Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Ten years ago I had my 15 minutes of fame.

Handlers were telling me where to go and when to stop. Vans of photographers were capturing my every expression as I ran and waved to crowds lining the streets. Friends and family came from as far away as Louisiana. A loud cheer erupted when I shared my fleeting fame with Dad. I was on television and in newspapers across two states. Schools invited me to share the once-in-a-lifetime experience with students in all grades.

Effective marketing made it all happen.

Pepsi, a major sponsor of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics, ran a contest to select torch-bearers to move the Olympic flame across the United States. When I saw their ad, I submitted an essay on why Dad should be one of the runners carrying the torch across Wyoming. Dad was selected. Then Pepsi decided to include some nominators. I was picked as a Colorado representative, the runner who would pass the torch to Dad. I also was given the honor of running the torch up the capitol steps in my home state of Wyoming. My cup of fame was overflowing.

Savvy marketers know that where there is a crowd, there are great marketing opportunities. Pepsi saw opportunity in the Olympics, one of the world’s premier athletic events. Today we are focused on the Super Bowl, another bonanza for those attuned to marketing opportunities. Few businesses can match the spending of corporations sponsoring the Olympics or the Super Bowl. But we all can learn from their approaches.

The most obvious lesson is to put your marketing where people can see it. The Super Bowl and Olympic venues have mass target audiences. Sponsors line up to get their messages in front of those masses. That’s not enough. Effective marketing involves strategy to ensure that your message is understood, that it is properly placed within the venue, that your business will stand out from the competition and that your sponsorship will

generate warm and fuzzy feelings. Absent effective marketing, sponsorships will be lost in the mix.

Truly effective marketing finds creative ways to connect event sponsorships with target audiences. Most event organizers welcome sponsors and are open to ideas. But before making a pitch, take a close look at the event you are considering. Will your products or services make sense in the event environment? Does the timing of the event fit well with other things on your advertising/promotions calendar? Is there sufficient lead time for innovative planning to set your business apart from all the others? Can your marketing/promotions budget adequately cover the sponsorship costs? Do anticipated returns justify your time and expenses?

When you’re sure where you’re going, go for it. Sponsorships are good for business. The returns are even greater when sponsors push the envelope. Many sponsors don’t capitalize on the opportunities. They give much appreciated support, but make little effort to sustain event ties.

Pepsi did that by going public in its search for torch-bearers.

The corporation conducted a national competition that drew in hundreds of thousands of current and potential customers. When torch-bearers were selected, the Olympic symbol was on every item of apparel the runners were given. So, too, was the Pepsi logo.

I was thinking Olympics when I stood on the steps of the Wyoming State Capitol with a burning torch proudly held aloft. I was thinking Olympics when I passed the flame to Dad and watched him start off on his run.

But a decade later I’m still telling anyone who asks about the experience that Pepsi made it possible.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
Visit www.comm-concepts.com or call 303-651-6612.

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