When done correctly, sponsorship is great for business. It provides laser targeted marketing and promotional opportunities that other channels simply can’t match.
Traditional marketing and advertising relies on interrupting people to get their attention. Consider TV advertising, website pop-up banners or telemarketing.
Sponsorship on the other hand is all about creating experiences, weaving the sponsor’s brand into an interactive and memorable exchange with the audience.
Compare the shotgun approach of a typical broadcast advert to a well crafted fan experience, sponsored by a brand that shares your target audience. Which one is going to be more effective when it comes to brand awareness and lead generation? The sponsored fan experience of course!
Sometimes, however, we need to help our sponsors understand why partnering with us is such a smart business decision.
1 – The halo effect
The halo effect is the positive influence that extends from a person, property or event to an associated sponsor.
An obvious example is when an athlete endorses a brand. Fans are more likely to feel positively towards the brand due to their feelings for the athlete.
The power of the halo effect comes from what’s known as a cognitive bias, unconsciously transferring our positive feelings for one thing onto something else. In our case, that something else is the sponsor and the effect is emotional involvement and commitment to their brand.
When a sponsor partners with you, they gain the benefit of the halo effect. Integrate this with a well thought out marketing and activation strategy and you have a recipe for success.
2 – An engaged and passionate audience of fans
Businesses are always looking for paths or channels directly to their target audience.
If they’re targeting 25 to 35 year old professionals, they may concentrate of social media and other forms of digital advertising. For retirees, print or TV advertising may be more appropriate.
Whatever the case, the business must actively search for and build this audience. This will take a significant amount of time and money, from testing the messaging to focusing on the right audience segment.
With sponsorship however, you are delivering a ready-to-go audience of engaged and passionate fans. You know your audience and you know what makes them tick.
You’ve already done much of the hard work, building an audience which aligns with the sponsor’s brand and objectives. By sharing your deep understanding of your audience with the sponsor, together you can design an activation strategy to generate leads and ultimately a healthy return on their investment.
3 – Irresistible experiences
In the digital age, customers are becoming more and more difficult to reach with traditional marketing methods. Customers can tune out and switch off from interruption marketing. We subscribe to Netflix to avoid ads, we block pop-ups in our browsers and mark emails as spam.
Businesses are looking for alternative methods to connect with customers in a more meaningful way and cut through all the noise. This is where sponsorship shines.
Sponsorship allows businesses to create personal experiences which combine the brand message, interactive elements and your audience in a live setting.
According to “Experiential Marketing, Secrets, Strategies, and Success Stories from the World’s Greatest Brands – Kerry Smith and Dan Hanover”, the core experience strategy elements are:
- Connection – What type of connections will you create with the audience? Emotional, educational, delight?
- Control – How much control will you have over the experience? Strict control to control by the audience?
- Content – What type of content will be produced by the audience experience?
- Currency – What will you charge the audience for the experience? This does not need to be a fee. Currency includes agreeing to a trial, supplying personal information and social sharing.
- Conversion – What will represent a conversion? Is it a sale, a new lead or promotion by an influencer?
These experiences create genuine relationships with the audience and promote emotional involvement and commitment. They can range from simple on-site promotions and product samplings, all the way up to mega budget productions like Bud Light’s Up For Whatever Happens campaign.
Work with your sponsor to create irresistible and memorable experiences which align with their brand and objectives.
4 – Social proof and influence
Social proof is the phenomenon where our behaviour is influenced by others. We assume that decisions by people around us are correct and therefore should be followed.
For example, when given the choice between a busy restaurant and an empty restaurant, we assume the busy one is better. There’s no direct proof of this, except that one is more popular (social proof).
Sponsorship allows your business partners to tap into social proof from these 4 sources:
- Influencers – These are your super fans, your evangelists. When they speak your fans listen. You should aim to cultivate and develop a relationship with your influencers
- Celebrities – Primarily focused on the sport, arts and entertainment sectors, celebrities can have a great deal of influence over people. Whether internal or external to your organisation, leverage their fame to support your sponsors
- Experts – Primarily focused on the business and educational sectors, experts have a great deal authority in their fields. Leverage their authority to support your sponsors
- Fans – The power of the crowd. Fans share with their families, friends and each other
Your job is to show sponsors the power of social proof and how to leverage these sources.
- Create branded experiences which can be shared via social media
- Partner with experts and celebrities to endorse sponsors
- Develop relationships with your influencers and integrate them with your marketing activities
5 – Interactive content
Have you heard the phrase “content is king”? It’s the title of an essay written by Microsoft’s Bill Gates in 1996. It’s even more valid today than the year it was written.
Businesses are always looking for ways to generate content they can share with their customers to enhance their relationship and loyalty. One of the benefits of an audience experience is generating and publishing unique and interactive content. For example:
- Event specific information; pre, during and post
- Photos and videos
- Live streams
- Written content
- Sales promotions and product announcements
- Audience testimonials
This content is then fed into the rest of the marketing mix to promote the business and strengthen relationships with current and potential customers.
6 – Word-of-mouth referrals
Without a doubt, word-of-mouth referrals are one of the very best sources of sales leads. When a good friend, favourite celebrity or trusted advisor recommends something, you usually listen.
When you combine an engaged audience with the halo effect and social proof, you create an environment rich with word-of-mouth referral opportunities for you sponsors.
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you’re running an event and you target the top 5% of attendees based on their attendance record and how much they actively promote the event. These are your evangelists, your most engaged audience members.
Create a special experience for your evangelists, partnering with your sponsor to leverage the halo effect. This could be VIP access with all the trimmings. As part of this experience, the evangelists have exclusive access to sample and purchase the very latest sponsor products and services in the VIP lounge.
Your evangelists are usually authority figures and influencers within your audience. Leverage the social proof and provide opportunities for them to share their experience with others, be it person-to-person or via social media.