As markets become more competitive, and sponsors become more discerning and demanding, organizations must use every tool at their disposal to rise above the “clutter” and stand out from the rest of the pack. One of the most powerful tools, but least understood in the not-for-profit sector, is the power that your brand can bring to sponsor or corporate partner recruitment.
“Brand” is defined as the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that is associated with an organization or a product/service/program, setting you apart from the competition. Remembering your organization’s name and having positive associations with your organization makes people think of you when they are looking for a specific product or service or in a potential sponsor’s case, deciding where to put their marketing dollars.
Building distinctive relationships with your clients and stakeholders is the essence of branding. A good brand facilitates recognition, makes a promise, and, provided the full marketing back-up is in place, delivers satisfaction. When you have a strong brand, your customers, stakeholders and potential corporate partners understand your unique position in the marketplace and know what they can expect from you.
A public sector or non-profit brand is built on two levels: at a mass level, through things like advertising, public relations, community involvement etc.; and at a personal level, through individual client interactions created through the unique experiences clients have in dealing with the organization every day across multiple touch points.
Developing effective graphics and visual representations of the brand are insufficient in themselves for creating, representing, and managing a brand. The reality of the organization and the attitudes and behaviours of people who work in the organization have to be commensurate with the brand values that the organization is projecting with its publics.
For example, service-based organizations should use internal marketing to communicate brand values within their organization. In this way they encourage their internal team to better understand the corporate brand and identity and improve commitment enthusiasm and consistent behaviour in delivering the organization’s values. Therefore, it is important to note that branding starts on the inside and moves outward. Making brand promises and creating brand images and expectations are ultimately of no value without the internal practices and attitudes to deliver the “promise”. Just think of the impact that a receptionist has on reflecting your brand on a day-to-day basis. In this regard, the commitment of every member of the organization is critical for delivering consistently on the brand promise, whether it be the marketing department, event team or service personnel. This shared passion ultimately creates a powerful tool for building long term relationships, trust, and loyalty.
Finally, any product or service can ultimately be copied, but a brand cannot. This inability to recreate a brand increases your organization’s long-term sustainability. Brand equity is the built up value an organization gains from its communications and activities; therefore, effective brand building leads to high brand loyalty, name awareness, strong brand associations, etc. This value that is held by clients and stakeholders is what competitors will have a hard time trying to duplicate.
So what’s the lesson to be learned from this? Simply stated, your brand is a shorthand tool for conveying your values and core promise. When you live up to your brand and brand promise i.e. the most exciting event, the country’s leader in XX, always fresh, etc.), members, sponsors and other stakeholders are drawn to you because they understand the ultimate “experience” you will deliver. And in today’s competitive sponsorship environment, you want to stake your territory and focus on those areas that make you unique in the marketplace; ultimately attracting those companies that want to be associated with the brand you deliver. So, take the time to assess your brand and if there is a disconnect between what you see and what your customers perceive as your “brand personality”, identify what you must do to shift your brand to the desired state among your stakeholders and customers. When your brand reflects your values and you live by them on a day-to-day basis, you’ll find your constituents more passionate and loyal and potential sponsors more receptive to doing business with you.