Sponsorship is about interaction. It is about brands providing opportunities for fans (customers, subscribers, donors, users, or whatever you call your audience) that will enhance the experience they expected to have and build a relationship between that brand and the fan. As a season subscriber to the ballet, participant in a charity run, or parent of a high school athlete, I come for the experience (the play, the run, or the game). I pay the ticket price (be it the actual ticket, or the registration fee/time or my taxes or extra-curricular costs) and come to enjoy the experience. But if a “sponsor” can be there and make that experience even better, because thanks to the sponsor, the stage set is more elaborately, the performance centre is more comfortable, the intermission includes beer samples, ice cream, or local celebrities to chat with, then we enjoy the experience even more. And if done right, we will develop an affinity or relationship with the company that made the experience better. Sometimes, it is a conscious outcome, and sometimes a subconscious one. Nonetheless, when done right, that’s what happens.
So then, why do so many sponsors (brands) and properties fail to run activations or fail to have the brands interact with the audiences in meaningful ways? I know that before I asked my wife to marry me, I got to know her pretty well. Sponsorship is no different. The “fans” need to build a meaningful relationship with the sponsors. That could be a taste of beer that clinches it. In other cases, it may take several interactions, a visit to a web site or place of business, or a one-on-one chat before the “fan” is trustful of the sponsor and is ready to transact with them. So, how can you interact better? Here are five ideas.
1. Engage in social media. Don’t just be onsite and active. Activate online before, during, and after. Make it worthwhile. Don’t just punch out messages—engage audiences! Get them to participate in an online quiz or survey, have them share pictures or stories (with an incentive to do so), invite people to the event through your network and ask them to share their experience (again, incentivize them to do so).
2. Have relevant information and content. Whether onsite or online, be relevant. If the audience is female skewed moms under 30 with toddlers, then a car dealer promoting big diesel trucks is off base. Online, guide this audience to specific pages that are applicable to them. Tag them accordingly in your social and digital media. For instance, a Limelight Platform study illustrated that, when activations had multiple site entry methods, there was an 85% increase in engagement, and when a second language was used, they saw a 16% increase. We live in a diverse society today. Are you reaching all the people at the event you sponsored?
3. Be live and interactive. Don’t just set up a booth and expect people to flock to you. You need a reason for them to come by the booth or area. It might be flashing lights or a great offer; it might be samples or interaction gaming for people to try. Also, can you direct people to your booth? In your sponsorship program, do you get digital signage opportunities to direct people to your booth, or even static signage?
4. Once you have people at your booth, interact. Talk with them. Ask them about their overall experience at the event/show, etc. so far. What have they liked? What would they change for next year? Ask them what attracted them to your area or booth. Ask them how you can help them. Whatever you do, gain contact information somehow. It may be by asking, an entry to win a draw, playing an online game in your booth, or an address to send the picture to, etc. Get contact information.
5. Follow up. And when I say follow up, I mean personalized follow up. Sure, it can be templated, but where you can personalize (like they laughed at your joke, they spilled ice cream on you, or their son or daughter did great on a skills quiz), do so. Again, that builds the relationship. Stay in touch!
If you are going to spend money on sponsorship rights, make sure you, as a brand, have money to activate also. As a property, don’t take all the money in rights fees. Make sure the partner has budget left to activate. Then activate to engage, not just “be there.” And then follow up.
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