This blog about Sponsorships was originally one of a series of monthly guest blogs written by our director, Ellen Gunning, for Microsoft’s Irish SME platform. It has been updated and refreshed by Connor Coleman (Feb. 2020).
Visual from The Irish Academy of Public Relation’s Video Archive.
When most businesses think about sponsoring, they imagine big budgets, national or international exposure, celebrities and possibly not too much by way of return on their investment. However, sponsorship is one of the most cost-effective things that a business can do – and you can get a great return on your investment if you approach it in the right way.
What is sponsorship?
Let’s start by clearly establishing what sponsorship actually is. Sponsorship is investing money in a cause or event or whatever, for a commercial return. You are giving money with the very clear expectation that you will get a return. If there is no expectation of a commercial return, then you are making a donation to charity.
Know the rules
Start by identifying the audience you want to target. There may be several for your business. In 2016, in the Academy for example, we sponsored the Annual Bloggers Awards (this is a vital audience for people in PR who are a vital audience for us). We also sponsored the Kids Guide Summer Camp Exhibition (because we had a media summer camp that year for 16-year old’s and we wanted to inform them and their parents.). Entirely different audiences. We target ‘niche’ audiences interested in communications, but your business might target a local audience (if you have a presence on the high street), or an internet audience (if yours is an online business) or a B2B event.
From the first conversation you hold, you also need to be clear in your own mind that you want a return on your investment. The €500 that you give to the local community week was hard-earned and will be greatly valued by the committee. Your job is to make sure that you choose the right sponsorship vehicle and that you get a good return.
Also, if possible, choose a sponsorship that you might be involved with for at least three years. It takes time for people to associate you with your event.
Choose a logical sponsorship vehicle
If you are a hairdresser or a beautician, consider sponsoring something for young mums where you can showcase your salon to an audience of potential customers.
If you own a bookstore, sponsor a read-a-thon, or a guest talk by a well-known author, or a masterclass on how to write a great novel.
Quantify your return
Figure out exactly what you want in return. You should obviously be credited as one of the sponsors on the promotional literature and on any posters in the locality, but what else could you get? Would it be possible for you to present the prizes on the evening of the event and say a few words about your business? Could the committee arrange a photo-call for you with the local newspaper to promote your involvement? Would the local radio station be interested in interviewing you about how you came to know the author who will be giving the guest talk?
Figure out how to enhance your sponsorship
What else can you do? Can you put a notice in the shop window announcing the sponsorship and encouraging your clients to enter? Should you take an advertisement in the local paper alongside the feature article about the community event? Should you have special invitations printed for your clients and a reserved seating area for them at the event? Could your author sign copies of his/her book in your store on the afternoon of the event?
Enjoy the event
Whatever you have decided to sponsor, your team in the business should be as excited about it as you are. They are also ambassadors for this sponsorship and should be enthusiastically spreading the word on your behalf. You should also get them involved on the day meeting and greeting your guests, showing them to their seats etc. and making it a real ‘company event’ for everyone.
After the event
You should thank people for participating in the event that you sponsored. Perhaps there is an opportunity to get some feedback from them – surveys are very popular – and you might offer an additional incentive for completing it (maybe a gift voucher for your salon?). The feedback will remind people of your involvement but also give you some good ‘pointers’ for next year’s event.
First published in its original format in 2017
Be sure to check out the previous blogs in this series!
Interested in hearing more about Sponsorship click here for an interview with Business 2Arts about their experience with sponsoring the Arts.