EVENT SPONSORSHIP is an effective and efficient way for brands to reach their target audience—racecar fans via NASCAR baseball lovers via Major League Baseball. But sponsoring a regional event or a small team of people with specialized interests can offer a more laser focused consumer connection.
“Alternative sponsorships versus more mainstream ones allow us to connect with consumers specifically influencers in a more meaningful way ” says Jennifer Ingram director-marketing communications at women’s hair accessory maker Goody which recently activated a comprehensive alternative sponsorship. “Mainstream sponsorships are usually transacted with a salesperson whom you may or may not meet and culminate with your logo and possibly your message appearing on every marketing vehicle related to the sponsorship. They are usually a one-way communication a one-way relationship with the consumer.”
Looking for more than that Goody last year decided to craft a more meaningful way to reach its target—strong active women ages 15 to 45 and girls ages 8 to 11. The result was a three-pronged approach: sampling Goody hair products at more than 20 events including eight legs of the Danskin Triathlon Series and the ING New York City Marathon; creating Goody Team StayPut (named after its product line) a sponsored athlete program that pairs 104 female athletes from the U.S. and Canada with Goody hair products; and sponsoring Girls on the Run a nonprofit organization with chapters across the country that helps young girls learn the benefits of physical activity specifically running (Agency: Active Marketing Group San Diego).
“Alternative sponsorships come in when a brand is looking to accomplish something specific that may not already exist or is too prepackaged ” says Kristin Carroll vice president-client service and strategy at Active Marketing Group which handled for Goody.
Goody was looking to create a strong brand association between young girls and aspirational women who were involved in their communities and used hair bands on a regular basis. Goody Team StayPut members serve as brand ambassadors compete in six endurance events throughout the year and spend time as mentors volunteer coaches and motivational speakers for Girls on the Run.
This year Goody will set up Goody Happy Hair stations at approximately 20 Girls on the Run Wondergirl 5K races giving participants hair accessories colored hair sprays stencils and temporary tattoos so they can express their personality before the race and stand out in the sea of runners. Goody Team StayPut members work the hair stations and serve as role models for the girls. Some even run along side them for support.
Ingram considers the team an extension of the brand that connects Goody to consumers and a meaningful cause. “We want more than our logo on a car website print ads and t-shirts for the bargain price of $2 million ” Ingram says. “We want the meaningful inspiring connection for our brand. Girls on the Run is more than just another cause marketing sponsorship for us. The synergies between our Goody StayPut products that really hold your hair in place during any activity is the obvious tie-in to a girls’ running program but it is so much more than that. Their culture and mission is almost identical to ours. It’s uncanny.”
Another benefit of a smaller alternative sponsorship is that instead of just seeing your logo in the distance people can actually interact with your product on site.
Polar like Goody worked last year with Active Network to create Team Polar a team of 100 amateur runners triathletes and cyclists in 10 major U.S. markets who helped educate other athletes on the importance of heart rate-based training. Team Polar athletes dressed in sleek black-and-red Polar apparel and gear served as brand ambassadors hosting training club clinics and more than 50 retail events and also competed in more than 520 races worldwide.
“A heart rate monitor is a technical tool ” says Gina Pilnacek senior marketing manager at Polar. “We realize that when you talk about it there is one level of understanding but when you can get it in the hands of people to use and demo there is a whole other much deeper level of understanding. We went to the places where our target audience frequents and offered a unique trial experience. Brand recognition and logo recognition will only take you so far. The best experience for a consumer is to actually try it and demo it and speak to a peer who has had experience with it.” Try doing that with a big-time sponsorship at the sporting event of the year. Sometimes smaller really is better.