A corporate sponsorship is often little more than an annual invoice and the occasional free event ticket. But it’s a great way to create relationships with organisations and causes that are aligned to your own, and create a much bigger mutual benefit.
When chosen and managed strategically, sponsorship can be an additional tool in your profile building toolkit.
But when done poorly, a sponsorship can effectively amount to a donation, or even a reputational risk.
When considering sponsorship opportunities, these five factors warrant particular attention.
1. Your company profile
One of the potential advantages of a sponsorship is it can help build out a resilient company profile.
A sponsorship strategy should identify areas where your business profile is lacking or could be improved, in order to guide areas where money is best invested.
The risk of skipping this step is to accumulate sponsorships with little relevance to, or that are at odds with, your reputational goals.
On that note, sponsorships should be targeted towards initiatives that are relevant to your company and its purpose.
It might be to generate goodwill within a community, or to help an initiative that complements your company’s own.
Whatever it is, you should be able to draw a dotted line between the investment – because that’s what it is – and your organisational strategy.
That doesn’t mean it has to be immediately clear to those outside of your company. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter has nothing to do with banking, but it’s a sponsorship relationship that allows the (Australian-owned) bank to link itself to a service crucial to the (New Zealand) community.
3. What the benefit looks like – from both sides
It’s important to look at how your business and the other party both benefit from the sponsorship.
An effective sponsorship is one that is leveraged so you actually gain something – you might even attach KPIs to it so you can recognise when it is and isn’t achieving what you hope it will.
Though you want to ensure that your company benefits, the interest in helping the other party must be genuine.
In a good sponsorship, you benefit when the person/cause you sponsor benefits, and not before.
4. A real relationship
Sponsorship isn’t just a one-off payment and a see you later.
A good sponsorship involves an ongoing relationship with monitoring and leverage of opportunities for both sides to gain maximum benefit.
In some instances, you’d also expect to join the other organisation’s inner circle. Your reputation is now publicly associated with theirs, so you want the inside running on any issues set to affect their – and your – reputation.
Think about how often you speak to the people you sponsor - if it’s only around the time when they want more money from you, that’s a red flag.
5. A donation in sponsorship’s clothing
Sometimes a gesture of goodwill can be just that.
Put money towards good causes without expectation of anything in return (and talk about it when it feels right to) but don’t call it a sponsorship - that’s a donation.
The starting point for a smart sponsorship is a strategy. There are a lot of opportunities that sponsorships afford, but they’re easy to miss if you take an ad hoc approach.
By taking the time to have a considered, strategic approach to sponsorship, you can give yourself a way forward that will maximise the potential benefits.