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Sponsorship/partnering: guidelines

These guidelines have been developed to assist staff:

  • where a company seeks to advertise its services or products through agency endorsement and branding
  • where sponsorship is being sought by an agency to promote and/or financially support an event, product or service.
What’s the difference between advertising and sponsorship?

‘Advertising’ is where companies pay to use an agency’s printed and other communication resources to advertise their service, product, corporate logo etc.

‘Sponsorship’ or ‘Partnering’ is where companies contribute money, goods or services to have their company associated with an agency event or service which will enhance their corporate profile.

Sponsorship in today’s society

The objective of sponsorship/partnering is to build positive associations with third parties in order to enhance and extend a campaign, project or event by extending the message, supplementing the budget or providing integrated support.

In general, sponsorship/partnering is a two-way commercial deal, and requires an investment of time, effort and money.

Many businesses have moved from a ‘charity model’, where only money is provided, to a ‘business model’ requiring a clear strategic purpose linking the community’s needs with the interests of the business.

Businesses are using donations to charities more as marketing strategies than as philanthropic gestures.  They will make money available if they believe it will give them an edge in the market place.  In turn, this means more time is needed in submitting proposals, and administering fund-raising and public relations activities.

Sponsorship/partnering also requires a great deal of ‘aftercare’. If sponsors believe they are not being looked after, this will be reflected by the size and length of their investment.

It is also important to consider other benefits of sponsorship/partnering that extend beyond the financial considerations.  These include access to other resources of the sponsor (including expertise), and access to the sponsor’s staff and business contacts.

Corporate Australia, in trying to get involved with the community, is more likely to sponsor entities that have a cause.  Companies want to build up goodwill in the community.[1]

Exposure versus endorsement

All advertising/sponsorship/partnering proposals must be negotiated on the principle that the arrangement does not represent endorsement of goods, services or products by the agency, but rather, acceptance of the advertising/sponsorship/partnering proposal to offer exposure to those goods, services or products.

An agency does not want organisations it has advertising/sponsorship/partnering agreements with to promote their product or service as ‘endorsed by the Department of…………..’

Seeking sponsorship/partnering

An event, product, or service that has a reasonably large audience is worth pursuing for advertising and sponsorship. Matching the event, product or service to an appropriate advertiser/sponsor is often the most challenging part of securing advertising and/or sponsorship.

Look for companies that supply the agency with products and services, and/or companies that wish to access the particular target audience the event or product is aimed at – such as public sector employees.

Where possible, obtaining a single sponsor/partner is a more favourable approach than a collection of smaller sums.  This strategy lessens the ensuing administrative complications and possible problems of sponsorship priorities.  If more than one sponsor/partner is used, it is important to establish designated sponsor status rights.  A clear hierarchy should be established to avoid any confusion about who is the most important partner.  A sponsor may want to be consulted about co-sponsors or have the right to approve co-sponsors.[2]

A crucial component of any sponsorship/partnering proposal is to illustrate to the potential sponsor that the people being reached through the sponsorship opportunities and events are the same people that the sponsor is trying to reach.

NOTE: Managers responsible for arranging or administering sponsorships/partnerships must consult with their agency’s communications manager before approaching a sponsor(s).

The process

Draw up a list of potential companies.

Find out as much as you can about the company you are considering. Using the Internet is a good way of obtaining their corporate profile eg mission, values, goals, current target market, similar sponsorship undertaken.

If possible, also find out when sponsorship decisions are made and how (by an individual, Board or committee), what they expect from their investment, and how they measure that investment.

Use the Sponsorship/partnering: checklist to assess whether a particular advertising/sponsorship proposal is appropriate. ‘Appropriate’ advertising/sponsorship is that which is consistent with the agency’s/government’s vision, and with companies whose products and ethics are consistent with and complementary of this vision.

No agreement should be entered into without careful assessment of the potential benefits and risk(s) to the core business of the agency, which may emerge as a result of the advertising/sponsorship. In other words, the company the agency enters into an agreement with must be reputable and not likely to damage the agency’s credibility or cause embarrassment.

Approval to proceed must be sought from the head of your agency, or his/her nominee, and the agency’s communications manager, before issuing or accepting a sponsorship, to ensure its compatibility with the government and agency's communication goals. Agencies are also encouraged to consult the Director Communications Policy where a sponsorship may be contentious.

If the company is deemed ‘appropriate’, prepare a proposal for consideration by your manager and/or director. The proposal should outline the product or service involved in the advertising/sponsorship arrangement, the organisation and the business they are in, the amount of money or ‘in kind’ products being contributed, and what the organisation receives for its contribution.

Given the current environment, it is important to demonstrate in the proposal how the agency compliments the company’s business, and to be specific about what is being offered. For example, include details such as:

  • what the activity or event is and when and where it is being held
  • who the target audience is (be clear about demographics)
  • relevance of the target audience to the sponsor’s target audience and that it provides a possible expansion of their target audience
  • why assistance is needed
  • that it is a sole sponsorship opportunity being presented
  • what previous experience and results you have had from past sponsorship
  • what evaluation and monitoring procedures can be implemented
  • what reporting activities are necessary.

Once the proposal is approved, sound out the company informally via phone. If the company sounds interested, offer to send them a detailed proposal in the next couple of days, and to meet with them once they receive the proposal.

Evaluation

The key points to consider in evaluating a sponsorship are:

  • value
  • the sponsor’s requirements
  • how their business compliment the objectives of your own service/work area.
Develop a formal agreement

Once agreement with the sponsor is reached, a formal agreement must be prepared which covers details about delivery obligations, use of corporate identity, cancellation and operational responsibilities. Contract agreements may be simple (a letter between parties confirming arrangements) or complex (for sponsorship of a major event or service). In general they should cover details about delivery obligations, use of branding, cancellation and operational responsibilities. See Sponsorship agreement/deed: template

Get signoff on the agreement

Agreements worth $10,000 or less can usually be signed off by the relevant Divisional Director, but you need to check the arrangements in your particular agency.

Advertising/sponsorship agreements exceeding $10,000 must usually be submitted for signoff by the Head of Agency, but you need to check the arrangements in your particular agency.


[1] Australian Financial Review, 4 September 2001, p 20

[2] Richards, C., ‘Structuring Effective Sponsorships’, LBC Information Services, NSW, 1998