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Think Differently

by Beth Lietz
28 09 2011

I recently had an intriguing conversation with Beth Lietz, SVP of Ashgrove Marketing.  By the end of our call I quickly asked if she would be interested in authoring a guest blog post highlighting several items we had just covered.  What became clear to me during our spirited conversation was her passion for effective “outside the box” marketing solutions.  Several established brands and properties have seen impressive results from Ashgrove’s custom support; however, I also believe that some of their most successful solutions could easily be written off to close minded decision makers.  I think you’ll find that Beth will be able not only to encourage the best practice of thinking outside of the box, but she offers great examples of HOW their agency has done so in a way that both properties and brands can benefit from.  It’s a great application piece.  If you’re looking for effective activation strategies to better brand yourself and your partners; I can assure you, this is a great read for you.  - Emily Taylor

When you are reviewing your marketing or fundraising budget, what elements of it are essential?  Which bits might you do away with if your budget was to fall, and which bits would you hang on to like life itself?  What elements would you like to add, and are they truly less important than what you have already?

We are living in an age when we must open our minds.  Funds are only getting harder to come by, and while many companies and causes believe they are ‘thinking outside of the box’ to get value, the figures sadly show that, for the most part, they aren’t.  It is essential that we drop all of our assumptions and look at everything in our marketing toolkit afresh, to see the true value of each potential medium.

Let me give you an example of that happening.  As a marketing agency, we have worked with a major manufacturer of prestige automobiles for many years – a globally recognizable brand.  They recently decided to cut their marketing budget and it was difficult for them to decide what was going to go.  After implementing a company-wide survey, it was decided unanimously that there was one element that was not to be touched under any circumstances because of the lasting brand exposure and advertising opportunities it offered in homes and offices across the US far in excess of anything else in their toolkit.  It was their custom branding calendar program.

Be honest.  Does it shock you that the humble calendar was held in such high esteem by such a major brand – a brand that can afford national television advertising or huge billboard campaigns?  Would you give such a medium the time of day if I were to pitch it to you as your next big marketing or fundraising effort?

They think differently, and so should you.

Once you start getting into the real facts and figures, you can quickly start to justify that company’s decision.  A 2010 study showed that despite the increased popularity of electronic calendars on PCs and mobiles, only 32% of Americans use such a calendar daily, compared to 80% who use a wall calendar.  Despite being relatively cheap, even when custom developed with your own branding and advertisements, calendars keep working for a full year, pitching 12 different messages from inside a person’s home or office.  Unlike just about any other kind of advertising, it becomes a welcomed part of their routine, an appreciated daily tool.  Over 70% of people can recall the name and message of the company or cause on their calendar, and they are even prepared to pay for the privilege – the same study showed that the majority of people will pay up to $15 for a calendar if they aren’t given one as a gift.  Almost 80% feel that calendars are important, very important or extremely important to their daily lives.  Imagine associating your brand with something so widely utilized, functional and appreciated!

That basic product offering is why our primary tool at Ashgrove is the humble calendar, and it is one that we develop every year for a bevy of well-known national brands, both corporate and charitable.  However, it isn’t just the product itself that makes our calendar programs so popular, it is also the campaign strategy that underlies them.  We are a marketing company first and a calendar design company second; the reason we make so much of them is the flexibility that they offer in terms of integrating with other media and engaging with would-be donors or customers.

You can distribute them for free and cover the cost by leveraging a corporate sponsorship; sell them to local elements of your national cause for them to sell; use QR codes to drive them to web donation pages each month; place seasonal calls to action; distribute vouchers in association with retail partners; personalize them for individuals, or with the details of local chapters of your organization.  We have done all of these things and more with dozens of different clients, all of which needed a different strategy, depending on their objectives.

What I propose is this: go back to your marketing budget and ask the questions again.  Re-assess everything.  Let nothing remain unchallenged and remain open to the chance that something you might have dismissed is really the key to future success. This kind of open mindedness could send your organization on the fast track to the next level of impact.  While some established methods might work, it is dangerous to get “stuck” there without considering “unusual media” and the potential ROI it could bring. The millions of dollars we have been able to raise for various cause organizations tell me that this open mindedness not only works, but it can quite possibly produce the same results for you too.

Categories:   Marketing
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Are You the Obvious Selection?

by Emily Taylor
21 09 2011

I go grocery shopping on Sunday afternoons almost religiously.  I typically start at one grocery store whose prices are tough to beat, and then, despite the extra time and effort involved, make a second stop at another grocery store to gather my produce.  Why the second stop, you ask?  Truth is, they’re a bit pricier, but the experience is bar none.  I walk in to a clean store, the produce is the highest quality in town, and the customer service is SUPERB – and since I’ve been experimenting with new meals, I often have questions about what to purchase or how to cook something, and I can honestly say I might be lost without their support.  The employees are engaging; they actually know my name and give my son a balloon to play with as we’re shopping.  I will never stop going there because they meet my needs in a way FAR beyond the price point of their produce.  They have become the obvious selection for my shopping needs.  I tell this story because sponsorship is also about an experience, and when it is done well, the end result should be that your brand is the obvious selection to your target audience. 

As a sponsorship opportunity representative, when you pitch a sponsor, the answer to this question should be one of the first things to fall from your lips or your pen.  Do you have access to a target audience that they want sway with?  What ideas do you have about how they might activate a partnership that touches that audience in a unique and simple way? The message that the sponsor wants to send needs to be clear, and it needs to impact the experience of their target audience in a memorable and distinct way.  Do you have access to assets that can help them do this?  Now, in all honestly, I definitely believe that activation strategies are far from complete until the sponsor can enter into a dialogue with you about their priorities and brainstorm WITH you.  But they won’t even go down that road until you’ve given them real insight into the potential you see as to how you can make their brand the obvious selection for their target audience at the end of the experience.   Do your mission statements align/complement one another?  Have you highlighted a unique need based on previous experience or clear research that this sponsor can answer/fill for the experience of your audience to get better?  If you’re not asking these questions, you are probably in danger of falling into the category of caring more about your success than theirs.  You do not want to be perceived as a selfish partner, or at best an ignorant partner; do yourself and your program/event a favor and know the answers to these questions before you start pitching your partnership.

As a sponsor, you also need to be asking this question in order to protect and get intentional about your investments.  Fortunately, many sponsors are already there since the accountability piece with dollars spent has significantly increased with the economic climate.  But there are still many partnerships made with poor motivators in mind – even subconsciously.  Kim Skildum-Reid notes in one of her blogs, that corporate ego often gets in the way of smart investments.  Her particular example is with naming rights – which can be used brilliantly when you’re all in, or it leaves wasted money on the table if you’re not.  A great read, by the way…  So as a sponsor, don’t even consider a partner unless they have the flexibility to activate your partnership in a meaningful way – it’ll be a waste of money if it’s not.  Perhaps you’ve identified a potential partner you have interest in learning more from, maybe even dialoguing about activation strategies.  Make sure that your efforts underscore the goal of becoming the obvious choice to your target audience as a result of your impact on their experience.  Don’t get lazy with your partnership activation efforts or else your dollars are wasted, your message is lost, and you leave yourself open to being ambushed by other marketing/sponsorship efforts.  Keep in mind that those negative results are more likely the more “unnatural” your fit is with your partner – another reason to have a complementary relationship, an easy fit, with your partners. 

So, does your audience rave about the experience you provide?  Are they as excited and loyal about what you offer them as I am about the grocery store I’m committed to on my Sunday afternoons?  If not, it’s time to get some answers to the question of how to become the obvious selection.  What do the people want??? How are you addressing that need?  I can’t say I’ll one day be a famous cheff, but my husband’s palate definitely appreciates the support I get at the grocery store!  What does your target audience say they need you for?  Food for thought…

Categories:   sponsorship activation | sponsorship sales
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Spotlight on Sponsorship! vVv Gaming

by Stephanie Lochmiller
14 09 2011

As a way to draw increased awareness and attention to some of the standup sponsorship opportunities on our site, we’ve set apart one blog per month to put the “Spotlight on Sponsorship”! If you have a premium level listing on SponsorPark, and would like to have your event featured, please contact [email protected] to submit your event, as we are currently looking to fill the remainder of our 2011 Spotlight calendar.  This month our spotlight shines on “vVv Gaming”.

What is vVv Gaming all about?  
vVv Gaming is a competitive video game organization with a dynamic and vibrant community of teams and players that compete at major video games events around the world.  With entertaining podcasts, educational articles about teamwork, competition and strategy and dominating finishes at major tournaments around the world, they work to deliver unparalleled value to anyone interested in competitive video gaming by constantly striving to uphold their motto: Entertain. Educate. Dominate.
With the gaming industry itself having such an established following, vVv Gaming works to reach out and attract new fans as well as recruiting and retaining fresh talentThey believe that all gamers need an outlet to share and express their passion in an environment that is social, empowering, supportive and informative, regardless of skill.

What Makes this Opportunity Unique?
One unique aspect to this property is  that every member of vVv Gaming is required to connect on social media and over the course of the last four years the organization has recruited some of the most influential gamers in North America.  This not only allows the property to leverage their social media following to potential sponsors, but also allows their members to feel more engaged on multiple levels, whether they are a competitive player, or simply a fan.

Surviving Sponsorship in a Heated Economy

According to vVv President, Jerry Prochazka, the struggling economy hasn’t been much of a barrier for them.  He compares the brand recognition vVv Gaming has to that of McDonalds in that when their brand is put in front of a male demographic ages 14-29, it is recognized and trusted.  According to Prochazka, “We bring these strengths to our partners.  Gaming is exploding, and I can’t think of a better time to be a part of it”. 

In order to futher extend the reach of their property, vVv Gaming has turned to SponsorPark.  “SponsorPark is a true partner.  They understand that their clients need a marketplace to share their value proposition, as well as a space where opportunities abound” said Prochazka. 
Preferred Partners?
vVv Gaming has a strong male demographic aged 14-29, and partnering with vVv Gaming allows sponsors to have their brand presented across multiple mediums in a way that doesn’t feel forced.  vVv Gamings demographic understands the organic interaction between brands and sponsors and how critical it is to their overall success and enjoyment.  To learn more about vVv Gaming and contact property owners, visit their SponsorPark listing.

Categories:   Elements of a Proposal | featured listings | General | Introductions | Marketing | Social Media | sponsorship sales
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