How can smaller companies use sponsorship for PR? Learn how A-Fit events can fit your bill

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Sponsorship is something that many people believe is either for massive companies or for a local sponsorship. More than that, it is a great way to get involved in an event or a campaign, to be engaged in it, to get in front of people, and also to make a difference. In fact, EASTWEST PR has a sponsorship agreement with The Progress Shed for their webinar series, where EASTWEST Public Relations will be the official partner for their growing and very dynamic webinar series as they pivot from all the face-to-face coaching that they do. Peter and Andy of The Progress Shed are now working on making their company more of a distance and remote learning platform to a broader, even global, community, and it’s this focus on business and growth that resonates with any PR communicator. The benefit of working with them is the chance to meet their customers who may not be directly asking for PR but who may, over time, be interested in what EASTWEST PR can offer. Sponsorshops like this get the business noticed through logo sharing, joining their webinars, sharing articles on their newsletter, and adding back links to EASTWEST PR website, all of which go out to their community. For them, they get to position their event as a professional and sponsored event, and so both sides end up with favourable outcomes. 

What’s in it for you?

Sponsorships can be created in practically all fields, whether it be in advertising, speaking, or networking. The other benefit of sponsorship is generation of content. On platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook,  the amount of content that users and followers demand is almost constant. The other big benefit of sponsorships are the photo opportunities and the content that is going to be created as a result of sponsorship. There are opportunities to bring corporate clients to these events, get special passes for partners and customers, and possibly have participants in the event become ambassadors for the brand, thereby creating the opportunity to reach out to them and engage with them. Influencers are important, because people like those that can influence them. 

With sports being cancelled, the Premier League will have lost some £750,000,000. The Japan 2020 Olympics cancellation is reputedly worth some £2,000,000,000 in terms of losses, but not everybody is stopping sponsoring. Take Formula One for example. James Ratcliffe, the British founder of Ineos chemicals, has sponsored the Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Formula One team reportedly for some £20,000,000. He also, it turns out, has acquired the Ben Ainslie sailing team and is sponsoring what used to be Team Sky, which is now Team Ineos, the cycling team that won the Tour de France.

Finding the perfect “fit”

Research from the University of Canterbury by Emma Jagre, John J. Watson, and John G. Watson in 2001 entitled “Sponsorship and Congruity Theory: A Theoretical Framework for Explaining Consumer Attitude and Recall of Event Sponsorship” found that consumers don’t necessarily remember the brands that sponsor events. Sometimes, when the brand is wholly congruent with the event, the people forget that the brand was the sponsor. They cite the Olympics where people thought that Nike was the sponsor, when in fact Reebok was. Sometimes, when the sponsor is entirely not relevant or related to the event, it’s irksome, because there’s no relevance to the sponsorship and the event. There is what people call a “fit,” which is a company that is close enough to the event but not entirely congruent, and it piques the interest of the audience as to why that company should be sponsoring. It creates this question of sponsorship as an opportunity, because there will be many brands right now that can’t afford to continue the sponsorship they had before. So, how would you structure that and what would it bring you? Possibly in terms of the value of the audience you’ll be meeting. 

Two important concepts are the reputation of the company and brand awareness. Anybody that’s ever been a speaker at an event knows that the value in speaking at an event is the other speakers that one gets to meet as much as the audience. It gives you a different kind of right even if you’re just an attendee, and that can translate into being really good value for money. If there’s an opportunity to sponsor or create an event and be a sponsor, then that’s worth thinking about. There are so many opportunities for innovation due to COVID-19 stopping people from holding events, and so people have had to change their way of thinking and think outside of the box. Ask yourself, is there an opportunity for you and your company to either find a sponsorship opportunity or to build and create one where it doesn’t exist? 

Unite your 3 audiences through sponsorship events

Sponsorships bring customers, staff, and partners together around a cause, something that the company believes in or something that resonates with the brand. To think about sponsorship in a strategic way, if you’ve got a new business or a new line that’s coming out, why not use sponsorship as a way of drawing an audience and getting them to be introduced to the brand without actually having to tell them too much about the product? Sponsorship is, by and large, not solely about the product; it’s about the brand, and there are many organizations right now, profit and non-profit, that are looking to find partners both for cash and also for services in kind.

If you’re a business owner, ask yourself, where can you align your company? Find an event or a cause that’s not congruent, not something that seems to be inevitable and logical. As research shows, the audience that sees your brand may take it for granted and may just think it’s part of the show, but don’t make it something that’s not so obvious that people will just question why you’re there. Pick an event or activity that is an indication of where the company is going, not necessarily where it’s come from. Lastly, think about how sponsorship can help get you there while engaging your audiences to get back into the market too, because that’s what everyone is going to need post-COVID. 

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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