How to Win in the Game of Sponsorships, Product Placements, and Endorsements

Throwing money at an event sponsorship, product placement, or endorsement won't help boost your business unless you are thoughtful about these three things. Sponsorships, endorsements, and product placements have become a staple in marketing budgets. Whether motivated by making a positive impact through a nonprofit event sponsorship or spurred by hopes of making it big by getting your product “in the right hands,” marketing has its place and time.

Roughly $380 million was spent on Super Bowl ads this year, and more than $4.5 billion has been dished out for Super Bowl ads during the past 50 years, according to Ad Age. The men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, known as March Madness, generates more than $1 billion in television advertising these days. While most of us don’t have superstar advertising budgets (or aspirations), it beckons a great question—for what do you, or your business, want to be known?

Like it or not, every marketing dollar you spend on behalf of your business is either boosting your fan base, getting you “booed” out of the game, or missing the mark and leaving with your target audience completely oblivious. That said, whether your marketing budget for 2016 is $500 or $500,000, here are three tips to ensure that your advertising actions align with your personal and professional intentions:

  1. Be clear about your expectations. Sponsoring a little league team might make you feel good, but are you reaching your target audience through the sponsorship? Sure, there’s something to be said for supporting nonprofits and community organizations that make a difference. However, if you aren’t clear about what you hope to get out of the sponsorship, don’t hold unrealistic expectations. A car dealership might benefit greatly from a little league sponsorship given that people ages 25-60 are in their target market, whereas a human resources consultant might be better served through a chamber of commerce sponsorship where he can reach the decision-makers of corporations.
  2. Take Ownership Of Your Sponsorship or Product Placement. If you choose to sponsor an event or have your product associated with a certain organization, person, lifestyle, or event, you need to be selective. There is much to gain through brand recognition, but there is also much to lose. One of my favorite examples of the balance that must be played comes from running road races. Every electrolyte drink and “power fuel” in the market wants to capitalize on a herd of thirsty, freebie-loving, record-craving runners. Yet, one tiny misstep can send brands and products back to the training fields. During a half marathon last year, an electrolyte drink company provided endless beverages to runners (including me, who was more than happy to get something other than water after mile 5). The issue, however, was that their beverage was completely watered down—needless to say, I have no desire to try it again. Was this an error on the company’s part? Maybe. But it also could have been an issue with whoever was mixing the beverage at the race. Had the company taken time to either provide detailed instructions to the people preparing the beverage or had their staff members onsite to prepare the beverage, things might have gone differently. Unfortunately, I, along with the many other runners who dumped out the electrolyte drink after just one sip, won’t be purchasing the product. Talk about thousands of dollars in sponsorship money—as well as potential customer profits—down the drain.
  3. Be True to Your Brand. As much as you might want to sponsor the upcoming wine festival or have your product placed at the next big football rivalry game, take a step back and ask yourself, “Does this align with my brand values and goals?” If your brand is built around healthy choices, sponsoring a pie-eating contest will only confuse your consumers, not entice them to buy your product or service. You might personally love bargains and “getting more than you pay for,” but if your organization’s brand is built around quality, high-end solutions that cost a premium, it doesn’t make sense to get your product featured in a neighborhood garage sale flier. Sure, you might like seeing your product placement when you are looking for your next “steal,” but chances are high that your ideal customers won’t be browsing through the penny ads.



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