Using Strategic Sponsorships to Boost Awareness, Brand Credibility

Sponsorship marketing is one of the most popular and fastest growing forms of marketing!
According to IEG’s 32nd annual review, sponsorship spending has been increasing year over year for the past 5 years. Great brands are fully aware of the positive benefits afforded them through aligning themselves with causes and events that reach their target audiences. 
It’s no wonder why some of the most recognized brands in the mortgage industry consistently sponsor events organized by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the California MBA, National Mortgage News, Mortgage Mastermind, Pitbull Conference and many others.
And depending on the company type and goals, they may also include local events and venues in areas they provide services or have a location. These local events go a long way to build favor with the community and drive awareness.
And the great thing is that it doesn’t cost a fortune to take advantage of most of these opportunities!
The mistake some companies make is assuming sponsorships are only for the big guys. Or, they think that the ROI is all smoke and mirrors. Wrong!
A good marketing plan for those who wish to achieve upper-echelon status should include sponsorship opportunities.

Why Sponsorships?

By associating your company’s brand with an event or venue that your target audience views positively, you’re shaping attitudes and helping to generate a positive reaction to your brand. Ultimately, your goal is to improve how your brand is perceived by your target audience. This happens in a variety of ways, including:

  • “Good Neighbor:” Local sponsorships are especially effective in generating goodwill from consumers because they see the sponsoring company investing in the community and contributing to the community’s economic growth. This is particularly true if a local event can’t take place without sponsorship support.
  • Competitor Differentiation: Sponsorships can set your company apart from competitors. What can customers expect from your company that sets it apart from others? How can you demonstrate that difference through a brand sponsorship? Working through these questions is part of a solid sponsorship strategy.
  • Enhancing Relationships: Sponsorships typically offer companies perks such as VIP seating, private receptions, exclusive tickets, etc. Leverage these perks to build relationships with key employees, top customers and prospects, and referral partners.

A secondary benefit of increasing brand awareness through sponsorship is driving sales and/or creating positive publicity that drives new opportunities.
The primary reason companies include sponsorship as part of their marketing plans is to increase brand awareness, whether that’s establishing or strengthening their brand, or to change their brand image.

What are the Promotional Benefits?

When you sponsor an event or venue, this opens a wide opportunity for brand exposure. Here’s a short list of what sponsor packages offer, depending on the sponsorship level, event type and whether B to B or B to C:

  • Booth package
  • Meeting room with signage
  • WiFi
  • Conference Bag
  • Speaking opportunity
  • Website branding
  • Mobile app banner
  • Pre-event marketing
  • Reception signage
  • Post-event email
  • Room drops
  • Hotel key cards with your brand highlighted
  • Event registration lists with contact information

…and much more.
In addition, your company can promote its sponsorship in many ways:

  • Social media: develop both a paid and organic strategy leveraging the ad platforms for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube
  • Press release
  • Targeted email campaign
  • Event banner on your company’s website
  • Pre and post event mailings

….and much more that can be put into a schedule and executed by your team leading up to the event.
You should do everything you can to squeeze every drop of value out of that sponsorship.
It’s important for you to play a proactive role.
Pro tip: Have a strategy beyond what the event organizers are doing. A good strategy will create a great impact on your audience and drive ROI through heightened recognition of your company and therefore new inquiries.

Make a Strategic Decision

It would be crazy to think that sponsorships don’t have brand impact. Therefore, you need to choose them carefully.
One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when choosing to sponsor is to make the sponsorship decisions based solely on what “feels” best or what the CEO’s pet team or charity is.
Without considering the tangible business aspects of a sponsorship and how it’s structured, it will be of little value.
The most effective sponsorships are for those events that help your audience bring meaning to and build on their experiences. They are authentic to people’s everyday lives.
Choose events that feel organic to your audience’s lives, that your company genuinely cares about, and that strategically match your company’s values.
For many, common values include excellent customer service, stability, trust, innovation, simplification, integrity, and security. Therefore, sponsoring industry events that are aligned with or reinforce your company’s values and local events that compliment those values makes sense.
A while back, there was a study by the Journal of Advertising on building brand image through event sponsorship. It showed that when an event and brand are the right match, the image transfer process from the event to the brand happens easily.
Besides how an event will match with your company’s values, other evaluation criteria include:

  1. Who is the target audience?
  2. What do you want to achieve and how does the event help you do that?
  3. What will the sponsorship say about your company and brand?
  4. How many opportunities for exposure does your company have with the target audience?
  5. Is this an event that your target audience genuinely cares about?
  6. What potential for damage does the sponsorship expose your brand to? The last thing anyone wants is an association with a corrupt, immoral or unethical person or organization.

Finally: Leverage!

Don’t be one-dimensional. Don’t just sponsor the Fourth of July parade and carry the banner. Put your CEO in the dunk tank after the parade! In other words, engage with your audience. Show how relatable your company is.
Staff an event with employee volunteers in “Ask Me” shirts to show your company’s commitment to customer service, knowledge, and helpfulness.
Think about how you can leverage your sponsorship directly and indirectly at the event and through various communication channels. Then develop a strategy that includes some of the ideas mentioned earlier and execute it.
When executed thoughtfully and strategically, sponsorships are an excellent brand-building tactic.
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