Sponsorships are a great way for small businesses to boost their profile without spending a fortune. From charity golf tournaments and industry roundtables to supporting your local sports team, there are countless cost-effective opportunities to help you gain exposure, market your product or service, and promote a positive image of your business.
Supporting a good cause or a high-profile professional association not only provides businesses with impactful advertising, it also creates positive publicity that encourages potential customers or business partners to choose you over competitors who are not as visible. Best of all, you don’t need a big budget to make a big splash.
Create a Sponsorship Strategy
As with any form of marketing, your sponsorship effort should have a strategy behind it in order to ensure success. Start by setting objectives and clarify what you want to accomplish. Small businesses sponsor organizations, community events, or individuals for any number of reasons, including:
- Targeting a specific audience: Choosing an organization or cause for your sponsorship is like choosing an advertising vehicle. The recipient’s supporters and beneficiaries become your marketing audience. There are many quality partners to choose from, so you can select the exact target you want to get your business name in front of.
- Driving sales: Some small businesses use sponsorships to launch a new product or educate target markets about an existing service. By being strategic about the organizations you choose and delivering effective promotional messages, you can convert supporters into your own customers.
- Distinguishing your business from competitors: People often gravitate towards companies that care. When your business shows an ethical commitment to a cause or the community, customers will factor that into their purchasing decisions.
Maximize Your ROI
Before you can target specific types of events or organizations to sponsor, you will need to determine your budget and what you expect from your return on investment (ROI). Sponsorship efforts won’t always translate directly into dollars right away. However, sponsoring community events and organizations can help drive revenues over time, increasing sales through the promotional exposure or good will generated. This can prove to be less expensive than more traditional marketing and advertisement strategies.
Make sure you know exactly what you’ll be getting in return for your sponsorship. Lock in details, such as exclusivity, size and location of your company logo, the amount of advertising exposure you will receive in online, print, or broadcast advertising, and the visibility your company will have during an event. Don’t forget to ask about opportunities to engage with the audience via email or social media before and after the event .
Target Opportunities Selectively
Avoid being pressured into sponsoring an event simply because you feel you can’t say no. Tying your small business to a professional organization or cause that is ultimately irrelevant could be a waste of time and end up hurting your company’s reputation. Make sure the event represents the values and culture of your brand.
Sponsoring and attending events gives you a chance to interact directly with customers and potential clients. However, consider casting a wider net to reach those you would not ordinarily come in contact with, such as local business owners, community leaders, or people of influence outside the region. For example, instead of sponsoring an industry-specific event, you might join forces with a chamber of commerce on an event where you can meet people from a variety of professions.
Types of Sponsorships
Professional, community, and not-for-profit organizations offer countless ways for your small business to gain exposure, build awareness, and promote products and services, all while establishing positive associations and building goodwill. Here a few of the options to consider as you plan your sponsorship strategy.
Sponsoring industry events, trade shows, and exhibitions can deliver a strong ROI, but they can also be costly. Most organizations offer tiers of sponsorship, and the level of publicity they give corresponds with the amount of money donated. A high-ticket sponsorship like a breakfast or reception may be worthwhile if it’s at a trade show where everyone you do business with is in attendance. However, if your small business has limited promotion dollars, consider lower-cost options.
A prize donation or gift certificate will get your name in front of plenty of attendees and give the winner the chance to try your product or service for free. Another affordable option is to bring people to your place of business by offering meeting space for a networking event or monthly business card exchange.
At Summit Financial Resources, we’re fans of creating bulk giveaways for guests or swag bags, like the personal kit with hand warmers, lip balm, and sunscreen we donated at a skiing event. Having key staff or company leadership attend the event is a critical factor in our ROI equation. If we sponsor a hole at a golf fundraiser, we make sure to have a team member stationed there.
One of the most effective ways to achieve your company’s brand-building objectives is to sponsor fundraising initiatives for not-for-profit organizations. These can range from charitable foundations, healthcare, and educational institutions to youth programs, food pantries, and centers for the arts. When partnering with a not-for-profit organization, make sure you take into account any local and federal laws regarding charitable giving and tax write-offs.
Aligning your business with a not-for-profit organization helps establish positive associations that show your business in a caring light, creating a sense of trust and credibility with potential customers or clients. It also allows you to increase the reach of your marketing by trading on the recognition of another brand: the charity itself. Charitable activities give you something valuable to talk about on social media, in your own email marketing, in press releases, and on your website.
There are countless options for showing your support, many of which are low-cost and high impact. Here are just a few:
- Sponsor or co-sponsor a charitable event.
- Create a special limited edition product for a cause that you or the charity can sell.
- Donate one of your products as a prize at a charity auction or offer to provide a service pro-bono to an organization in need.
- Collect cash for a charity or physical donations like food or clothing.
- Host an event and donate the proceeds to a cause.
- Donate your space for a charity event.
- Designate a company day of service where teams of employees and/or customers participate in a fundraising event.
Local Athletic Teams
Communities often need local business sponsors to help pay for athletic team uniforms, equipment, and awards. Exposure for sponsors can range from uniforms, banners, and signs to printed materials such has flyers and programs. These are viable vehicles for promoting your business and showing your support for residents and your community.
From concerts to county fairs, large cities and small towns alike host numerous events throughout the year that are cost-effective and would benefit your small business in a meaningful way.
Look for opportunities that can provide positive public relations for your company, while at the same time reaching a diverse audience. These might include awards ceremonies, ribbon-cuttings, student achievement programs, food festivals, and holiday parades. Participation can be enriching for both your community and your staff, and any resulting publicity may be highly valuable.
Sponsorships offer your small business numerous benefits. The key to maximizing these opportunities is to think strategically and align yourself with organizations or causes that will help you build long-lasting relationships with clients and further your business goals.
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