Smarter Marketing Blog

Sponsorship can change a person’s perceptions of a brand.

sponsorship dilemma

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

Smart, savvy businesses are looking for 3 things from an event sponsorship.

It is said that business success is equal to how good a product / service is, multiplied by how good the marketing is. So it follows that being smarter about your marketing will help your business to be more successful. Despite the perceived attention companies pay to marketing however, only a small percentage of them get sponsorship right.

Let’s face it, sponsorship is changing. Smart business owners and corporates now have expectations that as a marketing tool, it will engage customers in a real way. There is a definite focus on using sponsorship to backup online activity by making connections and increasing affinity. Most savvy operators will agree that businesses need to do more work on building an emotional relationship with their customers, to ensure sustainability.

In O’C&K we agree that one of the most successful ways of building true connections that last, is through sponsorship because we believe that it can change a person’s perception and ultimately their behaviour.

Of course, not all businesses that sponsor or organisations that get sponsored, instinctively know how best to use sponsorship as an effective marketing tool. What I want to do in this post therefore is to offer some tips for both sponsors and sponsees, on how to get ready for sponsorship.

The role that sponsorship can play in brand building/management cannot be overstated.

Does it matter?

Research shows that sponsorship can lead to higher levels of positive sentiment towards a brand, especially when relevant links with targeted people, are created. The more meaningful it is to people, the more it will be remembered and appreciated. From our experience working in the sponsorship arena, our simple advice to people is, “if it doesn’t matter to the person that your business wants to engage with, it doesn’t matter”.

We call this the litmus test of sponsorship because it is focused on a business objective.

Because of this focus it is essential, for any sponsorship, that the perceived ‘fit’ between what an event offers attendees and what a sponsor does for them, is obvious to the audience. Otherwise, people won’t know whom to appreciate or at worst, won’t care. Think about it, people will more than likely appreciate a brand’s ‘involvement’  in their life, if that brand improves their experience of something or offers some benefit, otherwise unattainable.

An organiser or sponsor can really focus on specific objectives by selecting a sponsorship to appeal to a specific audience, or a specific geographic area or to people who have similar attitudes. Thereafter, the smarter the promotion and the longer the sponsorship duration, the better the impact.

Tips and Timesavers.

Are you ready to be a sponsor?

A business can use sponsorship to deliver on various objectives, e.g.

  •    Creating an opportunity to engage with people
  •    Increasing brand loyalty
  •    Creating awareness and visibility for the brand or a product / service
  •    Repositioning or reinforcing a brand identity.
  •    Thwarting your competitors (this is a negative one).
  •    Telling a part of the brand story or reinforcing a theme.
  •    Merchandising opportunities for product sampling or service sign-ups.

If you are considering becoming a sponsor you can do your own research, or invite applications from event owners looking for sponsorship. I would recommend the former. If you can do it yourself, there are certain filters that you should consider as a first step.

There should be a meaningful brand + event connection, relevant to a target audience and based on your business objectives. Make sure that the owner / organiser is professional i.e. has experience and appreciates that it is a joint marketing exercise. Both you and your finance department should agree upfront on what ROI is expected, during what period it will be generated and how it will be measured.

When you embark on a partnership, your involvement must be authentic, personalised and involved. If you don’t have the expertise (or the time) in-house, hire professionals who can maximise your impact. See our business guide on our website, here, for seeking a sponsorship and, here, for elements to consider when planning an event.

The main thing to remember is that sponsorship is a marketing investment, so it should be serving a business strategy in the best way possible. When used properly, it can be one of the most flexible, engaging and simplest marketing tools for any organisation.

Are you ready to be sponsored?

In O’C&K, we have spoken to many clients and prospects about the golden rule of obtaining sponsorship for an event. The rule is to step into the shoes of the potential sponsor. Of course there are various types of sponsorship that exist, so tangible benefits will vary. However, if you want a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship with a sponsor, you must understand what the sponsor’s needs and expectations are.

The first thing you must do is to identify what tangible and intangible assets you have to offer a sponsor. This is a critical part of getting ready for sponsorship because what you have, and what you think you have, can differ greatly. Let’s have a look at a few of the obvious ‘tangibles’ you may have.


  • Naming rights – e.g. title exclusivity, associated rights, supplier rights.
  • Brand exposure – e.g. promo campaign, signage, uniforms, online presence, stalls.
  • Business networking – e.g. fellow sponsors, political exposure, event owners / clients.
  • Merchandising – e.g. product sampling, demonstrations, trials, launches.
  • Brand story amplification – e.g. advertising support, CSR, activity theme.
  • Customer engagement – e.g. VIP areas, tickets, hospitality, discounts, registration.
  • Staff benefits – e.g. morale building, staff volunteering, family tickets.


The list of benefits is endless because of the intangibles, but the important point here is to work out what benefits are relevant to each potential sponsor. You cannot assume that you know what they want. You have to make an effort to find out. No, this is not an easy exercise, but it is the one thing that will get you noticed in the sea of proposals that a business will receive every week of the year.

When a business looks at a sponsorship proposal they want to see that you have spent some time on understanding their needs. They know you want money but in return they need to know that you care enough to have studied, investigated and gained an understanding of their business or marketplace?

Believe me; it is very noticeable which applicants have put in the effort. In fact, the first few paragraphs of a proposal are a giveaway. There is only one theme to concentrate on in your proposal, ‘How you can help them be smarter about their marketing or create value for their clients’. If this isn’t very obvious to you – don’t even bother writing an introduction letter. It will be binned, without reply. If you don’t put in the effort up-front, why should they be bothered to read your proposal?

One of the main faux-pas that sponsorship seekers make is that of timing. Very often they do not allow a sponsor sufficient lead time to:


  • Conduct research into the proposed area of sponsorship (if new).
  • Internalise the proposal to other areas that might benefit.
  • Rearrange the footprint of their existing sponsorship portfolio.
  • Plan synergies with other sponsorship activity.
  • Examine budgetary considerations.


It really is important that you look at a potential sponsorship relationship as a joint marketing venture. Having mismatched visions is not a good idea but ignorance / lack of professionalism is even worse. You both want one thing – an unforgettable experience for a group of people. So you should inspire and amaze the potential sponsor with an innovative proposal. The overall image of the event starts with the introduction letter, continues with the proposal structure, which then leads to you, hopefully, making a face-to-face pitch.

Respect your event and respect your sponsor.

‘You cannot measure sponsorship’.

If I had a cent for every time I’ve heard this, I’d be a millionaire by now. The fact is that if measureable objectives are agreed in the first place, of course they can be measured. The problem is that many sponsorship relationships are based on funds rather than mutual business objectives.

Here are some measurements that could form part of your overall evaluation of sponsorship activity:

Cost of audience reach. – Include all costs, rights fees and activation costs (including VAT if applicable). Reach includes attendees and exposure on media channels. You can have different objectives for client engagement and ‘opportunities to see’. You might have a ‘reach target’ for all your sponsorships and can thereby adjudicate their performances.

Activation Ratio. – There are no hard and fast rules here but I would recommend a 1:1 ratio. (activation ratio is how much you spend to promote the sponsorship). In my opinion there is absolutely no point in being a wonderful sponsor of a great event, if no one knows about either. The advent of social media tools etc. are helping to reduce this ratio while maintaining opportunities to magnify the marketing impact.

Sales. – It is extremely difficult to link sales to sponsorship activity, directly, unless you are selling product at an event, of course. You could track sales figures during the footprint of the sponsorship, but it is not an accurate measurement, if you are undertaking other marketing activity. What it might show is different sales activity during different sponsorship events within a portfolio. The trends could be used to weed out low performing sponsorships. It really depends on the objectives agreed rather than sales in my opinion.

Long term brand attributes. – If your company undertakes brand research – it is a useful exercise to include sponsorship as a standalone section. In this way you can determine what brand attributes a particular sponsorship supports and more importantly whether your target audience would care, if you discontinued sponsoring an activity.

Indirect benefits. – This is the one that drives the accountants mad because they cannot ignore the fact that there are elements of a sponsorship that are not measured in hard currency terms. A client’s positive experience at an event may well pay dividends at a later stage or through a word-of-mouth recommendation. Such elements as staff morale or training or brand storytelling are also difficult to measure but definitely form part of the return gained from sponsorship involvement.

I mentioned our ‘litmus test’ earlier in this post and explained that it is focused on a business objective – adding value to a customer relationship. To summarise, therefore, I will list the three things that smart, savvy businesses are looking for from an event sponsorship:

–          Making customer engagement easier.

–          Making their customer’s event experience better.

–          Providing them or their customers with a benefit, otherwise unattainable.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course, if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K


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