The New Face of Sponsorship
The New Face of Sponsorship
Versaic’s roots in sponsorship run deep. We’ve been the engine behind sponsorship programs for some of the biggest brands, both national and regional. What strikes us is how much the sponsorship landscape has changed. When we first started supporting the sponsorship space, it was all about impressions in the form of seats to fill, eyeballs on content and people interacting with a brand by sampling a product, playing a game or stopping by a booth at an event. Sponsorship teams focused on big events — sports, concerts and festivals — commanding big budgets and lots of resources to execute. Local events were part of the mix but not the highest priority and rarely the driver in terms of strategy and results.
Sponsorship has morphed over the last few years, becoming a blend of traditional marketing with philanthropy and cause marketing. At first, we saw companies stick a toe in the water by sponsoring a few community events. Sure, shrinking budgets and the increased consumer demand for socially responsible companies pushed the trend, and fast. But what these companies quickly saw is that engaging with the community at a grassroots level yields big dividends in terms of customer loyalty and brand preference. Now, philanthropy plays a much bigger role in marketing, in some cases driving the focus of the program. Many marketers who once had sponsorship titles are now carrying cards with Community Relations titles. Full-scale initiatives that integrate local, regional and national sponsorships under a single umbrella program that support a company’s CSR objectives are the gold standard. Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s ACTION NATION is a great example of a program that fires on all cylinders, incorporating sponsorship with giving programs and employee engagement. The program has been phenomenally successful as a rallying point for DPSG employees, customers, suppliers and the communities.
In the new sponsorship landscape, impressions are still king. But it’s impressions in the form of positive perceptions of a company as a good corporate citizen, opportunities to connect constituents with a brand in new ways and associate that brand with the causes that are important to the company. There’s still a mix of big and small sponsorships. Many companies and corporate foundations invest in the big-name causes whether it’s cancer research or the American Red Cross. Executed properly, these large-scale events can provide a big marketing boost. But for some companies, this level of sponsorship is not part of the plan and they’ve learned that small, grassroots events are an equally, if not more, powerful brand builder.
Early on, JetBlue’s marketing team saw the value in supporting both CSR and brand goals by incorporating grassroots sponsorships into the mix. The company sponsors thousands of community groups by donating airplane tickets to be raffled off at local fundraising events. This level of engagement could be daunting from a logistics and management standpoint but with Versaic in place, the entire program is managed by a small team. Streamlining the process and building in efficiencies is key. Not only does the JetBlue regional marketing team manage all the requests, they’re able to track results in terms of dollars raised and truly understand the impact of their sponsorships. They also empower employees as brand ambassadors by giving them tickets to donate to their favorite local non-profits. JetBlue’s reputation as a company that cares is burnished with every one of these events. They’ve found, as have many other marketers-turned-CSR-advocates that this new style of sponsorship is good for business.