How to maximize value of events sponsorships
Any business looking to sponsor an event should, as the song says, make a list and check it twice.
That, essentially, is the advice of people who work with or inside corporations deciding how to spend their sponsorship dollars.
First, articulate your goals. Businesses generally support events to either directly market their product or service to a targeted audience or as a charitable contribution to foster good community relations. And it’s important, says planners, to know the difference.
“Businesses need to be really clear what category they fall into so they’re not disappointed,” says Stephanie Kruse, principal and chief strategist at KPS3 Marketing, a marketing, public relations and advertising firm in Reno.
An event sponsored for purely charitable reasons will likely require less effort and produce fewer, if any, measureable results.
“Altruism is easier for organization to manage,” says Kruse. “It can make a donation or sponsor an event and get an ad in the program and an announcement. That’s pretty easy to manage.”
Still, businesses should be careful to pick events that if not directly related to their brand, at least align with it, says Tiffany East, vice president of public relations at The Glenn Group in Reno.
“When you’re looking at opportunities make sure it’s authentic. You don’t want your participation to look forced,” says East.
An example, says East, arose when she worked with the state treasurer’s office at the time that the Nevada quarter was being developed. East worked with Nevada State Bank to sponsor programs to enlist children to help pick the quarter’s design. A bank was a logical choice for the money-oriented project and the program appealed to Nevada State Bank, which focuses sponsors education as part of its corporate mission.
East says if the event and corporate sponsor are a natural fit it’s also easier to get employees involved.
Employee commitment is the key ingredient guiding NV Energy’s sponsorship program, says Karen Ross, community relations manager for NV Energy Northern Nevada.
“What works is an employee passion about a certain organization or event,” says Ross. “One of the criteria the council looks for is employee participation. We’re looking for strong leadership.”
The council is a 20-member employee committee that meets monthly to evaluate the many sponsorship requests the electric utility gets and to evaluate the efficacy of the events afterward.
NV Energy has the advantage of being able to sponsor a broad range of happenings and for community relations reasons rather than marketing purposes because, as Ross says, the utility already serves almost everyone in Nevada.
Most businesses, however, sponsor events for a mix of reasons or, more often, as a way to market their brand. Then, too, businesses have to be careful to delineate their goals in order to get the best return on their investment.
“If you’re a new company, you may just want to get your name out there, versus an established company wanting to get a product in someone’s hands,” says JP Glenn, account executive with The Glenn Group in Reno.
Some events are an obvious tie-in for a business. Car companies and auto accessory makers flock to Hot August Nights, for example. Sometimes the connection isn’t that clear. A few years ago, says Glenn, the Reno-Tahoe Open attracted sponsorship from businesses outside the golf industry by benefiting military support alliances and recruiting businesses that support that cause.
The key for both event and sponsor, says Glenn and others, is to be creative.
“If you just throw your logo on some signage you’re not going to get the ROI that you’re looking for,” says Glenn.
A good example of creativity, says Glenn, took place at the same RTO. A web-based golf school set up a demonstration and testing area at the event waiting line. While people waited in line, they could get a free analysis of their golf swing. The company caught the participants during what would otherwise have been wasted time in line, demonstrated its service and gave attendees something tangible to take home to remember the business.
“An important part is finding what we call sponsor activation,” says Beth Macmillan, executive director of Artown, the month-long arts festival in Reno, which works with more than two dozen sponsors including slot maker IGT, Mercedes-Benz of Reno, Hometown Health, US Bank, NV Energy and Wild River Grille.
Macmillan says it’s not enough to just offer sponsors a spot on brochures or podiums. Sponsors need an avenue — teaching at children’s art workshop, for example — to help make their brand come to life.
It’s key to recruiting and retaining corporate sponsorship.
“You don’t want to be the non-profit asking for funding without a reciprocal benefit to the corporate partner,” she says.
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