Just about everything that could conceivably be sponsored has been monetised – television programmes, concerts, books, awards, charity events, buildings, venues and sports just to name a few. All sizes of organisations are constantly seeking out sponsorship opportunities which can provide tangible benefits in the pursuit of their overall business goals. Major companies will look at high-profile sporting events, with the possibility of extensive media coverage, as a potential means of gaining significant advances in brand awareness. Smaller companies will look to support local events as a means of gaining goodwill in their own community.
Generating Brand Awareness
Awareness of a sponsor’s brand can be increased through the publicity of the event or entity they are supporting – through advertising, media coverage, or as a result of people attending the specific event. Small businesses can use sponsorship to increase awareness of what they are doing in the local community, for example by supporting a local Tidy Towns group. Larger organisations can put their brand at the heart of the action by sponsoring a high-profile sports team, with the potential for exposure to audiences of millions. Sponsorship can provide a much broader reach than advertising, with the potential for far more longevity if the right opportunity is chosen.
Sponsorship provides an organisation with a means of positioning itself, e.g. high-end companies will want to associate themselves with elite groups in order to convey exclusivity. It can also help to reposition a company that is undergoing change. A brand may be looking to target a new audience. For example, a soft drinks company may want to reinforce the healthy nature of their sugar-free products and will use sponsorship of an athletics event as a way to create a positive disposition towards them from a health-conscious audience.
Sponsorship provides organisations with exciting opportunities for engagement, particularly in the area of corporate relationship building. The benefits derived from a high-profile sponsorship can extend to behind-the-scenes access to certain events for a sponsor and their own chosen clients. This provides organisations with a unique upper-hand when it comes to cultivating important business relationships. For example, sponsors of the GAA All-Ireland Hurling Championship may have an allocation of tickets for the All-Ireland final, and the opportunity to invite guests to experience corporate hospitality at Croke Park.
Sponsorships give organisations a chance to underline their CSR credentials. All organisations can make claims about the causes and initiatives that they support, but by sponsoring events or promotions that align with their CSR values, an organisation can secure for itself a tangible credential in that chosen area. A good example of this was the work that Wilson Hartnell and Diageo Ireland did in leveraging its sponsorship of the Union Cup in 2019 – Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ rugby competition. The iconic St. James’s Gate was painted in the colours of the LFBTQ+ rainbow flag. It marked the first time that the gate was painted anything other than black, and allowed Guinness to display its support for inclusivity in society.
In the same way that sponsorship can be used to foster a positive disposition from external stakeholders towards a brand, it can also be used to boost employee morale within an organisation. For internal stakeholders, there can be a level of pride attached to being associated with events or causes that align with their own values. An added benefit of this is that it helps create a positive disposition towards the organisation in the minds of future employees. For example, a pharmaceutical company sponsoring an event which aims to underline the importance of women working in STEM. Existing employees will be proud that their employer is supporting a cause that they believe in, whilst potential employees will be drawn to an organisation that is leading the way in gender equality in the workplace.
Organisations invest in sponsorship to establish their credibility with their target market. For this practice to be effective, there needs to be an organic link in terms of similar goals, values, and vision, between the sponsor and the beneficiary of the sponsorship. One that makes sense to the public. The Irish Sponsorship Industry Outlook 2021 prepared by ONSIDE estimates that the Irish sponsorship market is expected to grow by 7% in 2021, valuing it at €182m. The opportunities for Irish organisations to engage in sponsorship campaigns have never been stronger, but it is important that sponsors go into an opportunity fully informed, and prepared to conduct effective evaluation to allow for adaptability during the partnership.