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Partnerships with Purpose

In our latest webinar “Partnerships with Purpose,” SMA Founder & CEO Paula Beadle discussed the greatest factor driving the transformation of the sponsorship industry right now: purpose.



The key to creating successful partnerships with purpose is to speak from the heart and demonstrate your commitment to impact the world or your community.

When brands and properties come together to make a difference. When they see customers as citizens. When visitors are placed at the center of decision-making. When there is a shared commitment to reach clear goals and make a positive impact – amazing things happen.

No executive is going to work today saying, “we’ve got to buy a sponsorship.” They are waking up and saying, “this product or service is in crisis, my employees are in crisis, my industry or community is in crisis.”

They are saying, “we need ideas and solutions to grow our business and engage with our customers.”

That’s what we need to be talking about.

Sponsorship is hard. It takes longer and is and is more difficult than anyone wants or expects. We have struggled over the last few years, and we’ve learned to honor the struggle, because we know we will learn from the process.

For the last few years, I’ve talked about how the landscape of sponsorship is changing, and how that change is welcome and overdue. I didn’t know the driver behind this shift would be so profound. The industry needed to be something more than just an exchange of assets like signage, tickets, suites, and logos – and that change has been underway for a long time.

“Purpose” is the vehicle driving the transformation.

It’s transforming how we create and activate, sparking the shift from sponsorship to partnership. For example, we recently worked with Panasonic on a sponsorship with the World University Games. Although supporting collegiate athletes is important to Panasonic, the driver of the sponsorship was highlighting Panasonic’s “Green Impact” commitments.

We were able to do that because the Games have a robust sustainability effort: “Save Winter” – a push to produce the most sustainable games possible.

Although sustainability was the central focus of the partnership, assets also included kiss and cry banners, dasher boards, interview backdrops, wrapped Zambonis, the logo on the photographer bibs promoting the Lumix brand and access to athletes for social media moments.

As partners, we can support initiatives that drive meaningful change. It’s a smart growth plan. Social impact partnerships tend to be longer-term, bigger investments, they have more impact and generate better results.

The why …

  • Marketing strategies today are centered around communicating what companies stand for and how they demonstrate it. Nielsen research created a report: “The Changing Value of Sponsorship” that said brand objectives are shifting toward purpose and community benefits – brands are putting their money where their mouth and soul is.
  • Sponsorship and partnership marketing programs build brands faster and engage audiences in more meaningful ways that deepen relationships. Sponsorship helps connect brands to consumers at a passion point or moment in their lives. The strongest sponsorship programs reach beyond marketing and across the organization to Sales, HR, Innovation, PR, Advertising, social media and giving – reaching all stakeholders using multiple channels to bring the strategy to life.
  • Companies who support the issues and topics important to their customers develop a relationship of trust. 86% of Americans believe that corporations should take a stance on social issues. According to Nielson, “half of the younger population say they have a greater interest in brands that act in a socially responsible way.”
  • Marketing programs with a sense of purpose garner more attention and demonstrate a company’s values. According to Nielson’s Global Sports Marketing Trends – 63% more engagement is generated from advocacy posts for brands compared to other social media content.

Customers want engagement with companies that enrich their lives, and when that connection is made, brands create affinity and authenticity with customers. So, doesn’t it make sense that companies expect their sponsorships to make meaningful connections, support their social good efforts and align with events that share their values and audience?

If you want more sponsors or want to grow your sponsor’s investment, keep this in mind: Growth happens when you create opportunities for brands to communicate what they stand for to the audience and engage them to act.

World-class brands have taken the spotlight off their brands and moved it to social good priorities. Partnerships with Purpose are not about giving back, they are about paying it forward. They inspire action.