Don’t just sponsor events — brand them

Please note that this post was originally published on July 19, 2009. As a result, any external links or videos used may no longer be functional.

img_1633The backs of most event T-shirts look like the one on the left — a jumble of sponsor names and logos.

And that’s just how the event organizers like it.

The proliferation of community fund-raising events, such as runs, walks and golf outings, is good for all parties. The more sponsor money the better!

56The sponsors, however, may be choosing to participate for reasons besides charity. Some, of course, are sincerely engaged in the cause. Some are playing the role of community citizen. Some may feel personal or political pressure. Some may be fulfilling employees’ interests. Regardless of their motivations, all donors should be profusely thanked and recognized for their generosity.

However, if one of their goals is to generate brand awareness, they are likely getting lost in the crowd.

Instead of making a nominal donation to multiple events, brands should consider moving to a less crowded venue — the front of the shirt.

Being the title sponsor of an event is consistent with recent trands in corporate giving; that is, giving larger amounts to fewer charities in order to make a greater overall impact. Take a page from Panera‘s book  — own the event.

This entry was posted in cause marketing, event marketing, identity, promotion, strategy.

0 Responses to Don’t just sponsor events — brand them

  1. Andrea Hill says:

    There are other benefits to this approach as well: I am a runner, and I don’t particularly like the clutter of a shirt with a back full of almost illegible logos. But I’ll happily sport a nice shirt with a tasteful logo on the front. Which, obviously, is even more publicity than if the shirt just hangs in my closet, or is relegated to car-washing.

  2. Kirk says:

    Good design has a longer lifespan. The shirts I don’t like I wear on top to keep warm at the race start, and then toss aside after the first couple of miles.

  3. Craig Lerner says:

    That’s certainly true. The idea of going to fewer events and taking a bigger position is a hot trend. Last year’s IEG sponsorship conference and this year’s event marketing summit featured the topic. One of the key elements for success in partnership marketing (cause related or otherwise) has been taking a bigger position in fewer events, but with multiple touch-points of activation. I believe the true ROI on partnerships and events is certainly not in a logo of any size on shirts, banners and event collateral. If you look at traditional media valuation for any logo exposure at events, it usually looks like a bad media buy. Brands should look for a return through integrated activation that leverages the borrowed equity of the partnership and allows them to convert impressions into relationships and move attendees closer to a sale. Promoters of the local 5K as well as major national events need to keep this in mind as they build their sponsorship inventory to build value for tightening corporate dollars that are so desperately needed to fund great charitable initiatives.

  4. Thanks, Craig, for elevating the discussion!

    You make an important point about the broader intent of cause marketing, which is the partnering of a brand with a social cause for mutual benefit. As a Tour de France junkie, I’m currently admiring how effectively Nike and LIVESTRONG are accomplishing this.

    As you say, the ROI comes not so much from a logo somewhere on a T-shirt or even “owning the event,” but rather from a deeper, more integrated partnership with a relevant cause.