Sponsorship is the fastest growing form of marketing in the U.S. It is still very much in its infancy, especially in the trade show arena. With this in mind, you can find unlimited opportunities to broaden your competitive advantage by increasing your credibility, image and prestige in sponsoring events attracting your target market.
Some trade show promotional opportunities include sponsorship of the press room, an international lounge, a speaker or VIP room, an awards reception, educational programs, banners, badge holders, audio visual equipment, display computers, tote bags, shuttle buses, napkins and drink cups.
So, why should your company be interested in sponsorship? When done well, it offers significant opportunities for distinct marketing and competitive advantages, as well as showing support of the event.
What is sponsorship?
Sponsorship is the financial or in-kind support of an activity, used primarily to reach specified business goals. According to IEG’s Complete Guide to Sponsorship, "Sponsorship should not be confused with advertising. Advertising is considered a quantitative medium, whereas sponsorship is considered a qualitative medium. It promotes a company in association with the sponsee."
A large number of events these days use sponsorship support to offer more exciting programs and to help defray rising costs. Sponsorship allows you to reach specifically targeted niche markets without any waste. In addition, it is a powerful complement to other marketing programs, in addition to having a dramatic influence on customer relations.
Sponsorship offers the possibility of achieving several goals at once. According to Schmader and Jackson in their book, Special Events: Inside and Out, a company can benefit from sponsorship in many ways, such as:
1. Enhancing Image/Shaping Consumer Attitudes
Often companies are looking to improve how they are perceived by their target audience. Sponsoring events that appeal to their market are likely to shape buying attitudes and help generate a positive reaction. Coca Cola, for example is always looking to generate a positive influence of their products in the minds of their consumers and as such regularly support events they feel can influence consumer opinions.
2. Driving Sales
Sponsorship geared to driving sales can be an extremely potent promotional tool. This objective allows sponsors to showcase their product attributes. Food and beverage companies often use sponsorship to encourage samplings and sales.
IEG’s Complete Guide to Sponsorship cites Visa’s fund-raising effort around its sponsorship of the Olympic Games and the U.S. Olympic Team. They promoted their association by offering to make a donation to the team each time consumers charge a purchase to their card. American Express used a similar strategy by donating to needy causes with their "Charge Against Hunger" campaign. As a result, both companies experienced a significant rise in sales volume.
3. Creating positive publicity/heightening visibility
Every sponsor is seeking wide exposure in both electronic and print media. Positive publicity helps create heightened visibility of products/services. Various media covering the event may include sponsors names and/or photos. In addition, the kind of media coverage a sponsor may get is often unaffordable if the company were to think of purchasing it, and if it were available. To maximize this objective, it is important for the sponsoring company to have a comprehensive media campaign to augment the regular media coverage promoted by the organizers. Sponsorship can often generate media coverage that might otherwise not have been available.
4. Differentiating from competitors
The mere act of sponsoring an event, especially an exclusive sponsorship, is a significant way to create competitor differentiation. Your company name has the opportunity to stand out head and shoulders above the competition. This is particularly helpful if your company wants to combat a competitor with a larger ad budget. Sponsorship allows smaller companies to compete with their industry giants.
Target audiences often perceive sponsorship in a positive way. They see you as making a greater effort to support the event, often allowing more or better activities to take place as a result of your sponsorship.
5. Helping with good "Corporate Citizen" role
Another powerful sponsorship objective allows companies to be viewed as a "good neighbor." To be seen supporting the community and contributing to its economic development is extremely powerful and creates enormous goodwill.
6. Enhancing business, consumer and VIP relations
Sponsorship that offers hospitality opportunities is always very attractive to companies. Perks may include special exclusive networking settings such as VIP receptions or golf tournaments – opportunities to meet key customers and solidify business relationships. It is important to evaluate each opportunity and look for ways it could tie into your marketing objectives.
Written by Susan A. Friedmann, CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, author: "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies," working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. Go to http://www.thetradeshowcoach.com to sign up for a free copy of ExhibitSmart Tips of the Week.