SME Sponsorships - A brand marriage made in heaven...or not?

Rob Jones - Managing Director

Often confused with advertising, brand sponsorship has become one of the more tangible marketing strategies that a business can employ.

Sponsorship gives brands the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with racing car teams, events or a TV programme that aims to financially benefit both parties. Sponsorship is a targeted approach to marketing, as brands can choose to sponsor an event or team that resonates with their customer base, with a goal to expand upon it. 

And, contrary to what some may believe, sponsorship is not restricted to large companies; in fact, organisations of all sizes are able to forge partnerships that suit their budget. Local sports teams often rely on business sponsorships in order to maintain their services and training, so this is a great way for small businesses to reach out to a new market.

The key considerations when it comes to sponsorship are whether the audience fits your brand and how it will support your brand’s identity and customer.

What are the benefits?  

Sponsorship is a great way to get your brand in front of a new market of potential customers, exposing a variety of new marketing opportunities.

Brand awareness

Regardless of the size of the deal, sponsorship “should” help increase brand awareness and visibility, as you will be promoting your product or service to a new, yet targeted, market. 

The level of awareness received is very much dependent on who you are sponsoring. Are they active on social media? Will they receive significant media coverage? Will there be physical coverage, e.g. online, on TV, or on promotional products? These considerations can significantly impact the success of the campaign.

Stand out from the crowd

It’s easy for businesses to get lost in the noise. Not only will sponsorship help you stand out from the competition, but as your company becomes more widely recognised, sponsorship deals should begin to have direct impact on sales. Like all forms of marketing, the ultimate aim of sponsorship is to generate more money for a business.

Choosing who to sponsor

Selecting who to sponsor is not a decision that should be made lightly; it’s important that the sponsored party complements your brand’s message and identity. The closer the alignment, the more likely the campaign is to be a success.

In some instances, it is obvious what type of sponsorships will work for your brand. For example, it makes perfect sense for a homeware store to sponsor a home improvement show. However, the choice is not as apparent for some companies. This is something that online bingo company tombola has experienced, having trialled various sponsorship deals over the past decade, including sports teams and soap operas. 

“It can be challenging to find an appropriate sponsorship opportunity,” says Dawn-Elizabeth Howe, head of marketing at tombola. “Unlike other bingo companies, we create our own exclusive bingo games and value community spirit, and these are the messages we aim to communicate. A sponsorship is an extension of our usual marketing activity, but without the strong call to actions, so it’s vital to get it right.”

After signing a multimillion-pound deal with ITV’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! in 2017, tombola was challenged to create a campaign that would appeal to both markets. 

“The I’m A Celeb… campaign was designed specifically to communicate our community-orientated and fun brand message with a wider audience,” says Howe. “Using lifelike bug animations, we achieved our goal of entertaining and engaging audiences, whilst sticking to our brand identity guidelines.”

At face value, it is difficult to see the connection between a reality TV show and online bingo. However, the pair have a shared goal to entertain and have worked on an integrated campaign across all platforms to uphold this message and build brand awareness, affinity, and loyalty.

Whilst a high-profile TV sponsorship may be unachievable for many businesses, the same learnings apply. Sponsorship is all about getting your brand noticed by the right audience that will relate to your product or service.

Are you considering how best to leverage brand impact with sponsorships? Anything like this starts with sound brand strategy...something we here at The Escape have over 20 years experience in. Get in touch and let’s start a brand journey that means more.

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