Why sponsorship fails to get you the brand recognition your investment deserves

Many companies see event sponsorship as an effective way to build brand visibility as well as a valuable opportunity to network with prospects.

The reality…

A recent survey by The Hinge Research Institute of 1,200 managers and C-suite professionals across a range of industries revealed that sponsorships and the associated networking events were the least effective ways to influence referrals. They found that less than one percent of respondents heard about the companies through sponsorship, and only 3.4% found networking events effective for finding and recommending companies.

Why doesn’t sponsorship work?

Let me ask you this, the last event you attended…who was the main sponsor? You might remember if the event was named after the company, but who else, and what do they do?

As a sponsor, you may get to have your logo on anything from lanyards to the main podium. While this will contribute to your brand awareness on the day, it does very little to convey your value proposition. Your brand is nothing but another image in a busy environment, cram packed with messaging and information. Your signage has little value if the individuals who see it have no idea what you do.

What can you do differently?

As a sponsor, at least try to secure a speaking opportunity. Do not give a sales pitch but demonstrate how you work with similar companies and the benefits you bring. Present a case study, or talk about how you approach and solve certain problems for the audience. At the very least, get a space in the event program that allows the audience the opportunity to learn more about what you can do.

How does your audience discover your brand?

Essentially your aim should be to put your brand under the noses of your key audience. The golden chalice is the referral, but how can someone recommend you if they don’t know who you are or what you do?

1. Make the most of your brand assets

What does your company already have that you can use? Did you know the best source of referrals is demonstrable expertise, which is essentially how ‘famous’ individual experts are within your company.

Your industry experts can generate visibility by speaking at events and publishing thought-leading content, both on and offline. All of their knowledge and passion will be associated with your brand.

2. Get them social – people buy people

The study referenced above found that the best relationships combine both social and professional interactions. That said, it also found that social relationships had little effect on referrals if there was a lack of associated knowledge or expertise.

3. Make the most of your content

New on-site content drives new readers to your site. It also keeps your existing readers and customers engaged with your brand.

Enable new audiences to discover your brand by pitching your story to third-party sites, like leading trade publications – and ask for a link back to your site.  

On-site and off-site content will help increase your visibility in search. A recent report from Google confirmed that two of the top three ranking factors were content and inbound links.

Target influencers in your industry. These could be established thought leaders or someone you hold in high esteem and has a good reputation in your sector. Why not work on a paper together, or ask them to comment on your content?

Finally, tell your engaged audience what you have been doing, email subscribers, followers and fans. There are a plethora of marketing platforms that can automate email sends; you just need to load in the content.

The above tactics of amplifying your content to enable discovery are essentially the bare bones of an inbound marketing strategy. It is the clear winner for discovering and demonstrating expertise – not to mention building brand visibility and communicating value.

So, the next time you think splashing the cash on a sponsorship opportunity, consider investing in content and PR for a better return on your marketing spend.