There are some extraordinary opportunities.
I just returned from the HOCR Head of the Charles River Regatta. It's the Mecca of rowing, the largest regatta in the world, with competitors going off every minute for a solid two days - singles, doubles, fours, eights - with every combination of rowers from handicapped twos to world champion eights. But, mostly it was high school and college. I'm not a rower but found it one of the best run events anywhere, drawing the finest young athletes, coaches, fans, alumni and families from colleges, prep schools, rowing clubs, etc. Not surprisingly, these are also from some of the top schools (Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, etc.). A very targeted audience for someone.
What was interesting was who sponsored. Among them, Delta, EMC, and Brooks Brothers, all with very youth oriented campaigns. My reaction was brilliant. These competitors will go on to top schools, maybe the Olympics, and success later in life. Their association with any of these firms can pay long term benefits as they are true leaders, trend setters. EMC, which at first seemed an odd duck there, had a great presence, and made the kids think who are these guys? Should I work for them or use their products? Clearly, during recruiting season, EMC will be remembered. Brooks Brothers had a much hipper look and feel this is not your fathers Brooks Brothers! The international press was everywhere along with presence at sponsor booths, website, promotions, signage, regatta pamphlets, etc.
A very smart use of promotional funds I thought.
Having built two companies to world leadership via event-driven marketing and co-sponsoring, I'm a student of branding and positioning, always learning. Being in attendance at this event was a clear reminder of the power of these sponsorships. The internet has gotten so noisy and expensive that we need to go back to basics in our promoting. Are there events we as CEOs can sponsor that could make a difference? The answer is yes, and the opportunities are greater than you might imagine.
When the recession came, the charities, associations, events and fund raisers got killed. The cost of sponsorships dropped, with lots of deals to be had. So go out and take a look at what the opportunities are to raise your profile in your market or community. Think about the trade shows, industry publications, newsletters, online webcasts, research reports, and local/regional associations. They are all suffering from lack of sponsorship dollars. Lots of tech organizations and events have had to drop promo staff they just don't have a formal sponsorship program but they're available if you ask. Don't be afraid to step in and offer to help out with sponsorship, even if it's an event you help create. You might be amazed at the benefits in terms of clients, relationships, brand and positioning that result. But, be thoughtful and consistent in your message and frequency.