Testing a sponsorship relationship

We used to sponsor a lot of things in our community and in the industries we service. I had long believed that we should give back to a community that was generous with us in buying our goods and services. Over the past several years, however, I began to feel that our sponsorships were being taken for granted — and worse, simply not appreciated.

For 2009, I decided I was not going to sponsor anything. I was not going to buy jerseys for soccer teams, drop in “break a leg” wishes for the local high school play, sponsor a hockey team at a local college, sponsor several indoor soccer teams, give to my alumni association, buy ads in the high school yearbook and newspaper, ante up membership fees for several trade groups, etc, etc. I saved more than several thousand dollars from my marketing budget and sales haven’t suffered.

I thought maybe I would get a call from at least one of these appreciative groups.

I got nothing.

Nobody called to ask why I stopped sponsoring. Nobody sent a letter or an email, asking if the economy was a factor in my decision not to support their group.

It really got me thinking about how local groups treat local businesses and how little it takes to keep sponsors. I quit sponsoring because I suspected nobody at the benefitting organizations really cared whether or not I was there. The only time I ever heard from these groups was when they asked for money. And, when I failed to respond, they didn’t reach out.

The solution is fairly simple; talk with your sponsors. Involve them in your success. Make them feel at home with your organization. Let them know what is going on. Most often, they sponsor you because they want you to be successful and they want to be a part of that. In this age of connection and explosion of Social Media tools, not communicating with your sponsors just indicates apathy, carelessness or arrogance.

In the meantime, I am saving my money. I am more than willing to sponsor worthwhile causes, but only those that truly appreciate my sponsorship.