When you see the term business sponsorship, you’ll probably think of big corporate sponsorship deals for high-profile sporting events like the Premier League, The Olympics, or The America’s Cup. But, many small and medium-sized businesses are switching on to the tangible business benefits available from a more diverse range of affordable small business sponsorship opportunities.
School and community event sponsorship
Local sports team sponsorship
Local and regional business awards
Small businesses are discovering that sponsorship marketing is a highly cost-effective method of raising the public profile of their business that also brings many other, unexpected, benefits. In this article, we’d like to home in on just one of these marketing opportunities - Local and regional business awards sponsorship.
You’d have to be living on Mars not to realise that Business Awards have become increasingly popular across the UK, but do they offer their sponsors more than just a nice warm feeling? In researching this topic, it became clear that most of the articles written about local business awards were aimed at encouraging potential entrants rather than sponsors, so we decided to dig a bit deeper. We spoke to smaller companies who sponsor these type of events, to discover why they do it and, perhaps more importantly, what they get out of it.
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME AND MY BUSINESS?
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.
That having been said, here are some examples of the types of benefit that the sponsors we talked to outlined.
Media Coverage and Positive PR
Sponsoring local business awards such as the Venus Awards create multiple opportunities to raise the profile of your business with your target markets.
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 award sponsors we spoke to had been involved with 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.
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.
Brand Exposure at the Awards Ceremony and Associated Events
We were fascinated to learn that being a business award sponsor generated many more opportunities for public exposure than expected.
The obvious one is the awards presentation ceremony where, as a sponsor, you get to take centre stage along with the award winners. But it seems that is just the icing on the cake.
Many business awards have a series of events spread over several months in the lead up to the awards ceremony.
These events give sponsor companies 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 and branding in front of a host of other local businesses during such a series of high-profile event. 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
Becoming an Award Sponsor also gives 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.
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.”
The benefits of awards judging
As a category sponsor, you are usually 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 that makes a successful business tick, including the problems they face and the innovative ways they overcome them.” Local award sponsors also told us that they find that the unique opportunities to network with the award entrants sometimes leads to business opportunities too.
Recognise staff and deepen relationships with existing clients
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!
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 positive knock-on effect on our own morale and productivity.”
WHAT'S DOES BEING A 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
At Venus Awards, for example, we offer five categories of sponsorship including event series sponsor, category sponsor, public vote sponsor, associate sponsor and awards night sponsor.
If you’d like to know more, talk to one of our sponsorship team to discuss which package is best for you and your business.
WHAT SORT OF COMPANIES BECOME LOCAL AWARDS SPONSORS?
It seems that sponsorship marketing is an attractive option with a broad range of small business types including retail, media, professional services and even educational establishments. The sponsors we spoke to represented Banks, Car Dealerships, Chambers of Commerce, Educational Establishments, Financial Advisors, Garden Centres, Hotels and Conference Venues, IT Services Companies, Local Newspapers, Local Radio Stations, PR Consultancies, Professional Services Companies, Recruitment Companies and Vehicle Leasing Companies.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF SMALL BUSINESS SPONSORSHIP MARKETING
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
Awards Sponsorship is cost effective way to:
Publicise your brand in a positive manner across your local community
Showcase your business and its services to the public and business communities
Promote a positive, forward-thinking approach, by encouraging local women in business
Engage with other high-flying local businesses to build lasting commercial connections
Inspire and motivate your own employees by involving them in the selection process
If you would like to find out more about Venus Awards and our sponsorship opportunities contact us today on 01202 559039