As part of the integrated public relations plans we execute for clients, we often recommend sponsorship and corporate-giving opportunities to raise brand visibility.
Sponsorships are not only an effective way to raise brand awareness, but the events also offer the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with others who share the same interests – personal and professional. Unfortunately, many companies are reluctant to sponsor because they don’t know where to start—or perhaps worse, they jump right in and throw a donation at every cause that comes along. While generous, this strategy can tank your marketing budget.
In order for a client to fully reap the benefits of being involved at the sponsor level with an organization, here are a few pointers that will make the selection process and end result more effective and enjoyable.
Choose meaningfully. Many clients are influenced by the organizations and non-profits that their peers or friends may be involved in. While being charitable is always a good thing, it is important to feel connected personally with the organization and ensure that the client’s brand is in-line with the goals and mission of the organization as well. We encourage the client to also be selective about the events that they are involved in at a sponsorship level, versus which events they choose to simply attend as a guest. For example, if the client is an avid golfer, then an organization’s annual fundraising golf tournament is a no-brainer; if the client loves music, get her involved in a local concert series.
Be present. While this tip may seem obvious, I have found myself needing to strongly encourage clients to actually attend the events they are sponsoring. They need be physically present and engage with the people around them—and keeping a few business cards in the back pocket is never a bad idea. Being able to connect a face and personality with a brand is a much more effective way to reach an audience than being one of many logos on a banner.
Don’t be afraid to ask. While it is respectful to stay close to the outline of each sponsorship level, if there is an addition or change that would make the difference between your client being pleased and extremely pleased – just ask! I’ve found that additions like extra guests added to VIP lists or additional golf players (even switching tee times!) is a relatively easy ask and can make all the difference for the client’s experience.
Branch out. Most clients will invite along friends to attend sponsored events and sit at tables, which is encouraged. But it is easy for the client to fall into comfortable conversation with the same old folks, rather than engaging in conversation with someone new. This clearly hinders his or her ability to make valuable and meaningful connections. Making a conscious effort to mingle and separate from the usual crowd during the event can make all the difference down the road—you never know which hand you shake could lead to a new piece of business for your company.
Be thankful. Even as the donor, it is important to express appreciation after a well-planned and successful event that helps to raise the brand’s visibility. While an email thank-you is perfectly acceptable these days, you can really set yourself apart if you do something different. The average email user receives 147 messages per day – so sending a note of thanks via snail mail to the contact who helped to facilitate the sponsorship can go a long way!
The most important thing to remember is that events are all about enhancing visibility and reputation. Ideally, each individual the client shakes hands with or exchanges emails with should come away with something positive to say about the person behind the brand.