Sponsorships can be a great way to gain high levels of publicity and "in your face" brand awareness at all kinds of festivals, community groups or sporting events. But, is it worth it?
Let's take a step back and look at the industry sponsorship spending overall as an indicator of performance. eMarketer research shows that sports sponsorships themselves have grown by nearly 5% annually for the past 5 consecutive years and outpaced spend and growth over any other segment including entertainment, events and causes. The growth in this space, even as the advertising landscape has become more complex, points to a growing need to connect with the customer where they are. That theory is only supported by research from various sports sponsorship studies that point to what Nick Buchanan from B&T Weekly says "is one of the best ways to build a communication path toward consumers."
Research is on our side, the industry is robust and growing, but if you're a local business, you may be wondering how to take advantage of these sponsorship opportunities. It boils down to four key areas that you must consider before finding a fit for your brand and business:
- Activation with Purpose
- Memorability by Repetition
- Blending in to Stand Out
- Level-setting on Impact
Let's look at each area and determine the fit for our strategy:
Activation with Purpose
Arguably the most important...but most rushed piece of the pie. Activation is the very idea that you bought in the first place — connecting with the customer on a meaningful level. Having a good plan in place is critical to getting the most of your sponsorship investment. For online sponsorships that could be a special discount code, offer or deal. On site, it could be a creative and engaging booth or display that encourages interaction with a trained and ready "street team." Regardless of the type of sponsorship, taking the time to stop down and think through your activation strategy will pay dividends even after the sponsorship is over.
Memorability by Repetition
The adage goes, "Out of sight, out of mind" and unfortunately that's often the case when small businesses don't make a concerted effort to stay in front of the consumer. Being prevalent with online research, sponsorships and traditional advertising are all key to owning the mind of the consumer during the initial consideration set. Add exclusivity and you've upped the ante. Boxing out the clutter and building frequency with a loyal customer is foundational, while being the only one doing it in an intentional manner gives you the right to win. Your company's memorability is only strengthened by steady and singular message repetition.
Blending in to Stand Out
That said, repetition is nothing new. Multiple reports confirm what we already know - consumers are inundated with advertising messages. Finding a way to break through and get your message across isn't as easy as buying another banner ad or running another radio spot; although those vehicles are certainly important to a holistic strategy.
To stand out, we must blend in.
The influx of modern media has taught us a lot - but one of the hot buttons of today is just under a new flag - native advertising. Advertorials, native, sponsored content, call it what you will - it's about getting a refined message to a consumer in a subconscious, alternative way when they are open to receiving it. What's better - it works! According to Altimeter Group, 53% of users say they are more likely to look at a native ad than a banner ad and 18% more of native ad viewers show purchase intent. Presenting content integrated into a media brand or sponsorship allows you to build credibility, trust, and thereby engagement for your brand with potential customers.
Level-setting on Impact
Truth be told, no one is going to tell you they purchased that new roof, car, laser-lipo or any other good or service from a sponsorship. Think about it - you check on your Georgia Bulldawgs every day at DawgNation.com's Good Day UGA sponsored by Kroger. But the chances of you shopping with them today are less than 1 in 7 since 80% of grocery shoppers shop 5 times or less per month. The long-term impact of that continued exposure, messaging, and affiliated trust being built with the brand begins to change consumer perception and behavior. So, will a sponsorship give you a 1:1 ROI today or tomorrow? Maybe, but that's not the win. The long-term impact is the true strategy. You're channeling the passion of the audience to associate with your brand and just like a river is forged, that channeling doesn't happen in an instant.
Digital fragmentation has done a lot of things - good and bad - but one thing it has done for sure is allow brands an opportunity to create memorable and engaging experiences with consumers through compelling sponsorships. The ROI may be tough to track because of all the noise in the landscape today, but the stats across the board lean in the favor of the advertiser. Consumer perception and behavior can be channeled in the right direction when you use a comprehensive sponsorship strategy through purposeful activation, exclusive ownership, repetition, and content integration.