Author: Ellen Gunning. Ellen is Director of Irish Academy Training which provides training courses, nationwide, in communications, business, leadership, marketing and social media. www.irishacademytraining.com
When most businesses think about sponsoring, they imagine big budgets, national or international exposure, celebrities and possibly not too much by way of return on their investment. However, sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective things that a business can do – and you can get a great return on your investment if you approach it in the right way.
What is sponsorship?
Lets start by clearly establishing what sponsorship actually is. Sponsorship is investing money in a cause or event or whatever, for a commercial return. You are giving money with the very clear expectation that you will get a return. If there is no expectation of a commercial return, then you are making a donation to charity.
Know the rules
Start by identifying the audience you want to target. There may be several for your business. Last year, in the Academy for example, we sponsored the Annual Bloggers Awards (this is a vital audience for people in PR who are a vital audience for us). We also sponsored the Kids Guide Summer Camp Exhibition (because we have a media summer camp each year for 16 year olds and we wanted to let them and their parents know about it). Entirely different audiences. We target niche audiences interested in communications, but you might equally be targetting a local audinece (if your business is on the high street), or an internet audience (if yours is an online business) or a B2B event.
From the first conversation you hold, you also need to be clear in your own mind that you want a return on your investment. The €500 that you give to the local community week was hard-earned, and will be greatly valued by the committee. Your job is to make sure that you choose the right sponsorship vehicle and that you get a good return.
Also, if possible, choose a sponsorship that you might be involved with for at least three years. It takes time for people to associate you with your event.
Choose a logical sponsorship vehicle
If you are a hairdresser or a beautician, consider sponsoring the “yummy mummy” competition where you can showcase your salon to an audience of potential customers.
If own a bookstore, sponsor a read-a-thon, or a guest talk by a well known author, or a masterclass on how to write a great novel.
Quantify your return
Figure out exactly what you want in return. You should obviously be credited as one of the sponsors on the promotional literature and on any posters in the locality, but what else could you get? Would it be possible for you to present the prizes on the evening of the event and say a few words about your business? Could the committee arrange a photo-call for you with the local newspaper to promote your involvement? Would the local radio station be interested in interviewing you about how you came to know the author who will be giving the guest talk?
Figure out how to enhance your sponsorship
What else can you do? Can you put a notice in the shop window announcing the sponsorship and encouraging your clients to enter? Should you take an advertisement in the local paper alongside the feature article about the community event? Should you have special invitations printed for your clients and a reserved seating area for them at the event? Could your author sign copies of his/her book in your store on the afternoon of the event?
Enjoy the event
Whatever you have decided to sponsor, your team in the business should be as excited about it as you are. They are also ambassadors for this sponsorship and should be enthusiastically spreading the word on your behalf. You should also get them involved on the day meeting and greeting your guests, showing them to their seats etc and making it a real “company” event for everyone.
After the event
You should thank people for participating in the event that you sponsored. Perhaps there is an opportunity to get some feedback from them – surveys are very popular – and you might offer an additional incentive for completing it (maybe a gift voucher for your salon?). The feedback will remind people of your involvement but also give you some good “pointers” for next years event.