Authentic Sponsorships For Brands: It’s About More Than Just Your Logo

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Sponsorships are everywhere. Brands are constantly on the hunt for celebrities and influencers to sponsor, and the reverse is also true. Sponsorships come and go, not only because of complications but because the brands don’t receive the anticipated benefits within an acceptable time frame.

Brands sponsor because they think/believe/hope the sponsorship will ultimately help their bottom line. That’s it. The bottom line may be helped directly by a boost in sales, or indirectly as a result of increased exposure or heightened image. Regardless, it all comes down to the bottom line.

What Makes a Sponsorship Benefit the Bottom Line?

According to Dr. T. Bettina Cornwell, Professor, and Head of the Department of Marketing at the University of Oregon, authenticity is the key to a successful, beneficial sponsorship. Cornwell has written extensively about effective (and non-effective) corporate sponsorship.

Brands are no longer satisfied with logo placement as the central value of sponsorship and are no longer willing to accept prepackaged property asset bundles […] consumers are becoming wary of ubiquitous sponsorships and the commercialization of so many spheres of life.

Dr. T. Bettina Cornwell, 2019

She proposed a “sponsorship engagement model based on authenticity” that would leverage authentic corporate-sponsor relationships to boost consumer engagement with the corporate brand.

Cornwell’s 2019 paper builds on a 2014 paper, Corporate sponsorship as an image platform: understanding the roles of relationship fit and sponsor–sponsee similarity, co-written with Dr. Ravi Pappu, Marketing Professor at the University of Queensland.

Pappu and Cornwell argued for a “goodness of fit” model where “similarity interacts with fit when conditions evoke suspicion or disrupt typical inferences regarding sponsorship relationships. Interaction is particularly important when the sponsor seeks to develop its image by association with a cause and is also of consequence for the cause in terms of its branding.”

In other words, a brand that is invested in health probably shouldn’t sponsor a fast-food company — they used Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Red Cross as an example of just such a poor fit between brand image and sponsor image.

This isn’t a trivial concern. In 2018, more than $24 billion was spent on sponsorships in North America alone, with the worldwide total exceeding $65 billion (according to IEG’s 2018 sponsorship report).

Cornwell and others have been part of a growing trend that recognizes the modern consumer’s desire for an authentic experience as a driving force behind successful sponsorships. This is just more than simple exposure, ROI, or attitude. The driving factor is engagement, which requires a somewhat different mindset to create, measure, and evaluate.

Creating consumer engagement begins with thinking about the characteristics of both the brand and the potential sponsor. Do they align, or are they in conflict? If the characteristics naturally align there’s the potential for an engaging relationship between the two.

Establish Measurable Goals for the Sponsorship

Is it to have more people know about the brand? Attend sponsored events? Change attitudes on a topic? Be concrete and specific at this stage. Unmeasurable goals are (almost always) unrealistic, unobtainable goals, and should be avoided when exploring potential sponsorships.

Finally, after a set time, typically one year, measure your outcomes and compare them to the goals you set. Use these measured outcomes to determine the effectiveness of the sponsorship, and whether it needs to be continued, adjusted, or abandoned.

At Jexan, we’re experts in helping you determine the goodness of fit between your desired brand image and potential sponsors. We can help you create a marketing plan that builds successful consumer engagement with authenticity, and set up measurable goals to assess the effectiveness of our strategy.

Whatever your marketing needs, Jexan’s team is here to make your companies dream a reality!

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