Tuesday, June 06, 2006

How To Sponsor

And the Survey Says…
A recent survey revealed that event marketing has become a top choice for marketers – 44% of those polled chose event marketing over advertising at 18%, direct marketing at 15% while public relations, sales promotion and Internet advertising registered just single-digits.

Event Marketing Booms
Globally, trade shows were perceived by one-third of those surveyed as the leading event type in terms of ROI. Following behind trade shows in perceived ROI were conferences (24%) and seminars (20%). Across all geographies, event marketing averaged 20% of total marketing communications budgets. This trend is most visible in Asia Pacific, where 74% of the survey's participants cite the growing influence of event marketing, almost 20 points higher than the global average. In fact, more Asian Pacific corporations (49%) anticipate increased budget allocations to event marketing than for any other marketing activity. I fully expect Middle East markets to follow this marketing trend. Eng. Mohammed Al Ghassani, Executive Vice President of the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates – responsible for Oman’s six industrial estates as well as Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM) – said: “Whether it's increased service knowledge, greater brand awareness, a boost in space rentals or a reinvigorated work force, face-to-face events are instrumental in helping PEIE and KOM advance their strategic goals.” In short, event marketing is big and getting bigger.

Wealthy Greeks
Events whether they’re seminars, workshops, conferences or football tournaments can provide golden opportunities not just for those participating but also for companies aiming to promote their brands to a large audience. For those involved in organizing events, whose aim is often to maximise the generation of income, corporate sponsorship is one of the most lucrative sources of revenue. If you look back at history, the origins of sponsorship can be found in Ancient Greece, where wealthy Athenians contributed hard earned cash to cultural, defence and sports events. This was to help events become more accessible to Citizen Stavros. In return, sponsors were honoured by having their names engraved on marble tablets. This tribute was a mark of the city’s respect, value and appreciation.

In more recent times, corporate sponsorship has been viewed mainly as a commercial transaction where a sponsor pays a given fee and in return receives certain rights. In most cases, in addition to the fee, the sponsor also supplies the sponsored party with their products or services. In return, corporate sponsors expect to receive exclusivity in the use of the official logo, be given unique advertising and promotional opportunities, on site concessions/franchise and product sales together with the right to describe themselves as the official sponsors of the event in their marketing and promotional campaigns.

It is estimated that brand marketers worldwide will spend US$50 billion on sponsorships in 2006. Indeed, sponsorship and event marketing opportunities have proliferated as interest in opportunities and spending has increased. Oman-based firms have a domestic event buffet to choose from, we’ve rallying, camel racing, golf and football tournaments through to musical concerts, exhibitions, eGames conferences, monthly Open House seminar programs to mobile marketing tours, sampling and product placements on TV.

Sponsorship & the Feel Good Factor
From a local perspective, let’s say you’ve just sponsored a local business conference or a sporting event to the tune of RO3,000 - what impact will it have on the local community – what kind of buzz will it generate? Here are two examples, the first is from a guy living in Los Angeles who attended a track and field event during the 1984 Olympic Games:

This is really fantastic! The crowds … the excitement. I’m so glad I came. I thought I wouldn’t
attend any Olympic events. I don’t like sport. I was even sorry that the Olympics were going
to be in LA. But there was so much energy people were so excited. I just had to be part of
it. So here I am. It really doesn’t matter what is happening down there [on the track]. There is just so much energy! People are so happy! It’s just fun!

The second story is from a young Sydney Olympic Volunteer who describes an incident she was involved in: My [volunteer] assignment finished late. I was still in my [volunteer] uniform, and I had to change trains at Cabramatta. I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t have to be. It isn’t safe. I was alone on the platform and [a teenager] walked up. He looked tough, and I thought he was going to rob me. He said, “I want to thank you for what you are doing for our country.” Then he just walked away.

There are hundreds of stories like these at most events whether they’re business or sport-oriented. There is a sense that something important is happening - a sense that is felt more than understood. If the occasion is a sporting event, the sport may be the catalyst, vehicle, or rationale for the felt sense of importance, but is neither the object nor the cause. The sporting outcome may matter to some, but there is a sense of something more important happening. In brief, something that transcends the sport that is going on. It feels as if new energy has been injected into the community - an energy that can be shared by all. There is a heightened sense of community among those who attend the event. If you’re looking for an incentive to sponsor an event and get your brand associated with a good-feel vibe, then this is it.

Return on Investment
Naturally, bigger Rial allocations means more intense scrutiny from senior management. In turn, the demand for accountability and demonstrable ROI from sponsorships and event marketing has never been higher. Unfortunately, tools for assessing the performance of sponsorships and event marketing in terms of contribution to sales and profitability have always been in short supply. According to research, 60% of marketers say they are not satisfied with their ROI tools. All I can say on this point is if you don't measure it, then it’s obvious you don't care about it!

Big Business Idea Competition
However, the goal of sponsoring an event, let’s say a business plan competition, has to be about making the brand message become part of the event because, if done successfully, the two will be inextricably linked and always associated with one another. For example, the recent involvement of Ernst & Young with the launch of the Knowledge Mine - Ernst & Young Big Business Idea Competition (www.kom.om/bbic) will without doubt build brand equity and brand awareness for Ernst & Young www.ey.com/global/content.nsf/Middle_East/About_Us__Oman. Just tagging a name onto an event and not supporting the sponsorship fully leads to a disassociation between the name of the event and the actual brand. How often have you seen corporates give over cash to an event but not get behind the event? Indeed, just attaching your name to an event is lazy marketing. It is not about the corporate name; it is about what will happen pre- during and post-event: how the brand will come to life and how the target audience can experience the brand image at the event. The corporate needs to be aware of this and act on it.

Work Together
A successful event sponsorship deal is very similar to a joint venture or partnership in that the parties work closely together and assist each other to achieve their respective commercial aims. Don’t underestimate this commitment. Sponsorships tend to be long-term relationships, many lasting for two, three or four years. As the activities of parties to a sponsorship contract can affect the reputation and goodwill of each other, it is important that both parties make enquiries of the other prior to contract as part of the commercial evaluation of a sponsorship proposal. If this is done properly then real and meaningful ROI will be had.