Smiley faces all round- but what's the benefit?
Smiley faces all round- but what's the benefit?

Smiley faces all round- but what’s the benefit?

Sponsorship, it’s something that most small businesses will do in one form or another.  Often it’s to “get the name out there”, for “exposure”, to “have my products seen” or to get “celebrity endorsements”.

If you are a new business, or in start up phase it can be very easy to jump in head first and sponsor EVERYTHING going- wow! look at all the exposure I’m getting!!  I know, I’ve done it in the past as well.  We all have.

But- if you are in those early stages of growing your busienss, or in survival mode where every dollar counts, then undertaking sponsorships may not be in your best interest.  Here’s why-


With my equestrian business, I get emails requesting sponsorship of events, riders, and shows every week.  Some are better presented than others, but they pretty much all offer the same things:

1. Announcements of my business’ sponsorship and support at the event (which no one will hear let alone be able to understand)

2. Link on the website (though often these never get done, or go to the wrong page)

3. Opportunity to put up banners (which I need to get designed, printed, and then drive hours out there to put up myself, and then collect after the event…)

4. Ad in the event program (which will be poor resolution, too dark and stretched into the wrong aspect ratio, and thrown out halfway through the day)

5. Opportunity to present the winner prizes (after waiting around in the cold all day, and having the classes swapped at last minute due to lack of numbers…)

6. Or, the worst ones that offer an “Opportunity” to sponsor an event that is catering to a completely different market to where I am focused on at the moment (seriously, did they even bother to look at my website?)


Now, you guys know I am big on knowing your ROI (return on investment) for everything in your business, so you tell me- where’s the potential ROI here?

Don’t get me wrong- I firmly believe in putting back into the community that you are a part of.  So, sponsorship purely for the feel good factor is awesome.  I do it, you should do it too.  Just don’t be expecting that ‘donation’ of your sponsorship to offer financial rewards to your business.

So, if you are undertaking sponsorship of either an individual or an event as part of your marketing strategies, then you need to be strategic about it.

That means that you need to know if you will get a ROI on your sponsorship dollars.  And THAT means cash in the bank.

NOT exposure.

NOT “it’s good for my brand”.

NOT “getting your products out there”.

That shit just doesn’t work.  No one cares these days if a top competitor is using your products.  They want to know what their friends use and recommend.  No one sees your logo at an event and thinks they need to find you on the web.  They want to know what services their friends have used and recommend.

Sponsorship can be a financial black hole- throwing in cash and products/ services in and getting nothing in return- no repeat customers, no A-class clients, no high end sales.  You may argue, I only give vouchers, so they have to come and spend with me anyway… well, I can’t tell you how many sponsorship vouchers I have given out that have never come back.  And I can’t tell you, as an organiser of an event, how annoyed prize winners are when they get a voucher for a small amount that they then have to spend more to get something of value with.  It does your busienss no favours either way.

My advice to you, is to BUDGET a certain amount per year for sponsorships.  Treat them as a feel-good factor of your busienss, giving something back to your special community.  Be generous, and don’t expect anything in return except for warm fuzzies and nice thankyou letter from the committee at the end.

Without sponsorships from small businesses like us, then many of these grass roots events and local competitors could not get by.  So by all means, keep supporting the ones you feel a real affinity with.


Here’s my tops tips for tackling sponsorships:

1. Budget for them annually, plan where you want to spend your sponsorship dollar.

2. Consider them a “donation” rather than a strategic “marketing activity”.

3. If you can, ask to send a special offer to the event’s database (or the individual’s contacts)- like a Joint Venture.  Draft up something irresistible and unique to that event, be sure it is targeted to your A-class client. This is a more effective and measurable way of leveraging your sponsorship dollar.

4. Stop sponsoring for “exposure”.  There are more targeted and effective ways of doing this that will impact your bottom line.

5. If you are entering into a sponsorship arrangement with an individual, treat it as a strategic business decision and put it in writing what you expect from the person in return.  Revisit the agreement annually at least to see if it still meets your needs and their values still align with those of your business identity.


If you want to talk over your current sponsorship activities, or your marketing activities, just pop in your details in the box at the top of the page, and I’ll be in touch very soon!


Giddy up!


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Written by Anita Marchesani
I've come to small business the long way round- but enjoyed and learned from every single step. I learned about the power of Media during a BA and while working in Film&TV. I learned about the hard graft while groom for an international eventer in the UK. I learned organisation and staff management from running hundreds of weddings both here and in the UK. I learned from the mistakes of my first business that failed, to create an e-commerce success story, and now I'm here to help you have even greater success in your business. Oh, and I dance to really loud music like a crazy bastard.