Move over “activation”, the latest and greatest sponsorship buzzword is now “engagement”.  The definition of “engage” is to participate or become involved in or to get and keep someone’s attention.  Even though it may be overused, it is what most sponsors are looking for these days.  It is often referred to in the context of Social Media, but engaging fans or attendees can happen in a variety of ways.

This past fall at a UW college football game, McDonald’s served hot hash browns out of a branded mobile food truck as fans arrived to the stadium in an effort to promote their “breakfast all day” message.  Allowing fans to actually consume a product is very powerful, if the opportunity presents itself.  Alaska Airlines provided co-branded clear plastic carrying bags at the turnstiles at this same game.  This helped support a new initiative as UW tried to implement a “no backpack/purse” policy and provided a useful gift to the fans with a long shelf life.  This past summer Visa Signature provided a discount and early access to tickets to Feast of Portland along with a VIP entrance for cardholders and a special gift when guests showed their card.  None of these examples are innovative, but all made an impact by enhancing the experience and providing value to the attendees.

Engaging fans via Social Media can be efficient and helps cast a wider net.  Twenty thousand fans may be at an arena on any given night, but millions more are following who are not in attendance.  A sponsor can’t always physically be on site as well to interact with fans and giving away premium items is costly.  A compelling social media campaign can provide a one on one interaction with real time results.  There is still a debate on what these interactions or engagements are worth in regards to dollars, but the numbers are real.

Companies sponsor properties or events for different reasons.  Tapping into fan affinity, borrowed brand equity, access to a targeted demographic, and awareness are all valid objectives.  A sponsorship allows a brand to interact with fans in a meaningful way, which is different from traditional advertising or media.  It needs to be more than just branding.  Impressions are important, but an effective sponsorship must leave a lasting impression.   If engagement is missing, then the branding will most likely get lost in the clutter.  Creating contextual relevance is key.  Otherwise it’s just another logo in the bowl of logo soup.

Regardless of the objectives, finding ways to connect with customers, grab their attention or get them to participate is essential to any good sponsorship.  If this isn’t happening, then it’s probably not working and things need to change.  It’s a collaborative effort between properties and sponsors.  It’s what makes Sponsorship Marketing fun and worthwhile.