Sponsorships: Evaluating Which Ones Fit Your Business

Aligning your business with the right sponsorships can lead to highly satisfying and mutually beneficial relationships. Plenty of successful partnerships, like the NFL and Gatorade or Slazenger and Wimbledon, have endured for decades or more than a century.

However, these relationships don't happen by accident, and for every great one, hundreds more fail to last or evolve into something enduring. So how can your business join the ranks of the elite?

Let's start with some self-introspection.

What Makes You Want to Consider a Sponsorship?

There's nothing headier than seeing your company logo on a race car or the apron of a downhill skiing barrier. Getting it there, however, takes more than just money, so understanding why you want it —and what you might get out of it—is critical.

Are you looking to align your brand with credible causes? Is there a key demographic you'd like to reach that a particular sponsorship can deliver? Or do you just like the idea of giving back and making a positive difference with a cause close to your heart?

Corporate sponsorships vary, so knowing the different types is the first place to start your evaluation process.

Media Sponsorships

If the cause or company you're interested in sponsoring seeks advertising support, consider a media sponsorship that will increase its reach and frequency through online, television, radio, or other advertising. In return, you can typically expect to be named as a media sponsor and see your logo in visual mediums.

In-Kind Sponsorships

Do you offer something special a sponsoree might need? An in-kind sponsorship entails donating your products or services to support the cause. For example, an in-kind sponsorship for a company that manufactures water bottles might be a city's marathon or bike ride to support a specific cause.

Financial Sponsorships

As the name implies, a financial sponsorship is a straight-up donation for a specific event or cause. Non-profits typically offer them, but not exclusively. Sponsors are usually recognized through event signage, co-branded merchandise, or advertising mentions.

Corporate Sponsorships

Some companies immerse themselves in corporate sponsorships that carry high price tags and commitment. In return, however, they can enjoy highly visible brand recognition and other benefits. Think "Official sponsor of…." type sponsorships, and you get the idea.

Who Decides What to Sponsor?

Deciding where to apply your sponsorship dollars is a decision that shouldn't be made lightly. What complicates matters is that emotions can play a more significant role in a business decision at the end of the day.

Charities and causes close to the business owner's heart can align with the business goals, but it's not always the case. And walking away from a bad sponsorship decision when it feels like it's a good one isn't easy.

So, when the CEO is dead set on sponsoring the local curling team because he played a season in Europe while studying abroad, who's to tell him his company that manufactures flame-retardant gloves most likely won't benefit? We look at this next.

The Role of the Corporate Sponsorship Director

Most larger companies have a person who fills the role of Corporate Sponsorship Director, a person whose duty is to seek and receive, evaluate and recommend whether or not a business should take on a sponsorship.

The function is typically folded into public relations or marketing if a company doesn't have a Corporate Sponsorship Director. The key is to enlist someone who can be objective and measured during the evaluation process.

As stated before, sponsorships are business decisions and should be based on factors such as:

  • Impact on the company's bottom line and what can be expected in return
  • How the sponsorship will reflect on the company's brand and how it's perceived among customers, employees, and shareholders
  • Potential to leverage and extend the sponsorship's impact on current and future business
  • The sponsorship's value and relevance today and in the future

Due to the impact and reach of the sponsorship, the Corporate Sponsorship Director will have access to management or C-Suite members whose areas may influence or may be impacted by the decision.

These may include operations, public relations, marketing, administration, and, of course, the CEO. This way, when a decision is made, each group has an opportunity to participate in the choice, making the final decision a sound one.