Sponsorship is a brilliant tool for any business looking to use a wide range of channels to reach their target market.

Whether you simply want to raise brand awareness, promote a particular product or unveil a new brand, sponsorship done well will get you the exposure you need.

However, for sponsorship to work well, both parties need to agree what is expected of them and work toward agreed outcomes together – after all, sponsorship is a reciprocal deal.

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Let’s take a look at how sponsorship works, why it might not go so well, and some of the different options available for businesses considering sponsorship.

How sponsorship works

An example of sponsorship in action would be a rural estate agency firm who chooses to sponsor an up-and-coming event rider.

The estate agency provides the rider with branded kit and rugs, lorry sign writing and some support towards entry fees, and in turn the rider helps them with brand awareness by displaying their information on their website, mentioning them on social media and wearing the estate agent’s logo at events.

It all sounds like a win-win deal. The rider has some financial support and smart kit, plus the backing of a company to show owners and prospective owners that they run a professional operation and are to be taken seriously. The estate agent benefits from brand awareness and advertising for their business being taken to events where a high proportion of attendees are country people who might just need a rural estate agent at some time in the future.

Why it sometimes doesn’t work

As with any business deal, a successful sponsorship agreement relies on both parties having a clear and full understanding of what is expected of them at the beginning of the agreement and then both sticking to it until a review meeting or further discussion.

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If one party doesn’t hold up their end of the deal, even if it isn’t directly their fault, problems may occur.

Taking the previous example, let’s imagine the rider had promised the estate agency that they would be competing on average twice a week during the eventing season, only for their two leading rides to be injured pre-season. They are left just two horses to campaign and youngsters to bring on. The opportunities to compete are now fewer, and therefore so are the opportunities for the estate agent’s branding to get an outing, and they aren’t happy.

To avoid a situation like this, think carefully about what you can offer and what you expect in return when you explore sponsorship opportunities, and if things don’t go well then keep the lines of communication open.

It may be worth drawing up a written agreement so everyone is clear on what to expect and to outline the process is something doesn’t go as planned.

Think outside the box

If you’re keen to try this for your business but aren’t sure what to do next or you’re not keen on sponsoring an individual athlete, here are some ideas for sponsorship opportunities. Don’t forget to keep those business basics in mind - what is the point of sponsorship?

You want to reach your target market. Think about who that is and where they might be and then set out to find the sponsorship opportunities that will get your brand in front of them.

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  • Sponsor a new business initiative: If you operate in a business-to-business environment, why not touch base with your local Chamber of Commerce and see if they are planning any rural business support schemes that you could sponsor? This will help to ensure your business name reaches more local businesses and local business people.
  • Sponsor an award: Whether you are targeting consumers or businesses, there will be awards aimed at your target market. You could look at sponsoring a category at local or national-level rural business awards or see if a magazine is conducting awards for consumer businesses in your region (for example, best local gastropub, country store, spa, garage, hotel etc). You should get a mention on the website, in any event collateral, press coverage and may even have the chance to say a few words at the award ceremony or present the award itself.
  • Event sponsorship: Depending on your budget, this might range from sponsoring a class or tent at your local agricultural show to a concert to being headline sponsor for the whole event. You could sponsor a trade stand for a business with a similar target market and offer to man the stand for all or some of the show, putting you directly in front of your audience. Trade shows also offer a range of sponsorship packages including supporting a networking area, sponsoring a keynote stage or supporting the keynote speaker them self.

Finally, it may be worth speaking to a professional who regularly looks after advertising budgets as they may have some insider knowledge and know of better areas to spend your budget.

Whichever avenue you choose to explore, ensure an agreement is in place so your efforts aren’t left unrewarded and that both parties know what to expect from the deal. I’d always advise establishing for a set period to start with (i.e. 6 months, or the duration of a year) and re-assessing at set points throughout the duration.

Tara is out traditional marketing and PR partner, keeping checking back here for more.

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