Really Good Experiences

Stars, fireworks booming, an eight year old grandson who caught a ball and a 10th inning win against the White Sox! Thanks to a good friend, my family was wowed as we sat in the row right behind the opponent's dugout at Target Field.  It was an amazing experience that lasted long after the game. Beyond the fact that I was shocked about the 90 miles per hour pitches, my big aha was all about sponsorships.

I'd read enough to know-and say--- I was going to "Target Field" instead of the "Twins' new ballpark." Was the name just a classic example of sponsorship designed to drive awareness and brand recognition? Or maybe it was also designed to show community involvement and leadership?

All that. And so much more.  

Sponsorships aren't passive anymore. They've become experiences.

Everyone at the ballpark that night had a chance to text their vote for the Twin's entry into the Pepsi Refresh Project--- a specialty softball field for Courage Center's Rolling Twins youth softball wheelchair team. The crowd answered the call for response and the Twins won! The Courage Center team, who are used to playing in a parking lot, now get a $200,000 home field. The Twins look like good guys, Target looks good by association, and, my family, along with most of the 41,000 fans there that night, got to be part of the winning experience.

Today's sponsorship experiences do more than connect us and make us feel good. Green sponsorships actually do good. Target Field saves more than two million gallons of water annually thanks to Pentair's rainwater harvesting, treatment and reuse system. Mark Andrew and his firm, GreenMark deserve kudos for conceiving, collaborating and securing this amazingly valuable sponsorship by Pentair. Their multi-year, multi-million dollar relationship moves beyond just waste and clean energy by tackling water scarcity and quality. The training rooms, admin offices and suites also have Pentair's Everpure tap water systems, enhancing water quality and reducing the use of bottled water. How ‘bout those good experiences? 

What does all this mean to marketers as they plan next year's budgets and consider potential sponsorship spends? Sponsorships are playing an increasingly pivotal role in corporate marketing and have become one of the fastest growing marketing tools over the last twenty years, from under $5 billion in 1990 to estimates that top more than $100 billion by year end 2010. 

To take your sponsorship strategies to the next level, figure out:

  • Who are you trying to reach? Customers, prospective customers, employees, fans?
  • What do you want them to come away with? In very specific language, map out what you're expecting as outcomes in terms of what's changed in how they think, how they feel and what they do?
  • How many experiences (and over what duration) are you prepared to give them, and, how will you leverage your sponsorship dollars through your other marketing channels?

I remember working with a large global financial services firm that used sponsorship of a golf guru as their primary way to entertain clients and attract prospects. The problem was, market research data suggested that only 53% of their ideal customer base golfed on a regular basis. What did that sponsorship do to provide positive experiences for the other 47% of the customers and potential customers (and who knows how many of their employees)?  Worse, the golf experiences tied only peripherally to their ad campaigns and their PR initiatives, and not at all to their social media efforts. 

Big spend, smaller experience, no leverage.

So if your company's sponsorship investment is going to really matter, link it to the company's mission, line it up with the organization's ideal customers and make the experience viral through the social networking world. That kind of leverage is what makes for really good experiences_ and really great marketing ROI.