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Six Principles for an Effective Sponsorship Strategy

June 18th 2016

The previous article in this series took a thorough look at why we want to join forces with others in the first place. Sponsorships can be a valuable marketing tool, when applied appropriately. But what’s next after you’ve determined the roles and objectives you seek to fulfill via sponsorships? How do you leverage these new assets to achieve your objectives? Not all sponsorships are created equal – which means a strategic approach to selection and activity is imperative.

There are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind as you enter this phase. First, sponsorships tend to be most effective when they go beyond levels of exposure to measures of engagement. Think beyond the confines of traditional sponsorship activity and seek opportunities to reinforce an innate alignment. Second, don’t get distracted by the next shiny object. Make sure to ground yourself in the fundamentals as you consider each sponsorship option. The following 6 principles are a good guide to keep you focused.

  1. Align with an organization’s brand. This is essential. A misalignment here can result in low value activity and produce disappointing results for your brand, while risking a hit to your public perception as well. This should be covered early, as you consider the benefit(s) this relationship brings to each party.
  2. Align with marketing objectives. Marketing objectives should also be outlined early and clearly to make sure everyone is aligned and working toward a common outcome. These should serve as a constant guidepost or checkpoint as you plan sponsorship activity to verify you’re still headed toward your goals.
  3. Align with current or target audience(s). While alignment and objectives are important, we can’t forget our audience. They are the glue that holds the relationship together. They’re the reason you’re considering one in the first place, so you better make sure they’re a driving factor in your strategy. Ask yourself if this relationship, or these activities, will best resonate with your common audience segments.
  4. Extend beyond exposure to activate audience engagement. This may depend slightly on the type of sponsorship deemed appropriate for your objectives. However, as a general rule, even a traditional high-reach, media-oriented sponsorship should engage an audience physically, emotionally or logically.
  5. Offer a mutually beneficial exchange of value. Nobody likes a relationship where one person puts in all the effort or reaps all the rewards. As we’ve mentioned, relationships exist because you’re better together than apart. Both parties need to see the benefit in order to make the most of the relationship.
  6. Have measurable impact in the context of objectives, media mix and total budget. Without a way to measure impact, we might as well be doing the same thing we did 30 years ago. How will you ever know what you can improve on? How can you qualify or justify the value these kinds of relationships bring forth? Defining a measureable impact wherever possible can ensure your sponsorship dollars are being used to their utmost effectiveness. This can also help propel support for these initiatives as you continue to demonstrate success.

By applying these six principles to your sponsorship strategy, you should be able to join forces with the right partners, in the right manner, to make a clear impact for each brand. As you start to implement these practices, you should start to see more rich and relevant relationships develop that CEOs and audiences alike would love to see.

The next article in this sponsorship series will dig into principles three and six in more detail. We’ll unleash the unmatched benefits that the voice of the consumer and a systematic approach can have on sponsorships’ highly polarizing environment. Or, if you don’t want to wait for the next eNewsletter, please don’t hesitate to engage us in a conversation at 216-292-4700 or email us at