A Complete Guide to Sponsorship Marketing Part 1

When you see the word “sponsorship,” you probably think of race cars covered in brand logos. Or, perhaps you remember a time you saw a character on a TV show clearly use a branded product. While these are both examples of sponsorship, the strategy is not limited to passive signage or branding. Like most trends in the marketing industry, sponsorship is taking lessons from experiential marketing and adding experiences to the standard sponsorship package. 

In this two-part blog series, we provide a guide to sponsorship marketing. Today’s post will define sponsorship marketing, identify the key to successful sponsorship, and explain the benefits of this approach. Part 2 will provide “how-to’s” for attracting a sponsor or choosing to sponsor, and showcase some examples of great sponsorships. 

What is Sponsorship Marketing?

Sponsorship is a form of marketing that provides certain benefits to the buyer or “sponsor.” The sponsor is an advertiser that supports a business in return for promoting its services or products. Sponsors offer funding, or products or services, to support various things such as events, trade shows, nonprofit causes, or organizations. In exchange, the sponsor gets exposure and a chance to connect with new customers. Sponsorship also allows a brand to demonstrate its affiliation to an event or organization. 

The popularity of sponsorship is steadily growing, with 2018 sponsorship spending reaching $24.2 billion in the US alone (and $65.8 billion globally!). Why is arguably one of the oldest marketing tactics currently in vogue? Similar to experiential marketing, sponsorship marketing has the ability to connect with people’s passions without the intrusiveness of traditional marketing messages. Event sponsorship allows brands to reach specific audiences and build lasting relationships with consumers. But… 

Traditional Sponsorship Marketing is Missing One Big Element of Success!

The key to success lies in bringing the sponsorship to life. Just like flat ads do little to attract attention, simply slapping your company name on a program is unlikely to attract an audience. Take a page out of the experiential marketing book — add active engagements to your sponsorships. There are some great examples of this approach in the world of sports. While you may think of flat ads on race cars, brands have been taking a more active approach to their sponsorships. 

Take the case of “Big Mac Land” at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the home of the Cardinals. This partnership started in the heyday of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa rivalry. McDonald’s sponsored an entire section of the stadium in honor of their fellow “Big Mac.” To this day, every time a Cardinals player knocks a home run into Big Mac Land, fans at the game (even in other sections!) can redeem their tickets at McDonald’s for a free Big Mac. Every seat in the Big Mac Land section includes a McDonald’s gift package. McDonald’s combined the passive sponsorship of name recognition and branding with the active experience of baseball and free swag, associating the brand with fun experiences and gaining brand exposure along the way.  This example demonstrates the power of active engagement over passive consumption. 

As put by Pro Motion President Steve Randazzo in his Best Selling book, Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World: “When brands go beyond passive sponsorships to actively align themselves with the hobbies, interests, and passions of their target audiences, they achieve deeper levels of engagement that would be impossible otherwise.”

Here are even more benefits of taking an active approach to sponsorship marketing: 


Benefits of Sponsorship Marketing

1.Increased Brand Awareness. Simply by participating in sponsorship, there is increased awareness about the existence of your brand. If you choose events carefully, it guarantees you an audience that needs your products, rather than targeting a more general audience. Sponsorship is an effective way to get exposure without a lot of expense.


2. Increased Reach. Event sponsorship doesn’t mean your audience is limited only to those who attend. Working with another brand gives you access to a new audience. For this approach to be effective, make sure to discuss with your brand partner who their typical audience is, to be sure it aligns with your own brand objectives. Ideally, your reach extends beyond the event – people who attend the event and have a positive interaction with your brand provide word-of-mouth marketing when they talk about your service or product with others. 


3. Positive Media Exposure. If you’re a small company, media coverage may be expensive and out of financial reach. However, partnering with another brand through sponsorship can give you access to their media presence. Particularly for events, any media coverage will often include the name of sponsors. Positive publicity increases the visibility of your company, and you can combine the coverage with your own media plan to capitalize on the exposure. 

4. Positive Brand Attitudes. Sponsoring a cause, community organization, or event provides an opportunity to build trust and establish rapport with existing and potential customers. Sponsoring causes that your customers care about creates positive connections with your brand. Be sure that the values of your partner align with what you want your own brand to embody. 


5. Expansion. Sponsorship is an ideal tool for creating new leads, especially if you have joined up with an organization with a similar audience. The spotlight on your brand makes it easier to stand out from the crowd and attract new leads. Brand awareness may also increase sales.


6. Differentiate Yourself From Competitors. Sponsorship marketing effectively differentiates you from competitors by tying you to something unique and positive in consumers’ minds. This tactic is especially helpful if your competitors have larger marketing budgets than your company – you may not be able to compete with their budget, but you can make an impact through sponsorship or brand partnerships!

7. Become A Corporate Citizen. Your sponsorship of causes, events, and organizations puts you in the role of a good neighbor – a “corporation with a conscience.” Especially with hyperlocal audiences, consumers are more likely to perceive you as contributing to their community. This creates goodwill, and positive associations with your brand. 

In sum: sponsorship gives you direct access to an engaged audience. It helps your brand shape public perception in a way that can be hard to achieve alone. Brands working together can create a broader reach, multiplying the resources they have and leveraging the combined power of the relationship. But: Make sure you include an active, experiential component to achieve the most success! 

Thinking about how to make your sponsorships less passive and more active?  We have 25 years of experience creating impactful campaigns, including brand partnerships and sponsorships. Call Pro Motion today at 636.449.3162, we’d love to chat with you.


Can’t wait for our next post? Learn More About Steve Randazzo’s Best Selling book, Brand Experiences: Building Connections in a Digitally Cluttered World. Click here to download 2 free chapters!