Thinking about sponsorships?
Here’s how to pick the perfect match for your brand.
In the age of Instagram, team sponsorships or celebrity or charity partnerships can be very alluring; and when matched well, they are a quick way to build your social media exposure and show the world the calibre of people in your network.
Businesses love attention, but it only equates to a positive return on investment if that attention is coming from the audience you’re hoping to attract. Choose poorly and you can spend a lot of money for very little return; or worse, you might gain attention for all the wrong reasons.
So what does the right sponsor look like?
The right sponsor will align with your brand values and showcase different elements of your brand story. Essentially, they will do some of your storytelling for you.
They will not only bring attention to your business—that attention will come from potential customers or clients, and will further enhance their brand experience. And, there are always the added benefits of opportunities to entertain clients, or build your network with other like-minded sponsors.
Sounds easy? It isn’t.
But, here are a few things to consider when considering a sponsorship offer.
- Does the sponsor brand’s story mirror our own, or tell part of our story that we struggle to tell on our own?
A sponsorship can be a useful tool to showcase the things that your business truly values. It might be a shared sense of integrity, a desire to support those who align with your environmental, ideological or ethical values, or even an engagement with a local community, to demonstrate that you are passionate about supporting locals.
The key is to understand the essential qualities of your brand, and the sponsor’s, to help you find your perfect match.
- What does the brand you choose say about yours?
If you’re a tech start-up wanting to showcase your innovative flair, choosing to sponsor traditional sports teams or charities over those who are equally innovative and forward thinking, is an opportunity missed. There may be an chance to sponsor a program within these traditional brands that demonstrates their shift towards innovation, but generally it would be wiser to find brands that share your purpose, albeit in a different field.
Likewise, if you are a traditional company, it might be safer to stick with brands that reflect the values you want to be known for (such as stability, trust, longevity), but if you are looking to highlight your ability to be agile, despite being a traditional brand, then choosing a charity or sporting brand that reflects modern thinking may be worth considering.
- Does it represent or reflect the values of your target audience?
This is where a lot of brands come unstuck. If your target audience isn’t going to support the values of the sponsor, then you are sending a mixed message to them. Worse still, you could be deterring them. This is critical when considering your brand’s position on more political movements, or issues that may be contentious, or even sporting teams where passions may be very persuasive. Before considering whether or not to align your brand with another, the first question to ask is, what will my target audience think?
If you align yourself with a premium brand, but you target the average, blue-collar Australian, the message your sponsorship may send could be isolating. It may lead them to wonder what they are paying for, and whether the price is funding a top-end lifestyle instead of delivering them value.
Likewise, a brand with a premium target audience may inadvertently cause brand confusion thanks to your brand associating with a brand defined by egalitarian values (whether or not you may appreciate them).
All potential sponsors have well-known brand characteristics (otherwise you wouldn’t be keen to sponsor them). Choosing a brand that shares your ideals, is critical to telling an aspect of your own brand story through them.
- Is there an associated risk for your business?
Just because you’re paying them, and they’ve got a well-known reputation, doesn’t mean there isn’t risk. If your brand values position you as an environmental leader, and you sponsor a company or charity that is found to have terrible environmental habits, you could be vilified by association.
Sporting clubs are known to have risks surrounding the behaviours of their players, and even charities are not immune to hiring people whose reputation can soon tarnish your own. It’s best to do your due diligence and get to know the culture of the organisation you’re looking to sponsor, to limit your risk.
- Is this a business decision, or a personal preference?
With many businesses in Australia formed by individuals, there is an increased risk that sponsorships will suffer from personal preferences over business benefit.
The team you follow may not best reflect your brand values, or that of the audience you are trying to engage—and while it’s nice to enjoy a corporate box or photos with your heroes, or even give generously to a charity you personally love, for a sponsorship to truly enhance your brand story, you have to look beyond personal preferences and think strategically.
The higher their profile, the greater the potential for return (but also the greater the sponsorship cost), assuming the sponsorship makes sense, so you will want to get it right.
- Does it fulfil a strategic purpose?
Are you looking to create more content for social media, would you like to showcase your company’s commitment to helping those less fortunate, are you wanting to reinforce your success, so others see you as a market-leader? There are many excellent strategic reasons to incorporate sponsorships into your marketing plan, but they must fulfil a strategic purpose.
Too many businesses choose sponsorships in a seemingly random way. Perhaps they simply take an opportunity as presented, or are looking to achieve greater brand awareness and snap up the first offer. When done well, a sponsorship can do wonders for your reputation and enrich your social media presence, when done poorly they can be a costly mistake. Even knowing your contractual benefits, and making sure they are delivered, is too often an area that businesses miss.
At Quip Brands, we have helped our clients tell their story by strategically guiding their sponsorship selection. We’ve also helped to maximise their return on their sponsorship investment, by building a brand strategy for the sponsorship that includes all of their contractual benefits and ensures they are used effectively.
By selecting well, and being creative in how you maximise the contractual inclusions, there’s plenty of opportunity to gain from sponsorships.