5 tips for getting business value from sponsorships

In a tough economy many businesses are taking a long hard look at what they spend on sponsorship. Not just because marketing budgets are being cut, but also because companies are considering whether certain kinds of sponsorship are appropriate in austere times and, importantly, what’s the impact on business goals?

So whatever sector you are in – business, arts, charity or sport – how do you persuade other business of the value of sponsorship?

My company recently launched a networking group for in house marketing and PR clients and contacts. Our first get together was at Northern Ballet last month where we looked at how you get value from sponsorship. It was good to have a reminder of sponsorship best practice straight from the horse’s mouth.

Laraine Penson, communications director, at Northern Ballet, outlined the successful partnership the company is building with First Direct bank On the flip side of the coin, Caroline Black, marketing director at Walker Morris, explained why the legal firm focuses on sponsoring art.

So how do you ensure that sponsorship is a win: win for both parties? Here are my top five tips taken from their insights and discussions.

1. Effective sponsorship is more than just a logo

Sponsorship is not about one party giving money to another for the inclusion of a logo on some marketing materials and a few VIP tickets. It’s about added value and building a partnership with mutual benefits that may well become a lasting relationship. If a sponsor feels that they have had business value from their sponsorship they are likely to come back.

2. Who is the sponsor’s target audience?

If you are an organisation looking for a business sponsor then do your research into the audience they want to reach. If you are working with single parents then a corporate law firm is unlikely to be interested in sponsoring you. Find out what the business has sponsored in the past – is there a theme or focus to it?

3. The true cost of sponsorship

As a potential sponsor, you might be offered a fixed price sponsorship package of £10,000 but to make it work for your business you need to multiply that figure by two or three. The real cost of that sponsorship could be £40,000 as you’ll need to spend money on marketing, PR, media relations and the cost of staff time to ensure that you maximise the business value. You are therefore looking for a return on investment on £40k not £10k.

4. Getting the board’s buy in

Sponsorship is likely to be jockeying for marketing spend alongside other projects so you need to have a strong business case for your board – and to tell them the real cost. You need to demonstrate that the sponsorship is value for money and will reach your customers as well as ticking a number of boxes that might include CSR and client entertainment at senior level. And remember, you’re unlikely to persuade the board that sponsoring a new production of Carmen is a good idea if the CEO hates opera! You need someone on the board who likes the product or organisation you want to sponsor.

5. Be creative

Effective sponsorship allows parties to be innovative and creative, perhaps offering something that money can’t buy or doing something new and different. For example, Northern Ballet offered First Direct staff and clients the chance to meet some of their dancers. The innovative partnership between Walker Morris and Leeds City Art Gallery brought artist Damien Hirst back to his Leeds roots with an exhibition ending on October 30.

How are you getting the best business value from sponsorship?

Carol Arthur is senior account director at Northern Lights PR. A trained journalist with wide-ranging experience in business, education and consumer markets, Carol has worked in or headed up the PR departments of two colleges - the North Eastern Co-operative Society and Northumbria Tourist Board. A graduate of Common Purpose, Carol is currently regional chair of the CIPR, the industry’s professional body. She is a member of the PR degree employer advisory panel at Leeds Metropolitan University. Carol is an active supporter of local charities and the community helping with fund-raising and PR activities.