I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dropping the word sponsorship from my vocabulary. When I tell people this, they say, ” Bernie, are you out of your mind? You’ve developed a successful business helping 100’s of organizations generate revenue from sponsorships!”
That may be true, but the problem I have with the word sponsorship is that there’s too much baggage around a word that simply doesn’t correspond with today’s definition of what good sponsorship marketing practices are really about.
For the federal government, there’s still a hangover from the “sponsorship scandal “– which wasn’t really about the medium as much as it was a scandal about process, greed and inexperienced people dishing out money for signs. For other levels of government, the word invokes fears of over-commercialism, selling out and the unthinkable damage that a corporate logo will do to every man, woman or child – as if TV, the Internet and rap music are acceptable alternatives…For non-profits and associations, the word sponsorship is synonymous with an endless variety of logos, signs and generic gold, silver, bronze packages (of which the only sign of innovation is the introduction of the platinum or titanium levels).
The problem is that all of these perceptions are really outdated notions of sponsorship that are giving this totally legitimate and increasingly popular marketing medium a bad rap.
Today’s sponsorships are about connecting companies with audiences in ways that enhance the audience experience, not detract from it. Effective sponsorships are about creating value in ways that the audience feels good about corporate involvement – in fact, welcomes it. When effective sponsorships are in place, logos, signs and other interruptive messaging tactics become secondary. And because the audience experience is enhanced, no one complains. In the new world of sponsorships, public-driven organizations don’t need to be concerned about the over-commercialism of parks, facilities, programs etc. because a company’s involvement is seamlessly integrated in ways that complement the environment and the public’s experience.
Just think about it – if you are a company and want to make friends with an audience, do you really want to peeve them off by interrupting their experience with in-your-face corporate propaganda? If you really want to build relationships, you want to add value to your audience’s experience – you want your brand to be a welcome memory. We’ve just completed a major study of successful corporate engagement activities and the trend is clear – successful sponsorships integrate brands in ways that are meaningful to the organization (sponsee), the sponsor and most importantly, the customer.
And as organizations looking for sponsorship revenue, we’re largly to blame – we’re the ones that keep presenting these sponsorship packages that contradict the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve with our audiences.
In my Pre-Conference Advanced Sponsorship Planning workshop on June 2nd, part of MARCOM 2009 in Brampton, we’re going to move beyond the traditional model of sponsorships to discuss how the medium has evolved from intrusive messaging into a more advanced level of relationship building. We’ll explore intelligent sponsorship marketing best practices and how you can make the shift from “logo soup” to integrated brand storytelling.
At MARCOM 2009, you’ll also hear from the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada on what industry views as best practices in sponsorship marketing from a corporate perspective. In other sessions you’ll hear how corporate engagement can be leveraged to help promote government programs and services or affect social change or even check your sponsorship Vital Signs to see if you have the right culture and processes in place to attract and keep companies engaged during tough economic times.
So now, all I need to do is find another word or set of words that describe the notion of organizations and companies working together to deliver more value to the customer or end user. If you have any bright ideas, post your comments on this blog.
Let’s change the industry, one sponsorship at a time!