Brand sponsorship is a marketing strategy that differs considerably from advertising, but they can often be confused with each other. We have a look at what sponsorships are and how they can help your business.
Traditional advertising attempts to persuade customers with a single message, whether it’s your brand, a product, or a service to a large audience, casting a wide net.
However, sponsorship allows a brand to develop an ongoing relationship with a sports team, a charity, an event, or more, that ultimately aims to be profitable for both parties. Sponsorships take the form of financial or in-kind support of activities, for example, events, trade shows, or charities, to help reach specific business goals and boost their competitive advantage.
Unlike advertising, sponsorships do not directly promote your brand, services, or products, investing instead in a specific event or group that your customers care about. This will lead your organisation to be associated with the beneficiary by customers, the public, and the media.
How does sponsorship work?
Developing an affiliation with an entity that the public cares about through sponsorship will help increase the perception of the sponsor’s brand in the public eye. This affiliation helps create a ‘halo effect’ of goodwill, and the positive associations of the beneficiary are reflected onto the sponsor.
Sponsorship provides a positive benefit to society by empowering entities that consumers care about, meaning that sponsorship has a higher positive perception than advertising, the only goal of which is for commercial gain, and therefore does not appear to have any perceptible benefit to society.
Advertising can sometimes appear aggressive and coercive and can result in consumers becoming defensive, while the commercial intent of sponsorship is far more subtle and indirect, lowering these defence mechanisms.
Many large community events leverage sponsorship to help develop more exciting programmes and to help offset costs.
In the case of trade shows or charity events, there are various promotional opportunities, such as the sponsorship of guest speakers, press rooms, VIP lounges, awards and awards receptions, educational programmes, AV equipment, and more.
There are also opportunities for sponsorship for local causes, such as sports teams or charity events, which while offering limited places, allow brands to reach a specific local audience.
Sponsoring a small, local sports team means fewer people will see your branding than at a national trade show, but if your customers are all local, then it could be the best place to be seen by a local audience.
The marketing benefits of sponsorship
Sponsorships can help your brand reach niche markets without the cost and uncertainty that can be associated with traditional advertising, and a strategic sponsorship can help you achieve multiple marketing goals simultaneously.
Consumer attitudes. Sponsoring an event or cause that your customer base cares about will help create a positive attitude about your brand. If your customers feel that you care about the same issues that they care about, they are far more likely to develop a positive attitude about your business.
Brand awareness. Sponsorship in the form of in-kind products tends to be cheaper than traditional advertising, and by choosing beneficiaries strategically, you are almost guaranteed to find an audience that needs your products.
For example, a pet food manufacturer or pet supplies that provide a dog/cat shelter with their products will have its brand seen by its target audience regularly.
Drive sales. With brand awareness comes an increase in sales. Many sponsorship opportunities will drive sales by introducing customers to your product or services in a way that encourages them to make a purchase.
Using the above example, providing free samples or products for people who adopt a cat or dog, or discount vouchers to make a purchase at your stores or website can lead customers to purchase your products regularly.
You can also link purchases to a specific event, such as, in the above example, making a donation every time a customer makes a purchase during the shelter’s charity drive.
Increase reach. Consumers who attend an event that you have sponsored will gain a positive association with your brand and will talk about your product, or service. Strategic sponsorship will encourage word-of-mouth marketing, and having your brand on an event’s promotional materials will allow you to reach more customers.
Media Exposure. Media coverage can be costly, and often out of reach for small businesses, but media exposure can be capitalised upon by sponsoring an event, occasion, or trade show. Media coverage of such events will typically include the name of sponsors, particularly if your brand name is included in the event’s promotional materials and press releases.
This can significantly increase the visibility of your brand, products, or services and generate positive association. Develop a media plan to capitalise on this.
Stand out from your competitors. Sponsorship, especially if it is exclusive, will help set you apart from your competitors as you are tied to a positive affiliation in the minds of your customers. This is a good tactic if your competitors have a larger advertising budget than your business.
Become a ‘corporate citizen’. Sponsorships do not have to be focused on industry events and trade shows. Sponsoring local sports teams, charities, or events such as museum and art exhibits will establish you as a brand with a conscience, and consumers will perceive you as being a contributing factor to their community, creating goodwill and positive associations.
Lead Generation. Sponsoring an industry event, such as a trade show, will allow your brand to connect with consumers who are in need of your products or services. You can capitalise on the sponsorship by showcasing your brand, product, or services.
However, do not make the focus on sales, and instead, be helpful and a knowledge base to assist interested customers, encouraging them to sign up to find out more about your business. Offering something free in return for contact information is a tried and tested way to engage with consumers.
Develop business, consumer, and VIP relationships. An event can provide the opportunity for sponsors for exclusive VIP receptions, networking, or outings with high-profile industry individuals. This can be used to your advantage to meet key customers and develop business relationships, but ensure you have a follow-up plan for after the event.
Adding sponsorship to your marketing plans
Sponsorships can help your business improve its public image, prestige, and credibility, but like other forms of marketing, it needs to be used strategically to be sure that you reach your target audience.
As you develop your marketing plan, you need to consider and research the events and causes that your target audience cares about.
Consider the following:
- Has the event/charity/organisation worked with sponsors previously?
- If not, are they open to the idea?
- What kind of support would they be expecting?
- What levels of exposure would different levels of sponsorship provide your brand?
Consider the cost and reach of the sponsorship opportunities available, and you may find that they will often be a far better use of your marketing budget than traditional advertising, particularly on a local level.
The World Fireworks Championship is an annual event held in Blackpool every year, throughout September and October. Set to music, the popular and incredible displays take place on the beach in front of the iconic Blackpool Tower and have proven to be a big draw for tourists to the town.
This year, a fourth date, Friday 28 October, has been added to the fireworks festival, which gathers the ‘the crème de la crème of the world’s firework elite’, and has been sponsored by one of Tonic’s clients, Coral Island, a family-friendly indoor pirate-themed amusement park on Blackpool’s promenade.
The World Fireworks Championships is well publicised, with features in the local press, both Blackpool and the wider Lancashire region, for instance, The Lancashire Telegraph and the Visit Blackpool tourism website, all of which highlight that the additional date has been sponsored by Coral Island, which is only a short walk from the site of the displays.
If you want to know more about how sponsorship can benefit your business, come and talk to Tonic today!