As a small business owner, you’re hit from every direction by groups who want your dollars to support their worthy events and causes. From Little League teams to high school yearbooks to the art center’s silent auction; how do you decide what’s worth supporting and what’s not? In short, there is no easy answer.
From a straight marketing standpoint, it’s often hard to determine how well sponsorships work, but as a component of a brand-building awareness campaign, it makes sense in many instances, if you’re smart about it.
Many small business owners have a gut reaction about whether they should say yes or no, and that can be a powerful barometer. If the proposal seems sound and heartfelt, with discernible benefits, go for it. But if the request comes from an extremely disorganized or unprofessional outfit and it feels like you are giving a handout rather than meeting a genuine need, it may be wise to say no, unless you expect little to nothing for your gesture of support other than thanks.
For some businesses, a sponsorship opportunity might put the company in front of an audience it wants to cultivate, so saying yes is a wise business decision. For instance a large arts institution might be having a major event; agreeing to a level of sponsorship might help make headway into a long-term relationship with the institution itself as well as its high-profile clientele.
Something you should ask about if you are considering a sponsorship is what are the attendance expectations and advertising budget figures; that will give you a better sense of how much you should pay for a sponsorship. You might also consider whether your business peers or competitors are participating as sponsors. In some cases it might be detrimental to be left out.
Sponsoring a high-profile cause, such as domestic violence or the local food bank, might be a good public relations move, creating a positive association for your business. It might also put you in closer touch with community leaders, movers, and shakers. Such associations could ultimately lead to additional sales or valuable contacts.
If your company has limited resources, consider making an in-kind donation rather than a cash donation. If, for instance, you operate a burger franchise, offer a set amount of free meals for the Little League team in exchange for having your company’s presence acknowledged on banners at the local ballpark rather than buying team uniforms. In fact, exploring how your business can be recognized for its sponsorship is worth evaluating when deciding at what level you’ll commit resources.
In some instances you can get more bang for your buck if in exchange for your support you ask that your company’s logo appear on banners at events; that you receive tickets to events to hand out to clients; that you have a table or booth at the event; or that your company be credited in all advertising collateral about the event. Don’t forget to consider an exchange on the requester’s Web site for your contribution.
You could also contribute branded items as giveaways; that way people will go home with something that has your company’s name on it. For example, you might have your company’s logo on commemorative wine glasses at a wine-tasting event; the glasses are keepsakes that patrons will repeatedly use.
You might not be able to say yes every time, nor should you, but by giving careful consideration to the opportunities that are presented to you, you might be able to contribute to your community while also supporting your business.
The bottom line is that every company, especially those with limited budgets, has to give a lot of thought about whether the sponsorship enhances its presence in the community while translating to increased sales.