Sponsorship And Your Small Business

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A recent post in the online Small Business Branding talked about the absurdity of McDonald’s being the official restaurant of Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games. Not known as the healthiest of foods (remember Super Size Me) the fast food giant is taking shameless advantage of the marketing value of sponsorship.
Despite the protests that surrounded the journey of the Olympic torch, sponsors of the 2008 summer games are standing firm and staying the course. After all, despite what you might think of Chinese policies, the government holds the door to a market of 1.3 BILLION potential buyers. What business in their right mind would risk losing out on that for the sake of a few pesky scruples?
Not McDonald’s. Not Adidas. Not Volkswagen. And certainly not Coca-Cola.
Watch carefully and you may well notice more companies, big and small, jumping on the Olympic bandwagon this summer — in effect borrowing the goodwill and feeling for the Olympic games (though not the Chinese government) and uniting that with a brand or product.
Sponsorships like these are a smart move, one that you can bet works if the big corporations use it so readily. Promoting a business with sponsorship isn’t a new idea, or one that’s limited to companies with hefty budgets and big names. You can use sponsorship as part of your own promotional efforts right in your own backyard.
Before you get started, you’ll need to have put some serious thought and planning into your efforts. You’ll need to…  

  • Think about who you could sponsor — local teams, charities, church groups, cleanup efforts… just look around. You’ll want to try and choose a cause that aligns most closely with what you do, or the values of your prospects and customers.
  • Give better than you get — remember your reasons for doing this are not just percentage points of exposure, you’re doing something you believe in. This needs to show through or your effort comes off as false and leaves prospective customers with quite the opposite impression than the one you intended. If you’re not sincere, you’ll do your business more harm than good.
  • Offer time as well as money — your expertise, product or service can be just as valuable as your money. Don’t be afraid to do what you can — showcasing what you do to many pairs of eyes.
  • Be willing to follow up — make the calls, send the press releases and answer every question that comes your way. Be sure to use any chance you can to associate your business and the event or organization. 

You also need to give some thought to your business goals for becoming a sponsor. In the short term it might be simple — increase my name recognition or help with a product introduction. Longer term goals should also be considered. Is this an organization or event that lends itself to a long standing association? Remember, once the association is made, it might be hard (and very unwise) to sever it.
Budget is also a consideration. How much can you allocate to this effort. Have that number in mind before you approach anyone, or accept any offer made to you. There will be additional expenses of travel and time, entertainment, promotional products and advertising. Factor all these costs into your plans. Working with the organizers on developing a marketing plan is another must. Be sure you supply a copy of your logo and any other materials that will help your business be a part of the publicity.
Here are some other good questions to ask yourself before considering sponsorship as a promotional tool. 

  1. Is the reputation of the organization or event a positive one?
  2. Will your efforts be noticed by your target market?
  3. How many people in that market can you reach?
  4. Will your sponsorship be exclusive, or will you be one of many?

Sponsorship can be a very effective tool to promote your business. You’ll want to be sure that you go into this with eyes wide open, keep your expectations reasonable and keep yourself up to date on all the ins and outs of sponsorship as a promotional tool.

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