Oct 01, 2009 at 01:08 PM
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Small Price, Big Sponsorship Return?

As sponsorship evolves to more complex forms of assets, modeling and measurement, many local sponsorships are still pretty cut and dry. But that doesn't mean they don't work according to a piece penned by Joyce Rosenberg of the AP today.

She says:

On football and soccer fields across the nation, small business owners are taking advantage of a huge marketing opportunity: sponsoring local sports teams.

The cost is a tiny fraction of the typical sponsorships we discuss here, but to small businesses the loyalty engendered can bring big dividends in a tough economy.

Carrie Mitchell has sponsored soccer and T-ball teams, getting the name of her Raleigh, N.C.-based company, ASAP Office Supply Inc., on uniforms and on a sign on a practice field. She has also sponsored a swim team, which meant getting her company's name announced at meets and an ad in a quarterly neighborhood newsletter.

The T-ball team was the one her son played on, and her first thought was to contribute money to help out. But, she said, "I did think that every one of those kids has parents, and every one of those parents work, and they have to buy their office supplies somewhere."

A sponsorship cost her $350, and it paid off by bringing in business. Mitchell recalls the mother of one of the team members "saying she was going to tell her company owner about me and our business, and see about getting us their business, and they did."

"For a $350 investment I got a customer that spends more than that a year," she said.

Unfortunately, Rosenberg didn't address the hole that the lagging auto industry has created on the local level. Local auto dealerships are arguably the heaviest single spending category for micro-sponsorships like youth sports teams. In aggregate across hundreds of communities, the struggling sector can have a big effect.

Nevertheless, at a time when most sponsorship professionals are focusing their efforts on complex ROI models, little league sponsors take a much simpler approach, but that doesn't mean they're not still measuring.

[sponsorship] activities do help business, though "you're not going to know it necessarily." Customers might not connect the company with an ad they saw in a program from a Little League game, but they may think, "I know that company," Dan Maggiani who owns Payroll Service Solutions in Philadelphia and sponsors a variety of teams and events, said.

In an ever more sophisticated sponsorship marketplace, the experts would seem to say they're doing it all wrong. However, it's the stunning simplicity of $350 transactions and serving post-game meals that Rosenberg portrays as working in local communities.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it" may apply in this situation. Rosenberg's portrayal suggests, that sponsorship in its purist form, isn't broke at all and is in fact, more viable than ever as a marketing tool on the local level.