April 13, 2006 – Businesses in search of branding opportunities and sponsorship events can work together in such a way as to benefit both entities – it just takes a little creativity, Dr. Lance Kinney said at an Advertising Club of the Virgin Islands luncheon held Thursday at the Palms Court Harborview Hotel.
Addressing Ad Club members and representatives from many of the district's smaller businesses, Kinney – an associate professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa – used this idea to talk about event sponsorship strategies and tactics, including how companies can select which events to sponsor and how to connect consumers to a certain product or brand so that it helps build both the event and the sponsor.
Kinney defined event sponsorship as a way for a brand to interact, whether through money – where brands can buy their way into an event – or through in-kind involvement, where potential sponsors can assist events through donations. He said both strategies allow the company who set up the event to get a return on their investment, which, in turn, helps to publicize and promote the sponsor.
He gave clear examples of mainland brands such as Wendy's, which affiliate themselves with worldwide events like the Winter Olympics, and companies such as Federal Express, which align themselves with events like Nascar Racing by projecting a message of speed, safety, and reliability. "Where else are you going to get those things other than at Nascar?" Kinney asked.
Kinney explained that potential sponsors for an event should clearly outline how their product communicates the interest of the brand, and should prepare things like slogans, jingles, or any other type of media strategy where information about the event could be delivered. "You have to think of images which will live in the mind of the consumer," he said.
Building on that idea, Kinney said sponsors should also be prepared to show how their brand or product reflects the event. "Pepsi Cola is the official drink of the University of Alabama," Kinney said. "And in Alabama — where it is as hot as the day is long and fans pack into a stadium seven times a year — when they get thirsty, they're buying Pepsi Cola," he said.
Potential brand sponsors should also think about building an emotional connection with the consumer, and looking at the scope of an event so that it balances a sponsor's budget with the event's target market.
"Look at the Olympics," Kinney said. "There are about 12 brands in the world linked with the Olympic program, and they're brands that are ubiquitous across the world – like Nike or Coca-Cola. A business from the Virgin Islands wouldn't sponsor an event like that."
Kinney further stressed the importance of "brand-event congruity" in which brands are either actively used at events or are associated with events. He said in some cases, there are even companies who pair brand with a worthy cause, so that every time a consumer buys a certain product, a percentage of the cost goes toward a charity.
Protecting your brand against competitors is also important, Kinney said. "You have to freeze out competition," he explained. "Ask for a clean venue, where your signs will be the only ones up. Buy out available air time so that competitors don't sneak in, and also launch sponsor appreciation campaigns."
During a question-and-answer round, Kinney also outlined how smaller businesses could attract larger companies to advertise with them, along with how businesses could obtain sponsorship from various local businesses to promote and organize events.
"I run a small arts organization, and it's very hard to get sponsorship from bigger corporations and companies," Ruth Prager, executive director of the Tillett Foundation, told Kinney. She added that the foundation – through Arts Alive, a local nonprofit organization – put on a few small concerts annually, along with arts and crafts fairs. "And I would really like to be able to go into business and ask for $5,000 to sponsor a festival."
Kinney said that nonprofits, smaller businesses, and less well-known brands always have to work harder to get corporate sponsorship. In such cases, these entities have to effectively lay out their image and persuade the larger companies that "you're offering something they can't buy with advertising."
He also suggested that Prager make regional connections by reaching out to other arts organizations in the Caribbean and cosponsoring various groups and events.
"There's a way to do this," he said. "Just be creative."
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