Understanding the Purpose of Sponsorship – Experiential Marketing

Understanding the Purpose of Sponsorship – Experiential Marketing

For many of us, yesterday was a holiday. Many spent the time making memories with family. For some, it might have been at the beach or cottage. For others, it was a road trip. For others like us, it was a big backyard BBQ with friends and family. All these activities have something in common—there produce memories. Hopefully, they are good memories like smiles and laughter and not bad ones like burned food, a flat tire, sickness, or injury. We do our best to make happy memories for our families and friends.

So why do we fail to do this with our experiential marketing plans and strategies? Why do we focus our sponsorship investments on signage and social tracking? I believe we often miss the boat as a brand (and properties let it happen because they don’t have the insight or sometimes just the guts to speak up for what a brand should be doing). Our sponsorships and their activations are based on predetermined ROI measurements (see the last three weeks of TMCs) that focus on traffic counts, follows, and sales. But they fail to understand what experiential/sponsorship marketing is all about! Yes, those measurements are critical to bottom-line success (be it single, double, or triple bottom lines), but we need to use this marketing channel for that which it was designed and delivers the best outcomes for any bottom line.

Sponsorship is about interacting with audiences. It is about making them feel good about your brand/property and that what the brand/property is doing for you is beyond what you “paid admission” for. It is about how that brand and property make you feel while you are doing what you came to do. It is about that brand and property making great memories from the experience that will remain over the long term and resonate with you when you are making purchasing decisions.

If you were at a concert (be it a single show or three-day event) this weekend with your partner or friends, you went to have fun. You went to spend time and create memories with them, to hear the music and share the experience. You did not go for the messaging from the beer sponsor. You did not go to be solicited by a financial institution. You did not go to be told how great one grocery store is over another. Why then do we build our activation brands to achieve those goals—build activation plans that will not create great memories, but rather experiences that interrupt why we came to the concert? Why would we not create experiences and activations that enhance great memories and experiences, such as sampling that is fun (versus just a long line up) and promotes the beer or grocery store products? Or has a place for you and your friends to take a great selfie or Insta-shot to share? Why would we not provide an outdoor washroom experience that people thank your brand for making so much cleaner, sanitary, and accessible? Why would we not run activations that provide shade from a beating sun or cover from unexpected rain? These things create memories that will be positively remembered versus the others.

Some of you may have taken a family trip to the local zoo or water park. Again, you did not go there to be marketed to. You went for the family experience—to create wonderful memories that you will cherish forever. Those are the opportunities that brands and properties are engaging activation around. Like “breakfast with the monkeys” or pictures with Harry Potter at the Harry Potter water slide. Activation should provide added value to the experience that makes the memory even better than planned. That is when the brand and the property both win.

As a brand, when you plan your next activation, think about how it will enhance the users’ experience and make it memorable, or more memorable. As a property, be creative, work with the brand to enhance the users’ experience so they will come back to your property and walk away thinking of your sponsor!

If you are interested in learning more about activations that deliver results and case studies of great activations, register today for the WSC – Alberta Forum. At this event, you will engage with and learn from leaders who see the new world and are making it happen!

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  1. Love this TMC and its relevancy! Couldn’t agree more – we have all been to events where we feel distracted and disrupted by vendors and brands trying to sell you something (don’t make eye contact!).

    I still remember a Ribfest event in 2018 where we got free wet wipes from Klenex and the rotary members helped hand them out. (I needed more than 1!)

    • Josh, exactly… enhance the experience to make it better (like less sticky fingers at a ribfest! You are there to eat and savor not get a credit card!


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