an investment. Not to mention that defining the ROI of sponsorship can be challenging.
In surveys, almost half of respondents typically say they are less likely to buy from a business if they disagree with the CEO on a topic. A sponsorship may win you some fans, but it may earn you some enemies—while a neutral (non-sponsorship) stance may earn you both parties’ business.
Guilty By Association
It’s rare, but align yourself with the wrong sponsorship, and your business’s fate could be tied to theirs. Non-profit organizations are not immune to bad publicity when their leadership makes wrong choices or controversy surrounds them. The same can happen to your business if you have become closely associated with a risky brand.
Research, Review, and Focus
There are endless opportunities when it comes to sponsorship, but you also can’t sponsor everything. You’ll want to narrow your options and identify the causes most important (and relevant) to you and your business. Sponsorships come in all shapes and sizes. Depending on your business and industry, it may make sense to offer your support in ways besides cash payments, like pro bono services or volunteer time.
Once you’re considering your sponsorship choices, then it’s time to decide how you are going to measure the success of this sponsorship initiative. Maybe ROI isn’t the best key performance indicator. Consider alternate methods for tracking success like the level of publicity gained or the number of families reached.
Instead of being one of many brands joining together to support a large organization, consider sponsoring a local or targeted event where you are the sole sponsor or leading sponsor. By being a bigger fish in a smaller pond, your assistance and your brand can receive a bigger bite.
Once you narrow down your focus, if the sponsorship you’re targeting has no red flags, then move forward with confidence. Most events, teams, and organizations hope for recurring support, so make sure you start measuring your key performance indicators so you’ll be confident in determining its worth when renewing in the future.
Like any marketing strategy, if the results don’t yield the ROI you’re looking for, be ready to pivot. This may involve adjusting the sponsorship, backing out, or finding a new organization to sponsor. However, depending on your sponsorships’ cost and reach, you may discover that it’s a more effective use of your marketing budget than other forms of traditional advertising. If so, look for ways to expand your sponsorship program to find more opportunities aligned with your goals.
Do your research, find a cause you care about and give back in a meaningful way. Sometimes, it pays to do good.