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

Most people in business have gotten the call. It begins with an polite request for a few minutes of your time. The caller usually asks if you’ve received a letter, email or call from their organization. Then the conversation evolves into an impassioned plea for support of an event, a non-profit, team, band, etc. The causes are good, the people sincere. Who can’t resist? Many it turns out.

I feel bad when turning down requests. But, I also feel that it is incumbent upon a group or individual to understand something about me before they ask me for money. Sponsorships are a type of relationship after all, and as such need time to develop. Even when I’ve shared the types of things I do sponsor, the same people contact me again and again. No one likes to be stalked in any kind of relationship.

All levels of sponsorship, whether it is a large dollar amount or a small dollar amount, represent opportunities for businesses to support something they believe in. Sponsorships are a great way to get a business name in front of audiences, but savvy marketers know that it’s important to align your business with the “right” events and causes.

Sponsorships have always been an important element of most businesses’ marketing tool box. Recently we’ve seen just how much people pay attention to who is supporting an organization, event or cause. Sponsors are not adverse to pulling their sponsorship if they feel that what is being expressed doesn’t represent who they are as a company. Consumers are quick to let sponsors know when they don’t like what they are sponsoring.

What does it all mean? A thoughtful approach is a winning approach.

Those who solicit businesses for sponsorships should know more about the business they are contacting. Why do you feel your offer will be appealing? How does what you are doing align with a particular business? Are there businesses you aren’t considering because you always go to the same places time and time again? Do you have a menu of opportunities that may appeal to different businesses, at different levels and different times? Asking for support should be as well thought out as any other marketing effort.

    All “asks” should include the following:

  • Make it personal
  • Focus your ask on the donor and how they will benefit
  • Inform and educate your sponsor prospects
  • Educate yourself about the business you are contacting
  • Craft your appeal to their hearts

Businesses who spend money on sponsorships need to look at what they are supporting. Does it make sense for the business? Is the sponsorship consistent with current branding? Will it help those who are exposed better understand and feel good about your business? Will it perhaps draw negative feedback from key stakeholders?

Why does it matter? People pay attention to what your business supports. Properly aligning with events and people that reflect your values will boost your branding efforts. This is why it is important to think requests through. Even better – decide ahead of time what types of opportunities reflect your business heart. This enables you to determine, quickly, if you are interested in a particular offer.

Businesses should also be on the lookout for the types of events, projects or individuals that they wish to support. The sponsorship game is a two-way street. If your business wants to be involved – get involved. Don’t wait to be asked.

There are many opportunities to market businesses through sponsorships. Some are great, some are not. What will your sponsorship look like?

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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