What Are Sponsorships & Partnerships?
Here’s How Strategic Connections Can Increase Your Brand Awareness
Picture this: You’re standing in line at a local music festival, summer sun shining, music blaring. You look up ahead and see the name of a regional car dealership hanging across the stage. You’ve just spotted a brand sponsorship, in the wild. And there’s a PR team behind it.
Now, try this one: You’re cruising the internet for a new pair of sneakers, and you stumble across a really unusual pair of Nike Air Force 1s — with an unmistakable Tiffany blue check mark. That’s an A-list example of a brand partnership.
When brands decide to fund concerts, trade show presentations, sporting events, social media collaborations, charity fundraisers, co-branded products, and business events — you get the picture — these are sponsors and partners at work.
Brand sponsorships and partnerships are strategic business connections designed to increase your brand’s reach and awareness. They’re a way for your brand to make a public statement and throw your weight behind causes that align with your values.
Sponsorships and partnerships are happening all the time and at every level of brand awareness, from small and mid-sized businesses to household names. The best part — especially for marketing and PR teams — is that can be fun and highly effective.
In fact, 57% of companies report leveraging partnerships to acquire new customers. One study even found that high-growth brands are three times more likely to use marketing partnerships than no-growth firms.
Do You Need A Sponsorship or Partnership Program?
If done right, your brand can benefit greatly from a strategic collaboration.
A sponsorship or partnership program can create a symbiotic relationship between you and your partner company, boosting both parties’ market reach. Through brand partnerships, like-minded companies agree to amplify each other’s goals.
They can supercharge your brand exposure, break you into new markets, secure a seat for you at the table of major industry events, or add new capabilities to your product or service. This momentum can then be used to build your credibility and align your brand with respected market leaders.
For example: Duolingo recently partnered up with Max (formerly HBO Max) just in time for the release of the Game of Thrones prequel series. The language app featured a course on High Valyrian, a fictional language in the series. This collaboration boosted awareness of Duolingo for Game of Thrones fans and gave Duolingo fans a new challenge to be excited about. (A win-win for both parties that endeared the language app to fans of the TV series.)
That said, not all sponsorships/partnerships are fruitful. And a collaboration isn’t enough, on its own, to make a measurable difference for your brand. If no one knows about the partnership, none are left the wiser, and you’ve wasted resources and effort.
To diversify your offerings, expand your customer base, and inspire media coverage, you must approach brand partnerships and sponsorships strategically. You must consider the entire program lifecycle and integrate a PR and marketing campaign to support it.
What Goes into a Sponsorship or Partnership Campaign?
So, what is a sponsorship or partnership “done right?” In short, it’s a program that analyzes brand alignment at the start, maximizes media and marketing opportunities in the middle, and measures KPIs all the way through to the end to ensure success. More specifically, a good campaign should include the following. (And at Trust Relations, ours always do!)
A Brand Analysis
A brand analysis helps you define the brand you want to be and how you want to be represented in the media. This step ensures that your brand image aligns with that of any potential partners, protecting your brand and providing a marketing boost.
Unfortunately, many agencies overlook this step. At Trust Relations, our proprietary Trust Analysis ensures that every client’s brand messaging strategy is iron-clad. Then, we use that framework to power and validate all partnership and sponsorship decisions. (That’s how we ensure our clients’ actions as a brand match their values and claims.)
Partnership and Integration Announcements
Landing earned media coverage is a crucial part of any PR or media relations campaign — but the stakes are higher when a partnership is involved. A partnership is only as successful as its market reach. If your customers and future potential partners don’t know about the campaign, it will likely flop. Media coverage increases awareness and lends the third party credibility of the press to your partnership announcement.
We strongly advise that any brand considering a partnership first seek out an experienced PR team to guide the process. A skilled PR agency can design an effective announcement strategy to amplify the news around your sponsorship or partnership, including tactics like: press releases announcements, strategic messaging, media pitching, press interviews, and coverage reports.
A word to the wise: If you forego PR support and your campaign goes under the radar, your efforts will be wasted, and your future partnership opportunities may suffer as a result.
Sponsored Speaking Opportunities
One of the best ways to gain valuable exposure and grow your position as a thought leader in your industry is through sponsored speaking opportunities. Often, for executives new to the industry speaker circuit, sponsored opportunities can be a gateway to future earned speaking opportunities at trade shows, industry events, and conferences.
To land speaking gigs relevant to your company goals, a reputable PR or marketing agency should: conduct thorough research; carefully vet any speaking opportunities for band alignment; weigh the value of the opportunity against the financial cost to participate; draft a strong, strategic submission; and help prepare high-quality presentation materials. (It’s helpful to work with an agency that offers design services, for that reason.)
Celebrity and Influencer Partnerships
When seeking celebrity and influencer partnerships, brand alignment is absolutely critical. A savvy PR agency should pitch strategic partnership opportunities to amplify personal messages about your brand that will impact your customers, not just seek to work with celebrities for their general fame status.
To take the stress out of celebrity and influencer partnership logistics, consider working with relationship management experts that handle the entire engagement lifecycle––from research, negotiations, and product requests, to content coordination, monitoring for social media posts, and generating coverage reports.
Especially in an era of increased public scrutiny and “cancel culture” call-outs, it’s imperative for the safety of your brand reputation that you consult with a PR expert before engaging with a celebrity partner. This will ensure that image aligns with your values and that their audience will be a valuable addition to your target customer base.
A brand collaboration helps promote your products and services to get the attention of your target audience on a larger scale. When launching a brand collab, it’s best to have a designated team to manage the collaboration end-to-end and secure strategic agreements with synergistic brands. Brand collaborations often include corporate gifting, company partnerships, creative collaborations, co-branded product launches, and more.
An experienced communications professional serves as a safety net, to prevent any hiccups that could harm your brand image and ensure the logistics of the process run smoothly.
Event Coordination and Marketing
Anyone who has run an event knows how much work is involved in managing it. During this tumultuous time for many brands, even the most capable in-house teams are likely to be overwhelmed by the process. A properly-executed sponsored event involves coordination and vendor liaisons, the nitty-gritty of campaign execution, and of course, post-mortem reporting.
A skilled marketing event team can provide a comprehensive event overview and run-of-show, secure the necessary venues, confirm attendees, and provide support staff to take the stress out of your branded event — and generate maximum results to reach your target market. (Read: increased ROI.)
Press Backgrounder/Press Kit
If your partnership or sponsorship includes a media relations campaign, (which it should), a press backgrounder is an essential asset to have on hand. Also called a press kit, this strategic asset adapts your brand messaging into a comprehensive and visually interesting package that is easy to share with interested media contacts covering your event.
It should capture and quickly communicate your company’s value propositions, features, benefits, expertise, testimonials, executive biographies, headshots, and more. In short: it should answer any immediate questions a reporter might have about your brand.
This reduces unnecessary back-and-forth communications and helps ensure that your team and media contacts are on the same page when discussing your brand, products, and services. A good press kit makes the process easier for interested media contacts to write about your event and refer back to your brand as a potential future source or example.
How Does Trust Factor In?
A trusting relationship is foundational to any branded partnership. Consumers are more skeptical than ever, and more savvy to deceptive marketing practices that are prone to catch fire quickly on social media.
At Trust Relations, we aim to safeguard our clients against claims of inauthenticity with a golden rule: As a brand, you must do what you say before you can say what you do. Our approach to PR, “trust relations,” is about earning your audiences’ and stakeholders’ trust based on who you are—not who you pretend to be. It’s a new approach, founded on the belief that every brand’s storytelling and story-doing should be one and the same.
Unfortunately, that’s not the industry standard. But we believe it should be.
A PR agency should be ready to guide you in determining whether a partner organization supports your brand’s goals and mission. It should empower you to earn increased respect amongst your target audiences and lend credibility to your business.
Before we recommend a sponsorship or partnership opportunity to any client, we assess their brand to ensure it’s mutually beneficial — and a perfect match. If you’re ready to see the value a strategic partnership or collaboration can unlock for your brand, work with us here.
Trust Relations Team