Don’t blend in with the scenery
Most event sponsorships are lost branding opportunities, which is too bad for everyone involved. The sponsor usually doesn’t get any real recognition, which in turn makes is less likely that firms will renew their sponsorship. So how can we move beyond slapping a logo on an event Web page or in a performance’s program?
First, let’s learn from the big boys.
Coke sponsors American Idol, but their sponsorship goes far beyond running ads during the show. The judges drink Coke and talk about it, and the show’s décor is specifically designed to mimic the contours of a Coke bottle and to pick up on the “Coke red.” In one way or another, Coke is present for about 60 percent of the show.
Brand expert Martin Lindstrom conducted a series of studies showing the success of this approach. Not only did this subtle brand infusion help Coca-Cola, it also suppressed research subjects’ memories of other program sponsors, such as Ford, who stuck to the traditional ad-only approach. Lesson: some sponsorships are more equal than others.
The key to success was not simply placement or saturation, as Lindstrom explains in his book buy•ology. It has to do with context. Product placement is nothing new, and if it is only in passing there isn’t a big effect. I suspect this is because the real world is full of product placement—my fridge alone is pretty impressive, touting yogurts, drinks, and condiments—and we become immune to it. It becomes part of the scenery. But if a product is relevant to a situation, or someone interacts with it, we remember it better. That’s why we recall Reese’s Pieces from E.T., or Simon Cowell sipping his Coke and telling us how much he loves it.
That’s all well and good for Coca-Cola and Reese’s Pieces, but what about the rest of us? Here’s how to get your money’s worth when sponsoring an event.
• There should be a match between the event’s audience and yours. Also, get an idea of how many will attend the event. This is probably the most important consideration.
• Build up excitement. Market the event. An event with low turnout is sad to behold.
• Keep excitement rolling. Have your PR plan continue after the event to get the most out of your sponsorship.
• Who else is sponsoring this event? You want to make sure there is no direct competition, and that the other sponsors are reputable organizations with a track record.
• Review what recognition is offered in exchange for your sponsorship. Don’t be afraid to ask for more and suggest what forms that recognition might take. Event organizers want ideas, and are accommodating.
• Find sponsorships that are relevant to your business. For example, Bidwell ID helped sponsor the regional ad awards last year. People should look at the sponsorship and say, “Oh, that makes sense.” Or at least they shouldn’t cock their head in wonder like that dog on the old RCA records.
• Become part of the sponsored event. Be a speaker, start a scholarship, or find another way to claim part of the event. Food and drink folks can give away their products at the end of a 5K run, or claim a unique place along the route that becomes associated with them. Create an award in the name of your business that fits with your business, such as a retirement community honoring the oldest participants in an event.
• Become deeply involved with an event, so that your name becomes associated with it. Like most organizations, you probably support a variety of events, but try to pick one you do big time. Consider starting an event that will bear your name. We held the region’s first branding symposium a few years back, and it went a long way toward putting our name on the map.