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Corporate sponsorship, also known as event marketing, is a form of advertising in which companies pay to be associated with certain events. Corporate sponsorships have been growing rapidly in recent years. Part of the increase is attributable to the number of small and medium-sized firms that are becoming involved.

In today’s business environment, small companies have embraced sponsorship of everything from soccer and other team events to festivals, fairs, as an effective means of increasing their visibility in their home community. Many of these kinds of sponsorships enable small companies to increase their public profile in a relatively cost-effective manner.

Sponsorships have a wide range of potential benefits. They can enhance a company’s image and visibility; differentiate a company from competitors; help to develop closer relationships with current and prospective customers; showcase products and services; unload obsolete inventory, and allow the company to compete more effectively against bigger firms that have large advertising budgets. Also, tickets to sponsor events can be used as incentives for employees; vendors, and customers and to promote worker loyalty. And proponents say that if sponsorships are well-conceived and strategic, they can boost sales – both long-term and short-term – as they improve the community through the events they support.

In addition to the advertising and promotion aspects of corporate sponsorship, it also provides benefits in the realm of community relations. A comprehensive, ongoing community relations program, including event sponsorship, can help virtually any organization achieve visibility as a good community citizen. Organizations are recognized as good community citizens when they support programs that improve the quality of life in their community, including crime prevention, employment, environmental programs, clean-up and beautification, recycling, and restoration.

Some other examples of ongoing programs might include scholarship programs, urban renewal projects, performing arts programs, social and educational programs, children’s activities, community organizations, and construction projects. These kinds of sponsorships also referred to as “cause-related marketing”, may also be linked to national or even international social causes. Good community relations programs give employees a reason to be proud of the company, which increases loyalty and may help to reduce labour and production costs.

Furthermore, a company with happy employees and a good reputation in the community is likely to attract highly qualified new employees. A small company also might generate new business through the contacts and leads it generates in its community relations activities. Such contacts might also make it easier for the company to obtain financing for expansion, finding promising new locations, or gain favourable treatment in terms of taxes, ordinances, or utilities. Good community relations can also be beneficial in times of crisis, such as a fire or a plant closing, by rallying the community around the affected business.

Event sponsorship, in particular, is an attractive option because it provides a business with access to various audiences, including employees, business decision-makers, and government regulators as well as consumers. It can be an especially good marketing tool for companies that participate in international trade because sponsorship transcends language and cultural barriers.

Many marketers feel that corporate sponsorship is superior to other methods because it allows for immediate customer response to new product offerings.  Events provide business managers with an opportunity to come face-to-face with their customers. They also provide customers with an opportunity to try a company’s products out firsthand. By comparison, marketing research tools like focus groups can be expensive and may not target the right people, while marketing questionnaires or surveys generally do not give potential customers a chance to try the product.

Corporate sponsorships also provide marketers with a unique opportunity to position their products in the marketplace. With corporate sponsorship – unlike conventional marketing techniques – the company, the product, and the event or cause being sponsored tend to become linked in the consumers’ minds.

By sponsoring an event or providing a budget for an event’s broadcast, a sponsor can generate audience awareness while simultaneously creating associations of the events’ value in people’s minds. The event generates the audience while concurrently sending a message to that audience about the event’s values. Each sponsorship property or vehicle has certain associated images in the consumer’s mind that transfer to the sponsor.

Given the tendency for consumers to associate sponsors with events, it is important for sponsoring companies to choose events that fit well with the image of their products. Indeed, small businesses should not associate themselves with any cause or event without first undertaking a serious examination of the potential drawbacks of a sponsorship opportunity. For example, effective sponsorships often require active participation on the part of companies and segments of their workforces. Also, some companies shy away from sponsorship of fears that they will be exposed to litigation or bothered by organizers of other events,

Finally, affiliation with a community event that is poorly organized or violates local standards of good taste can be quite costly to a small business, With this in mind, small business owners should always undertake a background check on events or organizations they are considering sponsoring. Talk with current and past sponsors and ask for access to mailing lists, post-event surveys, documentation of the attendees at the event, media mentions, and the rate of sponsorship renewal.

It is worth noting that the growing popularity of corporate sponsorships has spurred many market research firms to aid businesses in the selection, implementation, and evaluation of sponsorship opportunities. But these services may be prohibitively expensive for smaller companies.

Even when there is a good fit between sponsor and event, it is still vital for a company to promote the event and its involvement to gain benefits. After all, sponsorship is a form of advertising, even when it is of a nonprofit venture. Smaller companies are more reticent about profiting from niceness. Possible ways to promote events sponsorship include billboards, print and broadcast advertisements, and direct mail. Sponsoring companies may also find it helpful to issue press releases about the event to the media, as well as to contribute articles and editorials to publications that reach the target audience. Marketers of consumer products may also engage in joint promotions with retailers.

The fees involved in event marketing depend on the scale of the event and the level of the sponsor’s involvement. In addition to the cost of staging the event itself, there are also associated with advertising, publicity, and administrative costs to consider. Many small businesses choose to begin as a co-sponsor of an existing event, which allows them to take advantage of their other sponsor’s experience. It may also be possible for a small business to underwrite a new event and share advertising costs with a co-sponsor.

Some businesses find it difficult to justify the expense of corporate sponsorship because it can be difficult to gauge the result in monetary terms. But it is often possible to conduct before and after interviews with attendees of the event or to give away coupons and track redemption rates. Some businesses also attempt to gauge the success of an event by providing a toll-free telephone number for attendees to call for more information about the products or services.

Bernard Taiwo
I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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