Sponsors And Properties Need To Think Outside The Box

The Miramar Air Show takes place in San Diego each October. It has about 700,000 attendees over the three-day event. This is a huge number by any standard but I have seen events of this size fail at sponsorship. The sponsorship lessons to be learned, though, apply to both large and small events. You need to be creative and think “consumer engagement” when you are dealing in sponsorship marketing. This is where a sponsorship investment can outperform any other form of marketing.

Often, sponsors just hang their banners and figure that all is done. Sometimes they even get really excited when they have product displayed on site. We see this behaviour a lot from vehicle manufacturers and sales organizations. They place a pretty car or RV in a lobby and expect it to sell! This may build curiosity and drive some interested parties to a dealer to see and test drive, but that is a stretch. At the Miramar Air Show, Can-Am Spider (a recreation vehicle company) did great. They took this process one step farther understanding that people don’t buy RVs (or trucks or cars for that matter) based on looks alone. They need to test drive. So they allowed test drives at a Ride and Drive Station on the air show grounds between flight displays. In three days, over 500 people did a test drive of the Spyder RV. Now, that beats any “in dealership” test drive program in a month!

Last November at the Canadian Western Agribition, their sponsor FORD did the same thing. They have been doing it for several years. Agribition has the space and FORD knows ranchers need to test drive a truck before they will consider buying it. What a great activation program associated with a sponsorship.

Sponsors and properties need to think outside the box. In my mind, test drives are just “sampling,” but way bigger. Engage the constituents and patrons of the property you are sponsoring. Get them to interact with you. Touch, feel and hold them. Then you will own them. But for sponsors who think hanging a banner is all you need to do, may their pockets be deep! For properties that fail to be open-minded to brand activation ideas, may your pockets also be deep!

Groups that fail to see the importance of engaging participants will not have deep pockets for long in today’s world.

These are just one person’s thoughts. What do you think?

by Brent Barootes


  1. Good point.
    Bridgestone Golf did something similar with its line of golf balls last year. They took ball launch monitors (that measure ball flight and spin rates) to driving ranges and courses all over Alberta (and North America) and asked golfers to compare the ball they were using with their brand. Guess what? Most people were playing a ball that was not right for them. In fact I switched to Bridgestone balls after the demo! Traditionally “Demo Days” on driving ranges had been the reserved for club testing – not balls. This was a new concept – and it worked.

  2. These are great out of the box ideas. Similarly, a software company may provide product demos for attendees. But what about those sponsors that do not have a tangible product for attendees to “test drive”. Take a city or destination for example. How does a destination that is sponsoring an event allow the audience to “test drive” its product? Or, how can any sponsor with an intangible product think out of the box and create that same experience?

  3. Mona,
    Great question. The answer is “it can be done”! At the 2010 Olympics the Province of Saskatchewan, as sponsor set up a tent and when you entered it you were transformed into being in the great plains of Saskatchewan. Their food was there, there were grain elevators, an illusion screened on the ceiling of the northern lights and much more. So if you are a destination like New Orleans or Memphis and sponsoring at a trade show or event, create an experience for people. Let them feel what it is like with a “walk on Bourbon Street”. Have the tent filed with the smell of Cajun cooking, samples of food, music etc. Make it like a FAM tour in your own little piece of real estate at the event. It is still the “experience” that is the test drive, be that a ride in an RV or feeling like you are Memphis. I hope this helps.



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