When I was a VP of Marketing for a hospital system in the midwest it seemed everyone wanted our sponsorship support. Every employee and every physician had their own pet project, activity or child’s sport team they wished to have the hospital system sponsor. While everyone claims their sponsorship offers “good PR” – the reality is that many of these efforts have little PR value, and likely no marketing value. Yet often, politically it seemed we were in a tight spot to say yes.
As I have been consulting with health systems and non-profit groups the trend seems the same. Your marketing dollars need to be spent on building volumes and customer engagement with investments in strategic marketing activities – so you need to limit the investment spent on “goodwill” sponsorships and yet remain community present. Here are three tips to consider which maximize your sponsorship dollars.
- Develop a sponsorship policy and review process – Develop an organizational policy on sponsorships. This can help to defend certain decisions – like requiring sponsorships have a health message/benefit, and a metric for success which the sponsoring group is willing to measure. For instance the policy I established at the hospital was that groups may generate only one ask per year and they must come through the marketing office – this limited the “surfing” throughout the hospital for support from different departments, and required the requesting group to think about with their ask for the year would be rather than coming to us 3 -4 times a year to ask for sponsorships of multiple events.
- Establish an annual budget – Carve out the dollars dedicated to sponsorships during the budgeting process. Set the budget for those contractual sponsorship commitments, and a discretionary annual amount. Seek agreement within the administrative team that this bucket is allocated and defined. In your process set a threshold amount (i.e. $25,000); request less can have direct approval via the marketing sponsorship officer – greater should be taken back through an administrative team for approval.
If other substantial opportunities appear during the year (those should do’s or have to’s) then request administrative approval or incremental dollars if outside the scope. This would be perhaps if the local football team qualifies for the Super Bowl and you have some incredible sponsorship offering that comes along that you just can’t pass up!
- Use a scoring tool to help make the process objective – Build in a scoring tool that takes into consideration your strategic efforts. An objective tool like this can assist in setting thresholds and help all understand why some sponsorships get approved and other not. A tool developed that looks at and weights your strategic priorities can be adjusted annually. This can also assist in defending why you did something last year, but decide not to sponsor this year. Here’s an example of how you could score…
Every organization wishes to be a good community member and should be an active community sponsor. Just be a smart one – use tools to standardize processes, build your brand, support your strategies, and bring agreement to sponsorship participation so that your decisions are objective and defendable.