A lecturer at Huddersfield University recently asked me for a few words on sponsorship, to help add a bit of texture to her teaching, so I just thought I'd share what I wrote.
A few words on sponsorship
Whether it’s of an event, group or TV programme, sponsorship can be a cost effective way for brands to target a discrete, regular audience. It also tends to offer them the ability to communicate in a less cluttered and more controlled environment. Only official sponsors of an event will be allowed to communicate inside it (although attempts by non-sponsor brands to “hijack” events are fairly common, especially at major events like the Olympics or World Cup). When brands sponsor a TV programme they are given premium ad space on either side of the commercial break that is much less likely to be skipped by viewers – and studies show people with Sky+ (and other PVRs) actively use sponsorship idents to know when to start watching again if they fast forward the ad break.
Sponsorship also offers brands unique benefits above and beyond regular advertising, however. Sponsorship is unique in that it’s a way for a brand to align itself with another brand (that of the programme, event, sports team etc. being sponsored). Effectively, the brand is saying: “I like this” - and it’s only human nature to like someone who likes what you like. Important stuff when you realise that brand warmth, or likeability, is a proven driver of sales. Fans often also believe that sponsors actively contribute to the thing they love, beyond just stumping up the cash - so the brand gets even more kudos. This is not true in all cases, but the best sponsors work hard to not just badge, but improve the fans’ enjoyment of the property they’re sponsoring.
Finally, one other important aspect of sponsorship to mention is the access or privileges that come in the sponsorship package, beyond consumer facing branding and communications. From the outside, corporate hospitality can seem like a bunch of businessmen having a laugh, but the reality is that brands and businesses are built on relationships – and whether they’re staff, suppliers or clients, treating the people you care about every now and again can be just as good a way to keep professional relationships strong as it is in your personal life.