Do your sponsorship relationships look like a one-night stand or a long-term commitment?

We all know that times are tough. Of course, now more than ever, businesses must watch every penny they spend, but with the right communications strategy, there’s much to be gained through deepening your sponsorship partnerships rather than culling them as part of your post Covid-19 business strategy. 

Sponsorship is a privilege and a gift. Businesses who forge an authentic relationship can and should approach it as such. 

In times of financial distress, usually the first thing the accountants cut is the marketing budget.  However, before drawing a red line through your sponsorship numbers, consider the future. Long term affiliation with a like-minded cause can be akin to gardening. Every season your attention is needed to ensure the ground is fertile when it comes to reaping the rewards. Protecting and nurturing your relationship will have long term benefits for your brand – through the good times and the bad times.

Sponsorships should be an expression of your corporate values. Whether it is a charitable cause, an industry aligned event or supporting arts and culture, sponsorships help businesses to express themselves and connect on the ground. For employees, being part of that journey can help cement their own alignment with values, goals and purpose. (Hey it’s much more meaningful than a poster in the lunch room). While now may be an employer’s market, long term retention of staff who align with your company’s values is still gold and worthy of consideration in the context of your sponsorship strategy.

The events industry in New Zealand like so many others is facing an uncertain future. Many iconic events around the country have been forced to hibernate for 2020. Typically, as soon as a large event packs down, the event team will start planning for the following year. Corporate sponsorship often accounts for 100 percent of their annual operational costs. One major Event Director said of his current event portfolio; “Covid-19 split sponsors into two camps. Those who have stood by their sponsorships, and taken a supportive and longer-term perspective, and those that have torn up contracts, not paid, or even asked for refunds. On the flip side, we have seen many organisations understand that their financial support is even more meaningful during these times.”

Some worthy New Zealand corporate examples of enduring sponsorship can be identified.

Westpac has a long history of successful sponsorship alignment. Westpac Rescue Choppers being their most iconic. Last year they also came on board as core sponsors of the inaugural Rainbow Excellence Awards and have pledged their continued support of the rescheduled 2020 event. Westpac is continuing to fly the rainbow flag and integrate the sentiment consistently throughout their internal culture.

Winners at the Rainbow Excellence Award

Barfoot & Thompson’s decade of support for The Blues, and Vodafone’s unwavering sponsorship of The Warriors are both firmly etched in the minds of thousands of New Zealanders; and within the cultures of those businesses. They have demonstrated their loyalty through thick and thin. 

These alignments are visible and in the public eye because those organisations are walking the talk and sticking to the long game. 

When considering sponsorship there are three steps to ensure the right fit for your business.  Do the values align with your DNA?  How can you help to support and engender community engagement? Is this a fling or a long-term commitment?

It may take a few years to reach the heights of the likes of Westpac, Barfoot & Thompson and Vodafone, but ultimately those relationships are truly partnerships and the resulting reflection in the public eye is a gaze that is held up as worthy.

For organisations that have made the decision to stick by their sponsor partners during these uncertain times I salute you. Now’s the time to take your chosen sponsor relationships to the next level and that may mean changing the way your organisation engages with your partners to better reflect their changing circumstances.

On a practical level, leveraging your sponsorship through digital PR, social media, internal comms and media relations can provide relief when budget comes into play.  Your business gets to be part of a wider story which resonates not just with external audiences but also your internal team and you have the chance to be the storyteller.

Lisa Powlesland

To find out more, visit; www.purplesherbet.co.nz

This story is part of a commercial StopPress series celebrating the ever changing PR landscape. To read more on Storyteller Month, click here.

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