After Tackling a Sponsorship, Don't Leave Sponsors in the Dirt
As noted in these pages last month, a big part of securing corporate sponsors is the servicing of the partnership. [See "Tackling Sponsorships," Dec., p. 89.] But how? While the football metaphor may not be the most apt - it's best to imagine sponsors and their beneficiaries playing on the same team - it does suggest the number-one cause of sponsorship fumbles: Too many administrators, having tackled the sponsorship, leave sponsors in the dirt.
Many variables come into play when a sponsor looks at renewal. Simply knowing a sponsor has been on board for a number of years does not ensure the company's continued support. Sponsorship needs to make sense for the company's bottom line, and sponsors are more savvy now. They expect more in return for their money. Today's sponsorship packages involve much more than putting up a few signs or slapping a company name on a T-shirt.
It is therefore vital to understand why some companies choose to get involved in a sponsorship, while others are content to stay on the sidelines.
An example: Cybex has been working with the Jewish Community Centers Association's JCC Maccabi Games for the past five years, and recently extended its sponsorship to 2003. Cybex's sponsorship gives it the opportunity to place Cybex equipment in JCCs throughout North America, thereby encouraging kids to establish healthy and active lifestyles. The company also provides educational information for teens on its Web site (www.ecybex.com).
According to Ed Pryts, Cybex's director of national accounts, "JCC is not just in the business of promoting the Maccabi Games but, like us, has a long-term interest in the health and well-being of the community in mind. It all boils down to partnership, loyalty and building one's brand to the consumer, and for us the JCC delivers."
Cybex is just one of many companies to utilize sponsorships as marketing vehicles - to increase sales, promote their products, provide them with advertising outlets or help provide positive public relations. While these may seem like obvious goals, too many sports administrators fail to help their sponsors succeed in achieving them. Being proactive in ensuring a successful association is your best chance of retaining sponsors when contracts come up for renewal.
The following are areas in which you should do your best to help your sponsor:
• Client entertainment plays a vital role in today's business world. This can be as simple as a place where sponsors can take their clients to show them that their business is truly appreciated. To make a client feel special, sponsors have grown accustomed to giving them the royal treatment at sporting events. Entertaining that special customer in the company luxury box or in a front-row seat at the big game can impact business for years to come.
Administrators can help sponsors by making themselves available to the group or having former players stop by. It makes sponsors feel not only closer to the game, but also part of the team.
• Sampling can be used as a means to bring targeted products into the marketplace. Sampling helps link a fan's loyalty to positive feelings about a product or service. For example, someone who has been sweating all day on the golf course, waiting for the chance to catch a glimpse of Tiger Woods, would probably be appreciative of a free sample of the latest bottled water product. The next time that fan buys water at the grocery store, he just may remember how great the water tasted on the golf course and buy that same brand.
Rob Murray, region manager for Campus Concepts, recalls distributing one million free cans of Pepsi One into the marketplace. "It's not just giving away product, it's giving the product to the customer the company is trying to reach," Murray explains. "Pepsi, realizing that the 18- to 24-year-old market is very impressionable, decided those particular consumers were the perfect fit for the company's new product." The distribution was run through recreation and intramural programs on college campuses, and as Murray says, "There is a strong likelihood that Pepsi will have 300,000 new customers." Sampling is not giving a product away - it's investing in the future customer.
Administrators can help make sure sponsors' products are distributed, and also that their products are available for purchase at the event location or locations.
• Coupons are an old staple in sponsorships. It's hard to get a ticket or game program at a sporting event that doesn't come with some type of discount offer. By putting a special offer in the hands of every fan with a ticket or program, sponsors are able to get excellent exposure. A highly successful coupon is one that is redeemable when the home team attains a predetermined goal. For example, when the University of Dayton men's or women's soccer teams record a shutout, fans can bring their program to a local Papa John's to receive a discounted pizza. This gets the fans more involved in the games, and also gives the sponsor a very public association with the team.
• Demonstrations and displays appeal to many sponsors. These tools can help develop relations between the sponsors and the customers they are hoping to reach. Setting up a demonstration or display booth at a sporting event gives businesses the opportunity to showcase their product in a festive, informal atmosphere. It also builds an association with the local team, something loyal fans will remember when making purchasing decisions.
• On-site sales for many sponsors are another great way for their products to enter the marketplace. Once again, building that association with the local team is important, but providing the sponsor another outlet to sell its products is also a valuable asset. There are many sponsors who are looking for new ways to get their products in front of the public.
• Providing mailing lists to sponsors is a tool that can help a sponsor follow up with those who attend an event. Rather than simply distributing free samples at the game, many sponsors prefer to have fans sign up in order to win bigger, premium prizes. The sponsors are then able to walk away with a database at their disposal, allowing them to better target potential customers.
Organizations need to constantly look for new ways to keep their sponsors happy. Some are beginning to take their sponsors on retreats, away from their day-to-day business routine. This not only gets their full attention, but they also tend to be more relaxed, as these retreats are typically held in luxurious, vacation-type settings. The retreats can also help with strengthening relationships. Sponsors know you are investing in them, and they in turn will feel like a true part of the team.
Keeping track of sponsorships' effectiveness is very important in maintaining a sponsorship deal. Sponsors and sports administrators must both understand what the goals are for the partnership and how the effectiveness of the business relationship will be measured. It is important to become an expert in this part of the relationship. If not, you might be looking for a new sponsor sooner than you would like.
It is important to understand that you can do everything right and a sponsor may still leave you. There are some things you cannot control. The person who signed the initial deal may no longer be with the company and the replacement could decide to take the company's marketing dollars elsewhere. It's also possible that some businesses may not do as well as projected and budgets will be adjusted as a result. Oftentimes, advertising and marketing money is the first to be cut.
Focus on things you can control. Make sure you know what the sponsor wants to get out of the sponsorship deal. A simple rule to follow: Under-promise and over-deliver. If you are able to overdeliver, you can more than likely count on a one-time sponsorship developing into a long-term relationship.