Sponsorships: a charity or champion for your business?

These 6 points make your sponsorships work harder.

By Dan Rowell

19 September 2019
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Most business owners get a similar call, “Hey, we’re approaching businesses in the local area and we’d love to get your support on the front of our jersey.” It could be a local sports team, charity or business event. There are so many worthy causes and opportunities, how do you weigh up if there’ll be a positive impact on your brand?

You start taking meetings and begin contemplating all of the potential upsides, but the risk is aligning your business to an outside party who will represent you and you can’t control what they do with it.

It could be the case that someone’s personal views, which are definitely not reflective of your brand’s, are expressed when wearing clothing emblazoned with your branding. That link between what is being said and is being seen is totally out of your control but could be very damaging; just ask the transport company Toll, who had to vehemently deny any racist associations after an employee was filmed on a racist tirade in their uniform. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a bad look for business.

We all know how Qantas and some of the other Wallabies sponsors reacted to Israel Folau’s recent comments.

Suddenly, your current strategy has been derailed by a tactic that sometimes yields high-cost with very little upside.

“Opportunities are just obligations wearing an appealing mask.”  — Paul Jarvis

At best, sponsorships can be win-win partnerships whereby both parties gain immense value from the agreement, although the benefits can be difficult to measure and you go off ‘gut feel’ deciding whether it worked or not.

At worst they can damage your brand and cost you significantly. 

I’m yet to put our logo on a local footy team or soccer club, but it’s something I’d consider down the track when I have kids in sports.

Industry events can be great opportunities to support and get behind, but there needs to be a strong link or reason for being there, or people will ignore or completely forget it.

I think sponsorships can sometimes be this serendipitous meeting whereby you come into contact organically and it just evolves into a great relationship.

If you’re a business owner and being sought out, these clubs are experts at raising money and telling you how great a fit they will be for your business. Had they not called you, is it even something you would have actively sought out or considered? Rather than considering all of the potential benefits, ask what problem it’s solving.

Sponsorships can be a great way to build profile, brand awareness, brand affinity and just give other businesses a shot. 

There are a few sponsorships I really admire. I think it’s hilarious that the Super League referees are sponsored by Specsavers. I like that the St George Dragons are sponsored by St George bank. CUA’s sponsorship of my favourite cricket team, the Brisbane Heat is a cracking example of how you can get creative. Their pool deck for CUA members is a great site at the GABBA.


Specsavers are the jersey sponsor for the Super League referees.

St George Illawara Dragons, sponsored by St George Bank.

The CUA Pool Deck at Brisbane Heat home games at the GABBA.

Some sponsorships are iconic. Some are forgettable. Do you remember when Intrust Super sponsored the QLD Maroons? No, neither do I, and I had to go out of my way to google something that would have cost them  loads!

With sponsorships, I take a hard stance. Unless someone from your business will play an active role in visiting, representing and staying at the front of the agreement, I would completely avoid it.

In my previous role at a creative agency, we surveyed 180 store owners of a large franchise who would be bombarded with sponsorship requests and found the ones who were doing it well frequented the club they were sponsoring, ensuring there were faces being put to names.

If you are going to sponsor, here are 6 key points to set in place before signing on the dotted line:

1. Do a workshop with the organisation you’re sponsoring to understand the brand alignment and fit. Do they have a similar vision and values to your business? Is it a good fit?

2. Will you, or someone from your business, be attending the events, games, meetings?

3. Have a basic contract that clearly outlines what each party will get. Is there an option where you pay some upfront, and a final amount upon achieving set KPIs?

4. Have a clear plan and budget set aside to maximise the sponsorship. Whatever you’re spending on the actual agreement, you’d want to factor in a separate amount to be able to amplify it across different media. The bigger the sponsorship, the more you’d want to share it.

5. Control the artwork process. All approvals on branding should be dictated by you and your design team, like logo sizing, legibility, placements etc. Be very clear with the approval process and ensure that nothing will go to print without written consent. I’m overly sensitive about this one because I was burnt by a QLD Police Community Magazine where we agreed to donate for a spot in their magazine. They assured me we could supply artwork and said it wasn’t going out for a while. To my horror, it wasn’t until I got the booklet in the post and skimmed to our placement that I saw one of their gung-ho designers had whipped a little something up. As you can see below, there is a bit of a disconnect between a company that hand-crafts high level design and the design on the page!!

An advertisement designed by QLD Police Community Magazine’s gung-ho designers on our behalf.
I don’t know if I should be broadcasting this again! 

6. Set a review date where you have a chance to review the agreement after a set period to assess the benefits gained.

At the end of the day, it’s perfectly fine to just roll the dice and be proud to put your brand on something you’re passionate about. For a few hundred I’d put my brand on a go-kart as I’d get a kick out of seeing a NASCAR-like DSR Branding go-kart. I’d just be perfectly aware that is as far as the benefits would go; an exercise in vanity for my own personal ego and maybe the team getting excited to show their friends.

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