Why Sponsorship Strategy?
“Sponsorship doesn’t work”
When I heard a marketing manager (for a BIG brand) throw that comment out there last year, I was nearly speechless. Could it be true that a multi-billion-dollar industry is built on a false premise?
After composing myself, I knew the answer.
Sponsorship doesn’t work . . . if there’s no strategy to guide it.
While I knew the answer, I wasn’t sure if others shared the marketing manager’s opinion in the broader marketing community. I was sure that sharing the importance of sponsorship strategy would benefit brands, properties, or anyone interested in sponsorship. It inspired me, in 2019, to write a book focused on sponsorship strategy.
I knew a book on strategy would provide value to the reader. For any business pursuit, “a strategy is necessary because the future is unpredictable.” For sponsorship, strategy drives success because it promotes clarity, guides planning, and ensures effective execution.
Strategy helps marketers clearly articulate the reason for the sponsorship and enables them to judge whether that reason supports business goals. This is the “why” of sponsorship. “Enhancing brand image” or “promoting sales to a target audience” could be two such reasons for moving the business forward. Sponsoring an auto race because the CEO likes auto racing may be a clear reason, but it’s unlikely to positively impact the business if that’s the only reason.
Once the “why” is identified, a plan can be built around it. It’s the roadmap that takes the sponsor from Point A to Point B. A sponsorship designed to enhance brand image will need a PR plan, an event activation plan, and a measurement plan to evaluate it. It drives conversations about the personnel and resources needed as well as the timing/sequencing necessary.
With strategy, we have a guidepost for plan execution and the means to determine if the plan is off course. Without a strategy, we have no idea what our sponsorship efforts and resources are meant to achieve for the business.
The strategic elements of clarity, planning, and execution help marketers make sponsorship work. However, I know that sponsorship can do more than merely work. Great sponsorship strategies can be transformative for organizations. Best-in-class strategies repair damaged brands, produce dramatic return-on-investment, and harness the “superpower” of image transfer to create breakout moments for sponsors.