“Activation” – the key to any successful sponsorship marketing program

This past spring we conducted research on about 150 sponsorship properties from around the world to identify the types of benefits that are offered to sponsors in different environments and to no great surprise, there is little earth-shattering innovation as far as the range and nature of benefits offered.  However, one thing that became very clear is that an  activation plan that connects the brand in a meaningful way with the property or “audience experience” is essential for effective sponsorship marketing.

A properly planned and executed Activation Strategy can transform everyday benefits (i.e. visibility elements) into a dynamic cooperative marketing program. Here are some examples from Canada and around the world:

  • Whitby, Ontario – Scotiabank’s Naming Rights of Iroquois Park is supported by a Free Skate Day on Family Day and sponsorship of the Backyard Rink Program for children under 7.
  • UK – National Trust – Cadbury Trebor Bassett helped deliver over 200 Easter Egg Trails at NT park properties this Easter. The activities focused on encouraging ‘family togetherness’ and bringing a little magic back to the Easter occasion. The Trails were advertised on over 20 million Cadbury Easter eggs as well as through a dedicated website – www.eastereggtrail.com – where participants could search to find their nearest participating property. All children received a Cadbury ‘Egghead’ Easter Egg on completion of the trail and at some of the larger properties, Cadbury provided extra fun and games including space hoppers, egg and spoon races and face painters.
  • SickKids Hospital = Costco Wholesale is a strong supporter of SickKids through the Children’s Miracle Network. Costco has inspired their staff to encourage customers and vendors to give in support of their Miracle Campaign – a program that runs throughout the month of May. They have executed one of the most successful “paper icon campaigns”. Costco customers are invited to purchase a CMN paper balloon that they sign and staff display prominently in the warehouse – ultimately making a donation to SickKids.
  • South African National Park – Hi-Tee sponsors the footwear for the Hoerikwaggo Guides. Each graduate receives one pair of boots and one pair of shoes and the guides acknowledge the performance of the gear in their tours.

  • US National Parks Services – National Trust = Olympus is the sole sponsor of the “Share the Experience” Photo Contest. The contest encourages people to experience the nation’s parks and federal recreation lands and take only photos, leaving the parks’ majestic beauty untouched for future generations to enjoy. Olympus is also supporting the National Park Service’s “Air Web Camera” initiative, which tracks and analyzes air quality at 16 national park locations. Images are captured every 15 minutes throughout each and every day at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Great Smokey Mountains, and the Washington and Lincoln Memorials in Washington D.C.

  • New South Wales – Foundation for Parks and Wildlife – Dymocks has the naming rights to Golden Paw Award, an annual children’s drawing competition and rewards all entries with a donation to the foundation.
  • Vancouver 2010 – Canadian citizens could apply to RBC or Coca-Cola to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay and carry the Olympic flame throughout Canada as part of the 106-day, 45,000 km Torch Relay leading up to Vancouver 2010.

The bottom line is that sponsorship activation can be as simple or complex as you want as long as it demonstrates brand relevance and/or provides value to the intentded audience.  Therefore, if you want to create more compelling sponsorship packages and ensure that sponsors reveive maximum return on objectives for their investment, you should ensure that every proposal includes a strong activation element that goes beyond visibility benefits to active engagement.



Industry Insights on Sponsorship Marketing

As sponsorship marketing becomes an increasingly important medium to help companies connect with their audiences at a meaningful level, the desire to share knowledge among industry is demonstrated through organizations such as the Sponsorship Marketing Council of Canada, which was created in 2004 to advance the development of best practices and accountabilities in the field of sponsorship marketing.

The mission of the SMC is to help advertisers who use sponsorships as part of their integrated marketing communications strategies get the maximum return on their investments. The council provides a resource for Canadian advertisers to enrich their understanding of sponsorship marketing as a viable and effective MARCOM tool.

The Sponsorship Marketing Council’s annual Sponsorship Marketing Awards provides terrific insight into the strategic and creative approaches that companies consider to be best practices in the sponsorship marketing discipline.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to review the winning campaigns for this year to see what’s really working from an industry perspective and how you can apply this level of thinking to your own sponsorship program.



P.S. A reminder that MARCOM 2008 (June 11-12, Ottawa) is fast approaching, so if you are thinking of attending, now is the time to act! MARCOM is Canada’s premiere national conference for public and not-for-profit sector marketing professionals and features two days of learning and networking with experts and colleagues from across Canada. For any organization that wants to take a strategic approach towards their corporate revenue generation programs, CMG Canada will be launching its Revenue Generation Boot Camp, a full-day Pre-Conference  Workshop on June 11th. Click on the link for details.

Moving From Selling Benefits to Selling the “Experience”

With over 160,000 non-profit organizations in Canada, the competition for sponsorship dollars is fierce, with some companies receiving 300-500 proposals a week. And like it or not, the reality is that there could be dozens or even hundreds of organizations offering sponsorship features and benefits similar to your proposal. So the big question is, how do you stand out from the sea of competition?

One of the most powerful approaches you can use is to move away from features and benefits as your key selling point and focus on presenting the “sponsorship experience”. In other words, you want to provide an opportunity for your prospect to see, hear, touch or get a taste of your sponsorship opportunity – to appeal to the emotional “hot buttons”. Here are some quick tips on how you can sell the “experience”:

  • Visual Representation – Use visual images to give your prospect a sense of what it’s like to be part of your audience. If you have a conference, show pictures of your customers listening intently to a speaker or show a crowded trade show floor. If you are running a public event, show your customers participating in one of your signature activities. Where possible, show sponsor profile opportunities in these visual images.
  • Auditory and Customer Emotional Representation – Post an on line video (through your web site or a link to You Tube) that features your event or activity and includes audience testimonials. By demonstrating the customer experience, you are providing the prospect with a clear vision of your product and its importance to your audience.
  • Peer-to-Peer Representation – If you have current sponsors, feature their testimonials in your promotional material. Nothing speaks stronger than a third-party endorsement of your product.
  • Impact Representation – If your organization is dedicated to a specific cause, use case studies and statistics to demonstrate the results that are achieved through sponsored initiatives. This provides a clear vision of the good work that a sponsor can be a part of through their involvement with your organization.
  • Creative Representation – Brainstorm for other creative ways you can demonstrate your sponsorship product or brand through one of the senses. For example, if you are an environmental group that is involved in planting trees, include a seedling with your proposal that includes a quote from a community member that benefited from your program (don’t try this on line).

The bottom line is that by focusing on the “sponsorship experience”, you can move beyond logos and other unpersonalized benefits to an emotional level where the prospect begins to visualize themselves as a willing participant. And once you make a connection at this level, the rest is a matter of details.