Kelly Borth: How the right structure pays off for supporting a cause or organization

Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest
Kelly Borth, CEO and chief strategy officer, Greencrest

I love sponsorships, and if structured right, they can be one of the most strategic marketing partnerships for your company’s new business development efforts. I have used sponsorships as a part of a successful marketing strategy for years.
Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned as well as tips to get the most mileage from your sponsorship dollars.
Will you reach your target audience?
I often use sponsorships as a vertical marketing strategy. Industry, trade and business associations, organizations and conferences can often help you reach a desired group of prospects that might otherwise be challenging to identify or get to.
If you can reach a high percentage of your target customers through a sponsorship, it is worth further exploration.
Find the right fit
Look for the venues and opportunities that provide you with the closest match to the target audience you want to reach. If you don’t see an opportunity that feels like the right fit, create a sponsorship program to propose one that is.
For instance, you might want to reach office managers within a specific industry. The trade association may or may not have specific programming for office managers. If there is not an existing program, work with the association to create one. Check with them to see if they would entertain a sponsorship of all or a portion of the scheduled or unscheduled programming.
Know what you want in return
In developing strategic sponsorships, I rarely select a menu option. Many times some of the best sponsorship opportunities are not on the list. Be creative and don’t be shy about asking for what you need.
For instance, possibilities include a list of attendees, opt-in email addresses, the ability to conduct an attendee survey and stage presence, among others. Most organizations are willing to work with you. The more successful the sponsorship, the more likely you will continue it. You want it to be a win-win for both of you.
Assign someone to oversee this investment
Not unlike an advertising campaign, if you commit the budget and sign the contract, make sure you run the ads.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but reality and experience has proven that this can be one of the greatest disappointments when it is all said and done. It is up to you to make sure you get the full benefit from the sponsorship — don’t leave it to the sponsored organization to coordinate.
Make sure all promises are fulfilled
This may include program invitations and ads, logos on signage, lists of attendees, a promise of an attendance number or exposure at a certain number of programs annually, speaking opportunities or presentations, etc.
The more customized your sponsorship is, the more likely it is that some of the special features of the sponsorship will be overlooked by the sponsored organization’s staff.
Be organized and ready
Make sure your company is organized and ready to take advantage of all of the opportunities the sponsorship offers.
Add your logo and/or profile to the organization’s website and post content, make sure sponsorship tables are strategically filled (rather than last minute whoever-can-make-it arrangements), put out company promotional information at every meeting and make certain your team is present at scheduled events to build relationships and get your company known on a personal level.
Follow up on all potential opportunities
So you received the list of attendees, what’s your follow-up plan? You should have one ready to be implemented.
Also have a goal for your team to uncover and build a first-name relationship with all attendees during the course of the year. A good sponsorship will provide you with opportunity to become known to individuals you seek to have as customers in a manner that is easier than you can accomplish through more traditional sales and marketing means.
Don’t let these strategic opportunities pass by.
Kelly Borth is CEO and chief strategy officer for Greencrest, a 21-year-old brand development, strategic marketing and digital media firm that turns market players into market leaders. Borth has received numerous honors for her business and community leadership. She serves on several local advisory boards and is one of 30 certified brand strategists in the United States. Reach her at (614) 885-7921, [email protected] or @brandpro. For more information, visit