Are You Getting the Most Bang From Your Sponsorship Buck?
by Rob Murphy

From sporting events, to concerts, to cultural happenings .. sponsorships are playing an increasingly pivotal role in a company's promotional arsenal. In fact, according to SponsorClick's Sponsorship Marketing Global 2004 Report, brand marketers worldwide will spend $37.8 billion on sponsorships in 2004 and anticipates that figure will close in on $50 billion by 2006.

Given these rapidly escalating spending levels, are companies really achieving the most bang for their sponsorship bucks?

Traditionally, sponsorships have been thought of as an advertising medium --- used to drive awareness and brand recognition. While this approach certainly has some value, today's leading companies are leveraging sponsorships in much more innovative and impactful ways by thinking of them from a MARKETING and EXPERIENCE perspective. This means thinking about how the company can truly capitalize on the power of the assets that the event offers.

Consider this example: Earlier this year, Citizen's Bank signed a major sponsorship deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. In addition to naming rights for the new baseball stadium and guaranteed radio spots, the company also thought about how it could leverage the sponsorship to create truly emotional bonds with its customers. The result: Their best customers were offered seats on the team plane and private tours of the dugout and locker room. Ask yourself ---- if your bank offered you the experience of a lifetime - riding on a plane filled with your favorite sports heroes - would you ever go to another bank?

Companies like Citizen's Bank are thinking out of the box and looking creatively at how to leverage the unique assets of their sponsorship in ways that (1) create emotional and lasting impressions on their best clients and (2) create exclusive experiences that their competitors cannot offer.

Let's think out of the box when it comes to the sponsorship of a golf tournament, for example. Most sponsorship deals include the standard hospitality tents --- allowing the sponsor to invite its most valuable clients and best prospects to receptions and events at the tournament. But when you think beyond the basics to uncover ways to leverage the full collection of assets that the tournament offers, you can develop a myriad of opportunities to create even more unique and memorable experiences.

How about a pre- or post-tournament private "chalk-talk" and analysis with PGA announcers Curtis Strange or Ken Venturi? What about a private golf lesson from one of the professional golfers in the tournament? Or being able to play a round of golf on that course prior to the tournament? Or the chance to have a pre-tournament discussion and golf course walk with the course architect who can point out the keys to mastering the course? Just imagine the impact on your clients if you call them not with a telemarketing pitch, but with a personal offer of free tickets to a major golf event --- no strings attached!

Companies such as Citizen's Bank have seen significant and quantifiable business impact from creating and delivering these memorable and personal experiences. Customers that participate in these events show significant increases in investment and spending levels and loyalty --- with 100% of them saying that the events make them feel valued as a customer. In fact, even those customers who are invited but choose not to attend become more valuable customers than those that aren't invited. And, as word of these "experiences" gets around to the rest of the customer base, it is likely that many of them will increase their spend and investment levels in the hopes of getting invited to future events.

Clearly, while these investments are capturing a bigger piece of the promotional pie, sponsorship remains a tool that is misunderstood and strategically under-utilized in many companies. By thinking out of the box --- and looking at sponsorships from a marketing and experience perspective --- companies can forge strong and lasting relationships with their customers, thereby leveraging the true value of these events to drive their bottom lines.

Rob Murphy is Vice President of Marketing at Boston-based Circles, a leading provider of experiential marketing services. Circles creates and delivers concierge services, events and experiences for some of the world's leading brands. In this role he leads the development of innovative service offerings that provide clients with tailored, brand-enhancing solutions that drive tangible business results. Rob can be reached at 617-622-6200.

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Copyright 2005 by Rob Murphy. All rights reserved.

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