Sponsorship is very different from most types of sales. While there is an eventual transaction when terms are agreed upon, it is far from transactional in nature. There are many discussions about a multitude of topics that lead to a successful partnership. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The building blocks in sponsorship are the assets that a brand pays a rights holder for, which prompts the million dollar question: “What sponsorship assets should we be looking for in a partnership?” We will be diving head-first into what you need to ask and evaluate to determine which assets make the most sense for your brand. Keep in mind: it will not be the same answer for the other brands in your category.
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself, is “who am I trying to reach?” This could be:
- A specific age range
- Male/Female split
- Geographical demographic
- Socio-economic demographic
- A group of people that share common interests (i.e. Comic-Con or music festival attendees)
Regardless of what it is, you must develop a specific target for your brand. Once you’ve come up with characteristics of the consumer you’re targeting, it’s time to think about which rights holder(s) might be able to provide access to that target consumer. You still want to go into conversations with your rights holder partners with a few ideas of “standard” assets in mind (social media, on-site signage, hospitality); however, be sure to let them know who you’re trying to reach. They can then help generate creative ideas along with you to make sure you connect in a meaningful way.
You've thought about who you’re trying to reach. Now: be clear about what you’re trying to do with who you’re trying to reach. Your marketing goals should align with your business goals, and should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). This will help your brand measure success in a meaningful way, and also aid in choosing sponsorship assets through a focused approach. If one of your goals is social media engagement, print opportunities in a brochure is not the right asset. A better way to accomplish that goal would be to ask for hospitality benefits (event tickets, VIP experience, catered lunch). Then collaborate on branding an asset that’s designed as a photo opportunity. Place that asset in an area that your target market will utilize - such as the hospitality area you’re sponsoring - and they will take photos and to share with their network(s).
IMPORTANCE OF ACTIVATION
There is a common misconception in sponsorship: the bulk of your budget should be spent on the rights to a sponsorship package - i.e. paid to the event, team, property, etc. To make sure the sponsorship your paying for is working the way you intend, it is equally important for your brand to invest in activating that sponsorship. Some of the most successful sponsorship assets today are not necessarily the traditional naming rights, signage, logo inclusion packages we’ve seen in the past, but assets created specifically with a brand’s marketing goals and target market in mind. For example, if you purchase physical space at an event as part of your sponsorship package, you have a couple of options. You can create a fun, engaging, event-specific environment, or you can put up a generic 10’ x 10’ pop-up tent with a table and chairs there. The first option is more expensive, but worth the investment.
At the end of the day, there are no right or wrong ways for your brand to do sponsorship. We’ve identified a few important factors to understand when considering assets for your brand to utilize. Remember: it is not an all-inclusive list. Be smart with your decision making - take into account whatever factors are important to your brand, look at what other people are doing in the marketplace, create content and an activation plan that fits, and commit to it. Work closely, openly, and honestly with your rights holder to make sure that you’re on the same page. That sort of relationship between partners helps ensure the deliverables - no matter what they are - are being executed properly as you’d envisioned. There is no scientific formula for a successful set of assets in a sponsorship, but follow the advice in this column, and you’ll be on your way.