"There's more to sponsorship than meets the eye."
What’s in it for me?
Unless you have previously sponsored a local business award, you’ll probably not appreciate how extensive the business benefits of these awards are. The specific benefits achievable will vary from awards programme to awards programme and depend to some extent on the level of sponsorship you choose to engage at. If, after reading this article, you decide to get involved in sponsoring a local business award in your own area, we recommend that you do your own due diligence. Ask the organisers to demonstrate the benefits that they claim for their programme and talk to current and past sponsors to see if those claims stack up.
Here are some examples of the types of benefit that the sponsor companies we spoke to outlined.
Media Coverage and PR
Sponsoring local business awards create multiple opportunities to raise the profile of your business with your target markets.
1 Traditional Media Coverage
Contrary to public opinion, local media love a good-news story and are keen to follow a nominee’s progress through the judging process. This means great publicity both for the entrants and the sponsors. Most of the sponsors we spoke to had remained involved in the same awards for at least two years running. They told us that the local press and radio coverage they get would have cost them significantly more than their sponsorship input! And that’s without taking into account all the other benefits of being a sponsor outlined below.
Most of the sponsors we spoke to had remained involved in the same awards for at least two years running. They told us that the local press and radio coverage they get would have cost them significantly more than their sponsorship input! And that’s without taking into account all the other benefits of being a sponsor outlined below.
2 Social Media Coverage
Love it or hate it, most businesses can’t afford to ignore the power of Social Media but many struggle to make the most of this low-cost marketing channel. They struggle to create the kind of content that gets shared and shared again. The very nature of local business awards means that they generate positive, good news, local interest stories that people love to read, comment upon and share. Sponsor companies told us that they were delighted and surprised by the amount of positive coverage they got on platforms like Twitter and Facebook because of their involvement.
3 Brand Exposure at events
Many business awards have a series of events spread over several months in the lead up to the awards ceremony. These events give sponsors multiple opportunities to gain recognition for their support amongst both the award entrants and their fellow sponsors.
Imagine the benefits that can accrue from having your company name in front of other local businesses during a series of events. It’s impossible to quantify the value of the positive associations created between your brand and this high-energy event, but the fact that many of our sponsors keep coming back year after year speaks for itself.
Incredible Networking Opportunities
Sponsoring some local business awards can also give you regular, high-level contact with other successful local businesses. The sponsors we interviewed told us that the relationships forged between sponsors and award entrants were always fulfilling and often mutually beneficial.
1 Identify potential new clients or suppliers
They described it as like joining a family. “As sponsors, we support each other and get to know the other businesses in much greater depth than we could otherwise have done. The relationships we have forged with other sponsors have been very valuable. It’s a much deeper level of networking than we could get through more traditional means.”
2 Recognise staff and deepen client relationships
Many local business award sponsors, it seems, understand the value of taking one or more tables at the gala dinner and awards presentation. They told us that inviting key members of staff along was a brilliant way to recognise and inspire highly-valued staff. They also spoke enthusiastically about the value they got from inviting clients and prospective clients to join them at these upbeat celebrations!
3 Inspire Yourself and Your Team
The sponsors we talked to also told us that they have been pleasantly surprised at the positive effects, being involved in awards schemes like the Venus Awards, has had on themselves and their staff. “We’ve involved our team in the judging process, and they’ve read through the submissions of the entrants. It’s inspiring and stimulating to see what can be done by other local businesses and this has had a positive effect on our own morale and productivity.”
4 The benefits of awards judging
As a category sponsor, you are involved in the judging process, which means you get to read through the award submissions from all the entrants in the categories you sponsor. “As a judge, you get to see behind the scenes at other businesses, and that brings multiple benefits. You get a real sense of what makes a successful business tick, including the problems they face and the innovative ways they overcome them. These unique opportunities even sometimes lead to business opportunities.”
What Does Being an events Sponsor Involve?
In an article like this, it’s impossible to be definitive about the level of commitment expected of a sponsor. This will depend both on the nature of the awards and the sponsorship option chosen. Every local business awards programme is unique, and most offer a broad range of sponsorship options, each with its own price tag and range of benefits. Based on our discussions we have had with business award sponsors the typical areas of involvement include:
- Sponsoring the overall awards programme or one or more specific award categories.
- Reading and reviewing the nominee’s submissions to come up with a shortlist for semi-finalist selection.
- Judging of the finalists to determine the award winner (N.B. this may involve visiting the finalist’s businesses or observing them in action at one of the pre-award events mentioned earlier.)
- Attending the awards ceremony
- Presenting the award(s) you sponsor
How to Make the Most of Business Sponsorship
Like most things in life, the more you put in, the more you get out. To get the best return from your sponsorship, you’ll need to make the most of all the opportunities that being involved in a local awards programme offers. Here are some suggestions based on our own experience and research.
- Commit to becoming a sponsor
- View it as a marketing activity rather than a charitable donation
- Take your commitment seriously – set aside time to attend the various events
- Get to know your fellow sponsors
- Involve your own staff in the selection process
- Publicise your involvement via you own newsletters and social media channels
- Invite staff and customers to the awards dinner
- Follow up with other sponsors and award entrants afterwards