Gaining Public Acceptability for Naming Rights and Title Sponsorships

I just returned from the Strategic Sponsorship Marketing: The Canadian Summit where I presented a one-day Municipal Forum on Sponsorship to a forward-thinking group of municipal representatives as well as a session in the general conference program on Winning Over the Public on Naming Rights and Title Sponsorships. Much of the discussion from both sessions focused on leveraging naming rights and title sponsorships as well as how to increase public take-up and acceptance for these types of partnership arrangements.

The following are some key considerations for implementing a successful Naming Rights or Title Sponsorship Program.

Focus on “Fit” – A proper “fit” has to be considered one of the most essential elements for an effective Naming Rights or Title Sponsorship arrangement. In other words, if the sponsor brand has a meaningful connection to the facility, event or audience, public acceptability will be easier to gain and likely more sustainable over the long-term.  Here are some key elements to consider when identifying potential naming / title sponsorship prospects:

  • Local presence (are they a known entity?)
  • Strong connection to the community (do they have personal community ties such as a large employer, do they contribute to the financial well-being of the community?)
  • Strong connection to the facility or event (does their product fit in some way with the property and needs/interests of the audience?)
  • Well-known and trusted brand (are they respected in the community?)
  • Easy to remember (will it be a name that people can easily adopt?)

Articulating the Value Proposition – The notion behind this consideration is that people will more readily buy-into a naming / title sponsorship if they can see the value that the relationship brings to their own experience. Therefore, every effective naming / title sponsorship agreement should communicate the value  of the arrangement to:

  • the direct audience (how will participants benefit from this arrangement such as improved program content or services)
  • the community-at-large (how the community overall will benefit such as new facilities for community events, increased tourism marketing dollars, etc.)
  • the community facility or event property (how the property itself will benefit such as new equipment, value-added programs, etc.)

Positioning and Communications – The third most important element is how the partnership is positioned in the eyes of various stakeholder groups and how the value of the relationship is communicated over the term of the agreement. One news release or launch event will not do it – every naming / title sponsorship should be accompanied by a formal communications plan that builds awareness and formulates positive attitudes about the partnering arrangement. It takes at least 2-3 years for a naming / title sponsorship to take a real foothold in the community, so communications needs to be both ongoing and consistent. The first step in the communications process is positioning the arrangement as one that brings value to the property, community and direct audience.

By developing naming / title partnerships with companies that make sense with the audience, articulating the value that the partnership delivers to the audience and practicing effective communications, public take-up and acceptance will dramatically increase for these arrangements.  This will lead to long-term success for the property, the sponsor and the audience. For a copy of my presentation, visit my SlideShare channel.

Later, BC

Using Experiential Marketing to Bring Your Brand to Life

The Internet and social media have dramatically changed the way we market and communicate with our customers. While traditional media has taken a big hit as private and public sector organizations reallocate marketing dollars to online mediums, sponsorships, exhibits and other forms of experiential marketing have quietly gone about their business. Apart from the economic upheaval in 2008 when spending in almost all areas declined, these mediums have actually shown overall growth in spending. The reason is simple – experiential marketing works!

Research has shown that experiential marketing plays a major role in driving purchasing or other behavior change decisions. In one study, research shows that 52% of Canadians are influenced to purchase brands they normally wouldn’t consider because of experiential marketing. In other words, once a person has had a positive personal experience with a brand or organization, they are more likely to consider a future relationship with that brand.

Just think about your own personal experience. Would you purchase a new automobile, furniture or latest fashion without first giving it a “test drive”? Would you hire a new financial planner without first getting a feel for who they are and whether their style fits your own personality and objectives? Would you hire a new company to do work for you without getting a sense of who will be working on your project and the unique value they bring to the table? How many times have you purchased a food item because you sampled it through an in-store display? The bottom line is that despite all of the information that the Internet can deliver, we still like to “kick the tires” and deal with people or brands who we know, like and trust. And this is where experiential marketing plays a key role.

Exhibiting is one of the oldest and most successful forms of experiential marketing. A strategic exhibit marketing program can help bring brands to life by demonstrating product attributes, allowing visitors to see, hear or touch a product or brand and providing a two-way dialogue between the buyer and seller. This concept is articulated in a George P. Johnson Company White Paper on Experience Marketing where it states: “In a world where customers are besieged by thousands of selling messages every day, the audience has heard most of it all before…they want close contact with captivating new products. They want to experience the sights, the sounds and the feel of your company and everything it stands for.”

A well-activated sponsorship has the same ability to build a personality around a brand. A logo on a brochure does not sell a product, but an activation or experiential element that engages audience members in some form of positive “brand experience” can have a major impact on purchase intent.

In 1967 D.G. Treichler wrote: “We Remember: 10% of what we read, 20% of what we see, 30% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear and 80% by doing”. While specific percentages of this model have been challenged over the years, the fact remains that we retain more information and develop greater affinity towards a product (or organization) when we actively engage ourselves (or our customers) with that product; either by sampling, testing or actively discovering the unique attributes of the product.

So, if you want to move beyond product or program awareness to actually moving your customers along the decision-making continuum, look for ways on how you can use experiential marketing to help them develop a meaningful understanding of the value that your brand delivers to them. When you do this consistently, it will pay off in dividends!

Later,                                                                                                                                                     BC

The Role of Branding in Recruiting Sponsors and Corporate Partners

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.