Sponsorship has grown over the past 15 years as a marketing platform to reach and engage audiences. Sponsorship expenditure growth rate has consistently outpaced growth in media advertising expenditures during that period. While sports receive the lion share of sponsorship support (almost 70% of all sponsorship spending is on sports), cause marketing has been the fastest growing type of sponsorship in recent years. Companies are eager to align their brands with causes that matter to their customers.
As sponsorship in general and cause marketing in particular have grown, the sponsor market has become more crowded. It is more difficult today to differentiate a brand from competitors using sponsorship because many more companies are seeking opportunities to partner with nonprofit organizations or charities. At the same time, a weak economy has put a strain on nonprofits of all sizes, but smaller organizations may be hit particularly hard in terms of less funding and resources to carry out their missions.
The combination of a competitive environment for top-tier sponsorships and funding challenges for small nonprofits has sparked growth in a practice called microsponsorships. For example, Pepsi has created the Pepsi Refresh Project, a program that makes grants to community to organizations. This approach is a departure from looking for one or a few nonprofits to sponsor. Microsponsorships reaches customers where they are- at the community level. Sponsors’ involvement in these types of programs are a way to demonstrate concern and caring at a level at which many people can observe it first-hand. And, microsponsorships are a great fit with social media in that communication of a company’s microsponsorship can be spread by creating online communities around the brand-cause partnership.
Will microsponsorships stick, or is it just a marketing gimmick? Procter & Gamble’s Prilosec brand recently kicked off a microsponsorhip campaign with the tag line “The sponsor of everything.” Clever, but the question with microsponsorships is whether sponsors are perceived as sincere and have a genuine interest in helping the causes they sponsor, or is this viewed as just another tactic to attempt to increase sales? Consumers are too savvy today to be fooled. Here’s hoping that microsponsorships benefit the causes they are intended to help and allow sponsors to do well while doing good.
Advertising Age – “Cause Effect: Brands Rush to Save World One Deed at a Time”