The PR Office recently attended the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition at The British Library, it was sponsored by our client, Arik Air, Nigeria and West Africa’s largest airline. This got us thinking about why brands align themselves with cultural events through sponsorship.

Many might simply take a cynical view towards sponsorship; assuming a brand will only consider this particular type of marketing to improve the bottom line; be it through increasing sales of a product or perhaps refreshing a tarnished reputation.

While reputation is obviously a huge part of sponsorship, it is more about the brand and organisations helping each other to work towards a common goal. In the case of Arik Air it wanted to raise the brands visibility to a Western audience who may not have heard of it otherwise – therefore allowing the airline to break into a new market.

There is a growing trend amongst corporate businesses who are realising that while their offering is key, when it comes down how a brand interacts their audience is looking for a more sophisticated and lifestyle experience. Joining up with the right organisation or institution is key to this.

Arik Air is passionate about its identity as well as sustaining a solid interest in its African roots. Therefore, the British Library, which is known for its educational and culturally dynamic exhibitions was a good fit. From a corporate objectives and strategies perspective, the arts help you get your message across in engaging ways and at a time where diversity is very much the darling of the business sector, the arts can create an environment that blends backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures.

Looking beyond brand, businesses must also take the time to understand the organisation with which it is partnering so it can properly set out how the it can bring benefits to the organisation it wishes to partner with and vice versa. If the values are the same, then the partnership, should in theory work.

Redbull is a great example of a company that has successfully told its brand story through a carefully targeted programme of sponsorship and events. Redbull considers its primary audience to be young males aged 18-34 that enjoy outdoor pursuits and high adrenaline activity. It has therefore been very smart in aligning itself with fast paced action sports, such as Formula One, mountain biking, dirt biking, kayaking, and break dancing, to name but a few, all of which had strong audiences which hit its target market

The Redbull example does bring important points into consideration. Before sponsoring an event, a business must feel sure that the sponsorship deal will be effective, engaging and be viewed by businesses and public alike as an appropriate partnership. As journalist Catherine Love states in an article she wrote for The Guardian, “Money matters, but exchange of space, resources and services can lead to more mutual relationships.”

Businesses should be aware of the main pitfalls in a corporate relationship: a distinct lack of clarity between the goals of the brand and the organisation looking for the sponsorship. Communication is a vital point to this.

If done properly, sponsorship can offer many benefits:

• widen audience and create new communities
• raise brand awareness
• create positive PR
• build brand positioning
• support ongoing campaigns
• create emotional commitment
• good opportunity for corporate hospitality

Overall, with growing audiences eager for a deeper connection with their brands, many more businesses should realise the potential behind sponsoring relatable events. It can be a very effective way of communicating with target audiences as well as supporting the development of creativity and creating a more sustained relationship between a brand and its audience.

James Wright, Account Manager

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