Six Questions to Ask about Corporate Sponsorships

Over the past 10 years corporate sponsorship opportunities have grown at a frenetic pace.  Where there once was just a title sponsor of a big game, there is now a sponsor for every major event within a game (Polaroid Picture-Perfect Play, the Gatorade Slam Dunk, Capital One Half-time Report, Pontiac Game Changing Performance, etc.). 

Given the new paradigm in sponsorships, it is easy to see why some folks feel corporate sponsorship and product placement has gone overboard.

This mentality is exemplified in the recently released Morgan Spurlock documentary - “POM Wonderful® Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”  Watch the trailer below.

Despite all of the jokes around the pervasiveness of sponsorships, they can still be an effective part of your marketing mix.

The trick is weeding through all the opportunities and identifying which are best for your company.

Here are six important considerations whether you a Fortune 500 or a startup:

1. Do you have a clear goal and can the sponsorship help you to achieve it?

  • Brand awareness (extension of or in place of advertising?)
  • Product sampling
  • Employee engagement
  • Client entertainment

2. Does this sponsorship reach your target audience?

  • Don’t spend the money if the people you are trying to reach are not going to be in attendance or exposed to your sponsorship.

3. Is the sponsorship a natural fit with your brand or product?

  • If you represent a health care company, then you might consider opportunities that promote healthy living.

4. Do you have an adequate activation budget?

  • One of the biggest mistakes sponsors make is not budgeting for activation. Some sources say you should be prepared to spend three times what you paid for your sponsorship in activation costs (i.e. event booth, signage, marketing collateral, and hospitality costs.)  I don’t believe this is necessarily true, but it is a financial consideration.

5.  Is the opportunity “ownable”?

  • Will you be the title sponsor (i.e. Capital One Bowl) or is there an opportunity to “own” a portion of the event (i.e. Capital One Half Time Report).  You want to make sure people associate your name with the event or remember your involvement.
  • Is there flexibility in the sponsorship activation? Look for sponsorship partners that care about your goals and are willing to help create opportunities outside of their current offerings.

6.  Is the event repeatable and expandable?

  • It usually takes about three years for an audience to associate your brand with an annual sponsorship, so one-off opportunities are less attractive. 
  • The initial cost of activating a sponsorship can be expensive given set-up costs and the time investment required to learn a new event.  Both of these costs should go down in future years.
  • With experience, you have a better idea of what you can do in future years to make the sponsorship work even better.  

Sarah Landrum ran Capital One's sponsorship team for 8 years negotiating and activating events such as the Capital One Bowl, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes, and the Capital One Mascot Challenge.