How to Win at Community Sponsorships

By Kandi O’Connor

Up your local marketing game with winning community sponsorships.

How much did your bank spend on community sponsorships last year? Besides the feel-good benefit and the opportunity to fulfill community reinvestment obligations, what kind of return did that investment generate for your local branches and the bank overall? How many of those sponsorships will you reinvest in again in 2017 and why? If you are struggling to answer any of these questions with some level of specificity, it may be time to rethink your bank’s community sponsorship programs—from strategy to budget management to execution and results measurement.

Sponsorships offer a powerful way for your local branches to build relationships and visibility in the communities you serve.

Sponsorships are effective because supporting local sports teams, charitable causes, the arts, and other cultural organizations puts your brand in front of the customers and prospects you most want to reach at the local level.

Of course, the value of community sponsorships is not news to marketers. In North America alone, sponsorship spending is expected to increase 4.1% in 2017, growing from $22.3 billion in 2016 to $23.2 billion this year.

While we can all appreciate the upside of local sponsorships—both for sponsoring businesses and their nonprofit partners—not every sponsorship dollar is well spent. For multi-location businesses like banks, local sponsorships can present a number of challenges—from lack of a clear strategy or budget oversight, to improper representation of the bank’s brand, to underestimating resources needed for execution. These sorts of missteps can undermine your organization’s ability to achieve the full potential of community sponsorships.

So how do you ensure your investment in sponsorships is well placed in terms of its ability to generate desired results? Further, how do you ensure you can support local sponsorships in a way that makes sense from both an economic and feasibility standpoint?

Here are some recommendations for overcoming common sponsorship challenges so you can support your local branch marketing teams in executing effective community sponsorships.

1. Establish goals and guidelines to ensure success.

There are many reasons why community sponsorships fall short of expectations. Sometimes the relationship simply doesn’t make sense strategically, like a neighborhood bank sponsoring the softball team of the local pawn shop. Other times, sponsorships are entered into by local representatives who commit to a partnership without a valid strategy or objective. They may have a personal connection to an organization that isn’t an appropriate fit for your brand. Or they may choose to fulfill sponsorship opportunities by using home grown materials that are not brand compliant.

Avoid investing in pointless and brand-eroding opportunities by developing guidelines for your local marketing teams—and urge them to define goals for each sponsorship. It’s important to communicate with your local branch representatives about choosing sponsorship opportunities wisely, considering appropriate resources, and defining measures of success. At a minimum, have your local reps verify that your organization fulfills a clear need of the consumers they will be reaching through their sponsorship.

2. Eliminate chances for going rogue.

Once you are in sync regarding the right types of sponsorships, it’s a matter of executing wisely. Prevent “rogue” activity by creating processes and compliant templated materials that branch representatives can easily customize. These would include:

  • Flyers
  • Promotional items
  • Logos
  • Advertisements

Make sure these items can be quickly and cost-effectively resized for community newspapers, event programs, newsletters and websites. Keep processes simple for easy execution by branch staff. Be sure to involve them in the process. And always track what you and your local teams are doing. Data from past sponsorships can help support future decisions.

3. Get a handle on budget and fulfillment management.

It can be overwhelming to manage sponsorship requests from multiple branch locations, particularly for bank marketers who also have to be concerned with regulatory compliance issues. By automating the sponsorship request and approval process, you can manage the workflow from request through fulfillment, including compliance approval, budget approval and tracking, and calculating ROI.

4. Elevate your local sponsorship game.

If you really want to up the ROI on community sponsorships, you have to commit to being more than just the “official partner” of an event or organization. Encourage your branch representatives to find ways to engage supporters to build more meaningful relationships. Consider partnering with organizations that offer opportunities for long-term involvement. And don’t miss out on ways to integrate the sponsorship with other communications channels.

Engage your local teams on more thoughtful and automated management of community sponsorships. They will be better positioned and motivated to engage with their local communities, which will lead to a greater overall success of your sponsorship programs.

Kandi O’Connor is COO of Vya, a provider of simplified marketing systems that solve local marketing challenges for marketers in banking and finance, insurance, franchising and manufacturing. Email: [email protected].