ponsorship is the fastest growing form of marketing in the U.S., but it’s still very much in its infancy. This is particularly true in the trade show arena. You can find unlimited opportunities to broaden your competitive advantage with this in mind. Consider using marketing techniques to increase your credibility, improve your image, and build prestige when you sponsor events that attract your target market.
When it’s done well, sponsorship offers significant opportunities for distinct marketing and it shows support for the event.
What Sponsorship Is
Sponsorship is the financial or in-kind support of an activity and is used primarily to reach specified business goals. According to IEG’s “Complete Guide to Sponsorship,” it “should not be confused with advertising. Advertising is considered a quantitative medium, whereas sponsorship is considered a qualitative medium. It promotes a company in association with the sponsee.”
A large number of events these days use sponsorship support to offer more exciting programs and to help defray rising costs. Sponsorship allows you to reach specifically targeted niche markets without any waste. In addition, as a powerful complement to other marketing programs, sponsorship can have a dramatic influence on customer relations.
Some trade show promotional opportunities include sponsorship of press rooms, an international lounge, a speaker or VIP room, an awards reception, educational programs, banners, badge holders, audiovisual equipment, display computers, tote bags, shuttle buses, napkins, and drink cups.
Sponsorship offers the possibility of achieving several goals at once.
Enhancing Image and Shaping Consumer Attitudes
Companies are often looking for ways to improve how they’re perceived by their target audience. Sponsoring events that appeal to their market are likely to shape buying attitudes and help generate a positive reaction.
For example, Coca-Cola is always looking to generate a positive idea of their products in the minds of their consumers. As such, the company regularly supports events that it feels can influence consumer opinions, like the “American Idol” television show.
Building Brand Awareness
You can spend a lot of dollars on print advertising or on audio and television commercials, but you’ll spend a lot less and perhaps achieve a better result if you can simply put your product in the hands of potential consumers.
Sponsorship doesn’t have to be huge, like what Coca-Cola has done with “American Idol.” If you own a pet store or manufacture pet supplies, provide leashes bearing your name for your local kennel club’s annual dog show or trade show. Whenever an owner or judge attaches a leash to a pup, your name is right there. You’re engaging your audience, meeting with them one on one at the most opportune time.
Now fast-forward a few weeks to a point in time when one or more of those breeders who were present need new leashes. Are they more likely to remember an ad they saw in a magazine or that leash that helped to control a pooch at crunch time?
Driving sales goes hand-in-hand with brand awareness. Sponsorship that’s geared toward driving sales can be an extremely potent promotional tool.
This objective allows sponsors to showcase their product attributes. Food and beverage companies often use sponsorship to encourage samplings and sales. IEG’s ”Complete Guide to Sponsorship” cites Visa’s fund-raising effort around its sponsorship of the Olympic Games and the U.S. Olympic Team. Visa promoted its association by offering to make a donation to the Olympic Team each time consumers charged a purchase to their Visa card.
American Express used a similar strategy by donating to needy causes with its “Charge Against Hunger” campaign. As a result, both companies experienced a significant rise in sales volume.
A good sponsorship not only allows you to make contact with potential buyers and customers, but it can also promote that priceless marketing tool: word of mouth. Ideally, people who attend an event will continue to talk about your service or product, particularly if they had a good experience at the time.
Your brand name should appear on all the event’s promotional materials, including emails and their own advertisements. Now you’re reaching a lot of people who are interested in the sort of thing you’re selling, all part and parcel of your sponsorship.
Creating Positive Publicity and Heightening Visibility
Every sponsor seeks wide exposure in both electronic and print media, and positive publicity helps create heightened visibility of products and services. Various media covering the event sometimes include sponsors’ names or photos. This kind of media coverage is often unaffordable if the company were to think of purchasing it—if it was even available at all.
Sponsorship can often generate media coverage that might otherwise not have been available. The sponsoring company should have a comprehensive media campaign in place to augment the regular media coverage promoted by the organizers.
Differentiating From Competitors
The mere act of sponsoring an event, especially an exclusive sponsorship, is a significant way to create competitor differentiation. Your company name has the opportunity to stand out head and shoulders above the rest. This tactic is particularly helpful if your company wants to combat a competitor that has a larger ad budget. Sponsorship allows smaller companies to compete with industry giants.
Helping With a Good “Corporate Citizen” Role
Another powerful sponsorship objective allows companies to be viewed as “good neighbors.” They’re perceived as supporting the community and contributing to its economic development, which creates enormous goodwill.
Target audiences see the sponsor as making a greater effort to support the event, often allowing more or better activities to take place as a result. This provides another way in which you can engage your audience through the support of their interests and causes.
Generating New Leads
This opportunity is particularly alive and thriving at trade shows you actually attend. You’re personally present…and so are innumerable others who have an interest or need in your service or product. Use the event to talk shop. Showcase yourself or your product without going overboard. You’ve already got a good thing going; you’re a sponsor, which affords you a certain level of respect. You don’t have to pat yourself on the back. Just be knowledgeable and helpful so that attendees remember you when they need what you have to offer.
Enhancing Business, Consumer, and VIP Relations
Sponsorships that offer hospitality opportunities are always attractive to companies. Perks can include special exclusive networking settings, such as VIP receptions or golf tournaments, which provide opportunities to meet key customers and solidify business relationships.