Peartree Brand Strategy - sponsorship, partnership

Sponsorship? I’d rather a partnership, thanks

The definition of sponsorship has changed greatly over the past decade or so, to the extent that it’s almost not the correct word in many circumstances.

Sure, there are still times when a worthy cause needs support to make a worthy event a reality, and it’s worth writing the cheque in return for recognition from the podium and in the marketing material (but forget about media coverage – that almost never happens).

In reality, however, most organisations, whether seeking support or offering it, are now looking for something more – a genuine partnership. They want to actually link their brands in some kind of meaningful way.

I think there are two key bits of advice for organisations looking for sponsorship: build your brand so that you are seen as worth backing, not just your specific activities; and see yourself as competing for a potential sponsor’s marketing dollar, not just its allocated sponsorship dollar.

The best advice for potential sponsors, therefore, is to look for sponsorship opportunities with organisations that are doing those two things, because that will show they are taking the big picture view.

Sponsorship should not be seen as an activity in its own right and certainly shouldn’t be driven by the boss’s interest in a particular sport or arts body. That’s philanthropy – and the subject of a separate article.

Sponsorship should be seen as a part of a broader marketing and profile raising strategy, with a view to leveraging your investment in partnership with those you are sponsoring.

Money spent on sponsorship is not a donation; it is strategic spend that will help raise your profile and your reputation in ways other marketing activity can’t. Explore all the options for building on your investment.

When choosing an organisation or event to sponsor, brand fit is important because no-one wins if the partnership just looks wrong. But it’s important to think a little laterally too. Sponsorship can be a clever way for an organisation to subtly start changing its image, by being associated with a different age demographic, for example, or to be known for a particular value like innovation or fun!

Look for a partnership that you want to last for a number of years. Only commit for one year or event up front (things can be not what they seem), but be very clear that if all goes well you are ready to sign on for three years, with an option for another three.

You’d be surprised how often companies pull out of a sponsorship just when the hard work has been done, allowing a competitor to swoop in and take their place.

Have any questions regarding sponsorship and partnerships? Feel free to send me an email at