Sponsorship: Linking Emotion With Marketing

Emotion goes a long way. But the question is: Can you make it pay off?

If done right, a sponsorship marketing investment links emotion with advertising to generate exponential outcomes. There are many examples. The Saskatchewan Roughriders Football Club sells more branded merchandise than the other seven teams and the CFL itself combined. It is Canada’s team. And they take that emotion to the next level to sell and activate sponsorships. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s CIBC Run for the Cure does the same. With 100% employee engagement in the cause combined with over 175,000 participants on a single day annually, this event links emotion with sponsorship—and it is truly done right.

In May, I attended the Rotary District 5360 Conference in Canmore, Alberta. I expected the same old group of speakers and sponsors. I took my wife and daughter so I could “get away” if it was boring. Most (not all) of these conferences have been pretty low key and not very innovative. This year’s event and a few others in the past were designed to be different. This one was surely different.

On Saturday morning (after a very late and fun evening the night before), the room was filled with 400 Rotarians and another 90 youth comprised of Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) students aged 15-18 and Rotary Exchange Students from around the world. They were ready to be engaged. The keynote address was delivered by Craig Kielburger who, at the age of 12, co-founded the Free the Children Foundation in 1995. He engaged the audience. He moved the room. Actually, the room shook like an earthquake! When he announced that his innovative “We to Me” social enterprise event is coming to Calgary in October 2012, the room rocked! Here is a young man who evokes passion and does amazing work. He is positive and upbeat. He delivers results. His organization makes a difference. He went from delivering a keynote to facilitating several hours of workshops with Rotarians, RYLA students, and Rotary Exchange students. He showed how young people (Rotary calls them “new generation”) and those with experience (read people over 50) can work together and brainstorm to make a difference in today’s world. It was amazing!

The following day, Rotarian Geoff Hughes from the Rotary Club of Calgary South and chair of the District RYLA program, supported by his mentor Rotarian and past chair of the RYLA program Dan Doherty from the Rotary Club of Calgary West, delivered an equally, if not more,  moving experience for the room of Rotarians and students. With the direction and learning from Craig Kielburger the day before and with his hands-on support, the RYLA students chose about eight projects for which they wanted to make a difference. The students then migrated to those groups to plan and brainstorm how they, little old grade 11 students, could make a real difference in the world as Craig had done back in 1995.

Each group presented its outcomes on Sunday morning. There was a group that wanted to make a difference by educating youth about cancer. This group started with a student talking about his reasons for wanting to make a difference. He had a grandparent who had died of cancer. Another student had a parent or sibling die of cancer. Then a student who is a cancer survivor spoke about her experience. She was followed by another. They went on to talk about how they will educate, what they need to do and why. There was a group on abuse and others on bullying—all the topics we as adults try to deal with daily. The session ran over by an hour. No one left their seat. Many cried. Others wept silently. The audience was truly moved. Many people rose to pledge from $500 to $5000 cash in support of the youth’s projects, offer printing services or other support.

What an experience! And how does this relate to sponsorships? Very easily. Sponsorship is about linking emotion with marketing. It is more than a stagnant sign or audio message. It is about human interaction and linking audiences with brands through emotion. The brand that stood out for me at this Rotary District Conference was SERVUS Credit Union. SERVUS stepped up to be a year-long sponsor of District 5360 (from Red Deer south to the US border, Banff to Kindersley and Swift Current) as it is of District 5370 (northern Alberta). Typically, they got a logo (eventually) on the district web site. They got some exposure, but overall as far as I am concerned, Rotary did a poor job of delivering and fulfilling on this sponsorship. Too many things were missed.

Then came the district conference in Canmore. SERVUS was front and centre. Its brand was there. They had activated on it and had senior staff in attendance. WOW!. Being associated with Craig Kielburger was amazing and way more than SERVUS could have asked for. They were the presenting sponsor of his keynote and sessions. Being associated with the RYLA experience on Sunday morning was the icing on the cake. SERVUS had the opportunity to truly be a part of something that will remain in the minds of this group of 400 people for a long time. Those at the conference will remember that SERVUS was a part of the event, and that they and their investment made it all happen. There is no amount of money that could buy what SERVUS received in brand awareness, but more importantly, in brand association and affinity with an emotional experience. They were linked to Craig, the students, and the international brand of Rotary.

That was a great investment with amazing ROI!

These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

Brent Barootes

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