Marketers report a number of reasons why they sponsor events:
To identify with a particular target market or life style: Customers can be targeted geographically, demographically, psycho-graphically, or according to events. Events can be chosen based on attendees’ attitudes and usage of certain products or brands. Advertisers such as Sony, Gillette, and Pepsi have advertised during ESPN’s twice yearly X Games to reach the elusive 12 to 19 year old audience.
To increase awareness of company or product name: Sponsorship often offers sustained exposure to a brand, a necessary condition to build brand recognition. By skillfully choosing sponsorship events or activities, identification with a product and thus brand recall can also be enhanced.
To create or reinforce consumer perception of key brand image association: Events themselves have associations that help to create or reinforce brand associations. Anheuser Busch chose to have Bud Light become a sponsor of the Iron man and other triathlons because it wanted a “healthy” image for the beer.
To enhance corporate image dimensions: Sponsorship is seen as a means to improve perceptions that the company is likable, prestigious, and so on, so that consumers will credit the company and favor it in later product choices.
To create experiences and evoke feelings: The feelings engendered by an exciting or rewarding event may also indirectly link to the brand. Marketers can use the Web to provide further event support and additional experiences.
To express commitment to the community or on social issues: Cause-related marketing consists of sponsorships that involve corporate tie-ins with non-profit organizations and charities. Firms such as Timberland, Stoneyfield Farms, The Home Depot, Starbucks American Express, and Tom’s of Maine have made cause related marketing an important corner stone of their marketing programs.
To entertain key clients or reward key employees: Many events include lavish hospitality tents and other special services or activities which are only available for sponsors and their guests. Involving clients with the event in these and other ways can engender goodwill and establish valuable business contacts. From an employee perspective, events can build participation and morale or be used as an incentive.
To permit merchandising or promotional opportunities: Many marketers tie in contests or sweepstakes, in-store merchandising, direct response, or other marketing activities with an event. Ford, AT&T Wireless, and Nokia all used their sponsorship of the hit TV show American Idol in this way.
Despite these potential advantages, there are a number of potential disadvantages to sponsorship. The success of an event can be unpredictable and beyond the control of the sponsor. Many consumers will credit sponsors for providing the financial assistance to make an event possible, some consumers may still resent the commercialization of events.