How to Execute a Successful Sponsorship Without Wasting Time and Money

Brands are allocating more and more ad spend toward them every year

Sponsorships can come at a hefty price if they aren't planned and executed properly.
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Managing a holistic marketing budget is all about making trade-offs across channels. Of all the marketing tools in your arsenal, are sponsorships the right way to spend your limited budget?

Maybe. Brands spent over $62 billion globally on sponsorships in 2017, a number that is projected to keep growing. Sponsorships can be an effective way to get your message in front of key audiences, but they can also be a colossal waste of money if they are not well planned and executed.

Here are the five key criteria to consider when evaluating sponsorship opportunities. Some may be more important than others depending upon your business, but all should be factored into your evaluation.

Integration 

Is this a custom program or a logo slap? Ideally, any sponsorship should have the ability for you to communicate a unique message of your brand and not only remind people you exist by flashing your logo about. One way to evaluate this is through your competition. If the proposed execution highlighting the Chevy Bowtie can as easily be replaced by the Dodge Ram Head—or worse, the Geico Gecko—you may be paying for expensive eyeball exposure.

Always push for a more customized activations and brand integration, not only signage. Allstate’s Good Hands Field Goal Net was a great way to tie their core tagline into their NCAAF sponsorship. And if you are the new 2019 Silverado pickup touting the biggest bed in the business, demonstrate what that means: roll out a Silverado overflowing with toys during halftime of the Thanksgiving game and give all the toys away to local disadvantaged kids.

Key lesson: Always push for creative ways to use the sponsorship to tell and activate your brand message.

Relevance

Is this a sponsorship a perfect fit for your target audience or any audience? I have vague memories of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a child and host Marlin Perkins’ attempts to tie something about wildlife to insurance (e.g., “Just as the mother hippo will protect her calves, an insurance policy from Mutual of Omaha…”). It was a stretch, but for the enormous family audience watching that show (in the era of three channels), this was a great sponsorship.

Brands spent over $62 billion globally on sponsorships in 2017, a number that is projected to keep growing.

In today’s fragmented media world of ever-shrinking audiences, more specific content sponsorship is a better investment (e.g., home insurance sponsoring The Property Brothers, AmEx’s or Deluxe’s small business initiatives enhancing Shark Tank, etc.).

Key lesson: Always seek out sponsorships with as much natural synergy with your brand as possible.

Scale 

Will this potentially delight a handful or be noticed by many? Sponsoring the scoreboard at the local little league field might be a great way to connect with parents from both teams who can show their appreciation through their patronage on the way home. On the other hand, getting your brand logo behind the catcher during the World Series will be seen by tens of millions and can be quite effective in keeping your brand top-of-mind. The first might be perfect for the local pizzeria while the second is great for a national retail chain like Target.

In truth, analysis would probably show the little league option to be the more efficient play for both brands, but companies with the scale of Target probably don’t have the field force to track down every local baseball diamond. They are still better off playing in the big leagues.

Key lesson: Evaluate the impressions of every sponsorship versus the cost, but don’t lose sight of the additional expenses of trying to scale smaller opportunities.

Intended response 

Will this create awareness of your brand or drive short-term sales? Although traditionally seen as an upper-funnel play, sponsorships are also quite capable of both shaping brand opinion and driving immediate transactions.