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There is a growing number of sponsored events where the company name can be artfully and subliminally etched upon the public’s collective conscience. But increasingly sponsorship deals are not just about publicity, they are also about aligning your own company values with something you believe in or getting involved with your local community. And the ways of doing so are becoming increasingly innovative.
Take financial services company Skandia. For a number of years Skandia has sponsored Cowes Week — an annual week-long regatta of sailing and yacht racing. In 2012 the company is building on its association in the public eye with sailing and has decided to sponsor the British sailing team competing throughout 2012 and in this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic classes.
Skandia’s sponsorship not only covers the costs of the Skandia Team GBR, but also the team’s individual sailors’ expenses as well as the UK’s own Olympic classes regatta, Skandia Sail for Gold. In order to maximise publicity, Skandia has added a new member to this year’s sailing team — Felix, the peregrine falcon. Felix has been taken on to ensure the sailors get a good night’s sleep by scaring away noisy seagulls. In terms of added publicity, Felix has already appeared on YouTube where viewers can watch his endeavours, as well as those of the GBR team.
But while million pound sponsorship budgets are often out of reach for most companies, smaller scale opportunities can equally make an impact with some careful planning and alignment. This can be as small as fielding a team at a sporting event, hosting a drinks reception or sponsoring a local community event.
Chartered accountancy firm Mazars takes a number of approaches with its sponsorship programmes. On a smaller scale the firm fields teams in sporting events. This year they fielded a team to compete in the Super Rugby Sevens series, in which they were successful. On a larger scale, Mazars is one of the sponsors of the global entrepreneurial programme, Your Big Year, and lead sponsor of Scotland's first international crime writing festival, Bloody Scotland.
So what are the considerations a company needs to take into account when deciding on a sponsorship programme? Mazars Scotland’s Managing Partner Peter Jibson explains that as well as looking at your available budget, available resources and business expectations, it is important you believe in what you are sponsoring. These were important drivers in the company’s decision to sponsor Bloody Scotland, which is to run between 14-16 September of this year.
“Clearly the first objective of a sponsor is to raise awareness of their brand. However, if this can be coupled with an event or activity which engages their team and benefits the community, then it becomes a far more powerful proposition and a win-win situation for all involved. This is also a great opportunity for us all to be involved in an initiative which will enhance the Scottish 'brand' — events like this attract a huge amount of positive attention and really showcase what we have to offer as a country, both creatively and in the business arena.”
Publishing is also a sector in which Mazars is involved in as a firm and so this provides direct alignment with a business activity. This is important, as it means the company is able to get involved with the organisers right from the start to help evolve and achieve its potential.
Tony Treacy, Marketing and Communications Director with Mazars, agrees that sponsoring an activity or event that is aligned with a company’s values is important, along with the ability to leverage connections. He is running the company’s sponsorship programme, Your Big Year. This is a global competition established to appoint an entrepreneurial ambassador who is travelling the world participating in entrepreneurship projects for a year — a sector Mazars is committed to.
For this particular programme, Mazars’ sponsorship benefits from a global platform as Your Big Year is a project involving Smaller Earth and the world renowned Kauffman Foundation. “Your Big Year as a global movement links us to other events and initiatives, such as the Global Entrepreneurship Week. It also provides Mazars with opportunities to link with a number of academic organisations in the UK and internationally which gives us access to a broader audience in a number of countries that the winner of the competition, Ugandan Charles Batte, is visiting over the 12 months,” confirms Treacy.
Aligning sponsorship programmes with something interesting that a company also believes in has further benefits, as Jibson confirms. “The sponsorship has been really well received internally and the feeling is that it's fantastic we're doing something a little more 'brave' and left-field and getting away from the usual sponsorship of black tie dinners and business events. Bloody Scotland offers the team something to really get their teeth into. It’s both interesting and challenging and should have a lasting impact and become an important event in the Scottish literary calendar.”
Bloody Scotland will take place in the Barcelo Stirling Highland Hotel between 14 and 16 September 2012 with headline events in the Albert Halls and masterclasses on the University of Stirling Campus. This ambitious festival will include the first Scottish Crime Awards and sessions on forensic technology, morality, e-books and a 'Dragon's Pen'. Ian Rankin and Val McDermid will appear as two of the Festival's leading lights. For more information on Bloody Scotland or to register visit www.bloodyscotland.com
For more information on Your Big Year see here
Successful sponsorship should never simply be a matter of handing over cash. It’s about knowing what you want from the relationship and allowing time for it to work.
Leading Mazars’ Your Big Year project, Marketing and Communications Director Tony Treacy’s first tip for companies embarking on sponsorship is don’t view such an endeavour as a single activity. “It should be part of a programme of things, that provide opportunities to deepen client relationships, meet and talk to new clients and produce and ‘transmit’ communication to a broad audience.”
Mazars Scotland Managing Partner Peter Jibson said there was a clear sense of what his office wanted to achieve from its sponsorship of Bloody Scotland, the inaugural crime literature festival taking place this September. “Our sponsorship of Bloody Scotland is about raising the profile of Mazars in Scotland. The festival has already attracted a high level of media attention both nationally and internationally.
“Being the headline sponsor, Mazars’ name is associated with every element of the festival. Such sponsorship positioning means the company is referenced on every piece of marketing literature, press material as well as on the Bloody Scotland website/social media and at festival events.”
So what kind of return is Jibson anticipating for the company’s financial layout which includes hosting an evening reception to be attended by prominent authors as well as Mazars’ own guests? “As with any marketing initiative, one seeks to do a cost-benefit analysis and although it is often difficult to assess, it is likely that we have already recouped the sponsorship cost in positive publicity for Mazars.”
Unpacking the publicity gained, Jibson confirms that the Mazars name has appeared “regularly” since the launch of its Bloody Scotland sponsorship, from Scottish TV to the Scotsman to the Sunday Herald. Given that the festival's media partner is the Daily Record, Mazars has continued to be frequently referenced among all of its coverage as well. “Our continuing association with Bloody Scotland will serve us well and is already being seen by others as a shrewd PR investment.”
Embarking on a sponsorship programme is, however, no small undertaking. Both Treacy and Jibson have found from experience that to maximise the benefits, such ventures must be given time to prove themselves. “To help Bloody Scotland realise its potential and to achieve our continuing objective of raising our profile in Scotland, we intend to continue our sponsorship for at least the next two years after this,” confirms Jibson.
Treacy supports this length of sponsorship involvement. “A one-off sponsorship provides 'hospitality', which is very short-lived. So to make the most of an investment, it requires planning, time and resources. I would say plan for the mid-term (or long-term) not the short-term.”