Wednesday, 5 March 2014

5 Big Sponsorship Trends to Watch for in 2014

The sponsorship landscape is rapidly changing. It’s also one of the few mediums experiencing year-over-year growth, with the Internet marketing showing the highest increase in marketing budget allocation. While sponsorship marketing accounts for up to 22% of corporate marketing budgets, getting the money is more difficult than ever due to the number of organizations competing for the same dollars and the increased sophistication of the value proposition that companies require before parting with their marketing dollars.

Here are 5 Trends that will have an impact on the association sponsorship sector in 2014 and how you need to shift your thinking to remain relevant:

Increased Focus on the Customization of Sponsorship Benefits Packages

Generic sponsorship packages will make way for customized proposals as companies become more focused on achieving their objectives and less concerned about “fitting into the boxes” created for them through these generic offerings.

Associations will need to be more nimble in listening to sponsor prospects and developing solutions-based proposals that respond to specific objectives. As well, any pre-set sponsor benefits packages should be positioned as baseline benefits and include a statement that leaves the door open for a certain level of customization depending on the prospects’ specific objectives.

Increased Focus on Sponsorship Activation

More emphasis will be placed by companies on leveraging their sponsorship through some form of “activation” that demonstrates brand attributes in a unique way and/or engages the audience at a meaningful level.  This is in sharp contrast to the old days when companies gave you money in exchange for some soft visibility opportunities (think banners and logos).

Successful associations will do a better job at presenting creative activation opportunities as part of their sponsorship offerings and encouraging sponsors to leverage their sponsorship in ways that engage audiences and add value to the customer experience.

Less Emphasis on the “Metal Levels”

The Gold, Silver, Bronze hierarchy could be dying a slow death as companies become less concerned about sponsorship levels and more concerned about value for dollar. With increased customization and activation, the levels are just not as important as they were perceived to be; and besides, there is certainly no evidence to suggest that a “gold” level sponsorship is looked upon more favourably than a silver or bronze level.

Associations will need to change their mindset on how they package their sponsorship opportunities and start thinking about how different sponsors can “own” distinct properties within a larger context and excel at leveraging that property to achieve specific objectives.

Increased Focus on Content Distribution

With over 27 million pieces of content shared daily, the trend towards sharing branded content is soaring upwards for 2014 with an estimated 40% of companies indicating that they will be increasing their efforts in this area in the coming year. Furthermore, 72% of these marketers say branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine, and 69% say it is superior to direct mail and PR.

Any way you look at it, "content marketing" is something you'll hear a lot about in 2014.

An effective sponsorship will provide opportunities for companies to share branded content with a property's target audience through a variety of mediums such as articles in publications, newsletters, web site, social media channels and even onsite demonstrations and sampling opportunities. Associations need to position their sponsorship opportunity as a conduit to a highly targeted, engaged audience that will help a company build their audience quicker and at less cost than doing it on their own.

Integration with Social Media

Increasingly, companies are looking to engage with customers through the sponsored property’s social media channels as a form of cost-effective activation. Despite the huge shift to online marketing, I’m amazed at the number of not-for-profit organizations that still do not even provide a link from their web site to a sponsor site.

Associations need to start leveraging social media channels as part of their own business strategy and break down some of the barriers for sponsors to start leveraging a property’s online assets.

The bottom line for 2014 is that sponsor-seeking organizations will need to become more responsive than ever, to the specific needs of sponsorship clients and will need to get more creative in helping these clients engage with audiences in new ways. Associations that stick their old ways of doing things could easily find themselves on the outside looking in.

This post was provided by Bernie Colterman, Managing Partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM).  Check out their line-up for the 2014 MARCOM Professional Development Forum, this coming June.

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