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Sponsored By Gyms.co.nz

The Speights Coast to Coast.  The Flora London Marathon.  The American Express World Golf Championships.  The Heineken Tennis Open.  The ASB Womens Classic.  Sponsoring sports events has become common place nowadays as large companies fight to gain increased exposure.  Admittedly the events listed above attract large, often global, companies with million dollar marketing budgets.  However, small businesses, such as local fitness centres, can take advantage of sponsorship opportunities to increase their profile and assist in attracting new leads for their club. 

Normally a sponsorship arrangement is a financial or merchandise contribution in exchange for naming rights or exposure at a given event. 

However, before you sign your life away at the next local event in your area there are a number of considerations to address.

 Does the event fit the image that you are trying to portray in the community?

  Who is going to attend the sporting event?  For example, if you are a women's fitness facility, then sponsoring a local women's fun run may be a great way to make women aware of your service and to attract new leads.  Sponsoring a mixed fun run where perhaps only 30 percent of entrants are female may not?  It is important that you consider the audience, competitors and spectators alike, at your chosen event.

Lead Generation.  It is crucial that you negotiate the right to gain leads at your chosen event before you sign any sponsorship arrangement.  Again using the example of your women's fun run, this should be used as a chance to offer trial days, or perhaps membership 'deals' to attract qualified leads for your club.

Exposure.  It is absolutely crucial that your brand becomes associated with the event that you are sponsoring.  This may mean ensuring your logos is on T shirts sold / given away, on race numbers, drink bottles or other such merchandise.  Make sure you are aware of exactly how much coverage you will receive before signing any agreement.

Naming rights.  If you are the major sponsor then it is crucial that any reference to the event utilises your brand and that it is mentioned first.  For example, the Adidas NZ Track and Field Champs is far more memorable than the NZ Track and Field Champs sponsored by Adidas.

Cost.  This one is pretty obvious.  You need to ascertain the return on investment that you are gaining for sponsoring your event.  With sponsorship it can be difficult to determine this as a large part of the benefit is increased brand exposure, perhaps more than new memberships obtained.  However, consider the number of people at an event in your target market and the amount of exposure your brand will receive.  Look at cost involved and consider - is it worth it?

There are a huge number of local events out there now that require sponsorship that will not cost you an arm and a leg but may gain you valuable brand recognition.  Talk to your local triathlon, rugby, cycling, netball and other such clubs and find out what is on in your area.

Get Creative

24 hour fitness is a large fitness chain in the USA.  In 2003 they negotiated a sponsorship deal making them the official sponsor of the USA Olympic Team until 2008. 

Fitness First, a large worldwide club became the sponsor of Sport Relief in the UK and gained a large amount of additional exposure for their brand, not to mention the 'nice guy' tag for their association with this charity .

However, do not despair.  Creative Marketing is NOT solely for those that have a huge marketing budget.  Sure we see some fantastic and innovative strategies that large companies adopt, but it is possible to use low cost strategies to create exposure on a smaller (and more manageable scale). 

Linford Christie wore a pair of Puma contact lenses for an interview back in 1996... an innovative approach that gained a huge amount of publicity for the financial investment it required!

Vodafone's logo was portrayed to thousands of rugby fans when they paid 2 streakers a paltry sum to run onto the field during a rugby international (Note:  this did however backfire on the company and damaged their reputation when details got out!)

Closer to home, Les Mills ran a series of seminars for expectant mothers on pregnancy, exercise and childcare last year that attracted a large audience.  Seminar costs were probably a small price to pay for the numbers that attended.

The bottom line.  Get creative.  If you are bored of using the same old marketing methods, imagine what your potential customers think of them!