When 18th century poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said, “Not only must we be good, but we must also be good for something,” he couldn’t have been thinking about brands and sponsorships. But the analogy fits so perfectly for both today.
In the wake of the pandemic, an earlier article cited surveys that revealed a deep concern among consumers, particularly Gen Z, for employees working for brands they purchase as well as for community involvement by those brands. Many said those values would shape their future loyalty and purchases.
Consumer concern over what brands were doing for their community and employees may appear to be a contradiction of sorts. Congress labelled sponsorships as illicit and greedy in the last recession, which ran from about December 2007 to June 2009, with one member even introducing legislation banning banks from hosting and sponsoring events if they received TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds from the federal government.
Despite the congressional pushback on sponsorships, many companies still became sponsors. Corporate sponsorship consultant Gail Bower published a book (How to Jump Start Your Sponsorship Strategy in Tough Times) during the last recession and pointed out that some companies sponsored events stealthily to not attract attention. The main point she made for them was that those companies invested in sponsorships with one condition – value.
Brands that are interested in sponsorships first need to look internally. What are the brand’s values and what does it stand for? If the brand is solar energy systems, what nonprofits out there are into renewable energy? Is the brand a loud or passive advocate for solar? Consider the voice of any potential nonprofit that’s sponsored.
Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) and the Hawaii Chapter of the Audubon Society had frequently clashed over native birds being killed by high voltage transmission lines going over the mountains. HECO, through its parent company foundation, funded an Audubon education program in local schools. In exchange, the Audubon Society conducted workshops that taught HECO linemen how to recognize these native birds and what to do if they found any injured because of hitting the transmission lines.
Imagine the exposure and publicity of a food products company sponsoring a kitchen that serves the homeless and inviting its chef for a cooking demo using its brand. Or the new recipes that might come out because of the collaboration!
Having a nonprofit partner that promotes a brand is priceless. However, not all have the capacity or ability to do so even if they wished to. It would be wise to determine if and how the nonprofit will acknowledge any sponsorship or grant or if they need assistance doing so. If they lack the resources to do so, it may be an extra plus for the brand to not only assist them, but also mentor them in their other marketing and PR efforts. That would win a lot of loyalty and accolades.
New changes, even pandemics, afford new opportunities. Finding that perfect fit and even reallocating ad funds to secure the ideal sponsorship have the potential of reaping bigger rewards and returns for all.