Sponsorship is alive, well and changing in smaller
communities. While much of the material available regarding sponsorship focuses
on big corporations and international events, potential benefits for small
businesses sponsoring local and regional events are also impressive.
My community, Vernon, is located in the north Okanagan with
a population of 35,000 and another 20,000 in the immediate trading area. Much
like thousands of communities in BC or in any province, Vernon lists the
majority of the business community (a whopping 98%) as small business - fewer than
50 employees. Of those, 86% are five employees or fewer.
So if you're looking for sponsorship, you need to understand
the process of small business in a small community. Almost all the time in
Vernon, sponsorship seekers relate to business owners who are involved in day-to-day
operations. They live in the community, and over than two-thirds have operated
their business in Vernon for 15 years or more. They know their community and
who's who in their community.
Since 2006, I have been the executive director of the Funtastic Sports Society
equivalent to the Calgary Stampede. With 300 teams and 4500 players, Funtastic
is Canada's largest tournament. Funtastic makes a significant contribution to
the local economy and receives no government funding. As a nonprofit
organization, our mandate is to support local sports and recreation initiatives,
and we've donated $1.2 million over 27 years.
In my volunteer role I am VP for the Greater Vernon 2012 BC Winter Games
the first multi-sport event for many of BC's young top athletes between the
ages of 9 -17. More
athletes, coaches and officials will converge on Vernon and area for four days
of competition. While the Games are supported by the provincial government, we
are still responsible for generating community sponsorship revenues through
the Friends of the Games
In addition to these two events, Vernon has literally
hundreds of events and organizations looking for funding, so the local business
community has a challenging time wading through the list. All events and
organizations are worthy; all are great for the community, and many offer the
same demographics. In recent years government funding has declined, leading to
more demands on businesses. Therefore, sponsorship for properties has become
In Vernon, a business needs to make only a minimal
investment to reach the majority of the residents. New businesses are
especially interested in sponsorship as part of their launch strategy, as they
can reach a great many local residents in a very short time.
An example of this is Cobs Bread, a two-year-old business in
Vernon. During the initial meetings in 2010, we agreed that sampling with
coupons would be a good test. We decided to use individually packaged scones at
8:30 in the morning. I recruited two volunteers to hand out 400 scones with a
dough dollar. Cobs Vernon had their best weekend to date during Funtastic.
2011 we used cinnamon buns as a sample product and surpassed the previous year's
numbers. (Photo: Funtastic Sports Society
Typical marketing objectives are no different than those of
major national sponsors - building brands, generating sales, promoting
corporate responsibility or launching new products and services. Often a business
will sponsor a cause, event or organization because it is good for the
community. In addition to providing a corporate social responsibility program for their
company, getting involved with community sponsorship programs such as Funtastic
brings an additional element of staff engagement to their business.
In the past few years, though, Vernon has seen a change in the
prime reason for sponsoring. These days, owners and managers are more likely to
ask, "What's in it for me?" and "What do I get from it?" Corporate
responsibility is still important; however, companies are also looking for a
return on investment.
Helping sponsors make
Funtastic, I work with 125 sponsors each year. We have a 90% return rate in
sponsorship and take pride in the placing our sponsors' needs first.
often, properties simply ask for money because "the company has always given us
money." These same properties are surprised when the sponsor asks "what's in it
for me?" By contrast, those properties that understand the changing market
continue to be successful.
all sponsorships are the roaring successes companies would like them to be.
There are several reasons why they might have failed. A common one is the "Owner
Syndrome" - for example, the owner likes a sport and has the company sponsor an
event without due consideration of marketing objectives.
reason for failure occurs when a company commits to a sponsorship and neglects
to do any promotion prior to the event. They just turn up and hope that the
on-site visibility will give them what they want. Generally they presume the
property didn't deliver and is at fault. In fact, both are at fault and are
Like marriage, it's
According to Brent
of Partnership Group -
, sponsorship is like a marriage. Both partners need
to contribute for it to be successful.
is quickly growing as a desirable form of marketing in small communities. Yet
in many ways, it is still very much in its infancy. There are unlimited
opportunities for astute organizations to fund their events, and for
intelligent companies to increase their credibility, image and prestige through
This article was adapted from Jim McEwan's session at the Western
Sponsorship Congress held in Calgary in October.
Jim McEwan is the executive
director for the Vernon & District Funtastic Sports Society, where he has
worked since 2006
. He is also very involved
with the sport tourism scene in the north Okanagan, helping several organizations with their event and sponsorship
planning. Jim possesses more than 12
years of experience working on the selling side of sponsorship, including both
small community events and nationally acclaimed organizations.
Funtastic is Canada's largest slo-pitch tournament and
music festival, www.funtastic.org. Email Jim