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Now Is The Time For Sponsorships With Purpose

Not long ago, sponsorship relationships were framed by the question “what can we do for you” without the added phrase “and the world.” In the past decade –especially this past year– the fragments are finally merging. What can we do for you and the world is now the question on both sides of a partnership.

There has been copious recent analysis on why brands need to step up their social good engagement. Notably, in the current report The Changing Value of Sponsorship: 2021 Global Sports Marketing Trends, Nielson Sports states that in light of political and social shifts of this past year and the impact sports and players are having on social justice issues, “brands are reacting with new marketing approaches, where sponsorship objectives polarize toward purpose and community benefits.” Brands aren’t just following shifting markets; they are putting their money where their mouth (and soul) is.

According to Nielson Sports, the impact is astounding and profitable: “Half of the younger population globally say they have a greater interest in brands that act in a socially responsible way.

  • For example, 11% revenue growth over the next three to five years for rights holders with a sustainability agenda
  • Brands are increasingly seeking rights holders that can provide them with a platform to promote their own values
  • Advocacy posts generate 63% more engagement for brands compared to other owned social media content.”

One example is the partnership between NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and California Hope Crisis Counseling Program (CalHOPE). When the NHL handed over naming rights to its divisions and approved helmet ads to account for lost revenue thanks to the pandemic, the LA Kings used it as an opportunity to destigmatize reaching out for mental health crisis support, as opposed to extending the deal to what is familiar: a bank, airline, or insurance partner. CalHOPE offers crisis counseling and mental health training, is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and run by the California Department of Health Care Services. In the official release, Kings president Luc Robitaille stated:

“The LA Kings have always believed we have a responsibility to help promote positive resources to assist our community, which has been an important part of our mission for more than 50 years. It is exciting that both the Kings and CalHOPE share common values when it comes to serving, and that both organizations believe in the importance of helping those in need.”

The LA Kings choice of CalHOPE not only tangibly activates their mission; it also promotes their intrinsic, non-monetary value to both their fanbase and the Los Angeles community at large. It is a perfectly articulated social good alliance because it promotes the story of both sides of the partnership.

Yet, how is the value of this partnership measured? It’s no secret Sponsorship Mastery (SM) has been inspired by sponsorship legend Lesa Ukman. Ukman left 2020 Sponsorship Mastery Summit attendees in awe after an incredible presentation on the “Intersection of Sponsorship and Social Good.” Ukman turned the industry on its head not once but twice, by changing the way brands evaluate impact. Founder of IEG, and inventor of ProSocial Valuation, Lesa has written the book on how to measure ROI on social good initiatives –including philanthropic ventures, corporate/non-profit partnerships and social organizations– with the same rigor that we measure good-old-fashioned standard profits.

Lesa also joined SM founder Paula Beadle for a 7in7 interview and shared: “brands and rights holders need to understand the social value created by their partnerships in the same way they measure profits generated. This enables… brands to understand where to invest their dollars for the biggest social impact and what to avoid as inauthentic to their customers.”

What kinds of brands and properties can take this kind of uncharted risk? According to Lesa, “this is not any longer just for niche brands, like a Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s. 63% of brands are shifting or have shifted their primary advertising in 2020, with a full 42% indicating that it’s now mission-focused as opposed to brand focused.”

Brands are seeking social good sponsorships because “events, festivals, sports, art, entertainment, destinations: you’re the creators of the things that make communities worth living in.” Lesa puts it bluntly: “you guys have all the social capital and you’re not monetizing it because you’re not measuring it.” Thanks to pioneers like Lesa that is changing.

How can your event or property integrate sponsors and social good partnerships?

  • Start with research
    Get a handle on how both sides of the partnership align. Read mission statements. Dig into social causes sponsors are currently supporting. What are the passion points you have in common? What is the root of the cause? Who is their community?
  • Take a look in the mirror
    In the wise words of Lesa Ukman, get your boards of directors to rethink your role in society. It’s not enough to want to participate, the entire team needs to take action.
  • Align with your audience
    Be clear about who you are speaking to. Demographics should be analyzed and anticipated
  • Authenticity matters
    Come up with initiatives that link what you are both currently supporting. Galvanize teams on both sides to make sure the alliance is authentic and resonates throughout both organizations
  • Tell your story
    Develop your story together. The narrative, purpose and vision of your partnership should be shared
  • Invite others to join the conversation
    Put together an advisory board. It’s never a good idea to speak for others when they should be given the opportunity to speak for themselves
  • Ask questions!
    Questions are the key to clarifying what will connect with those who are being marketed to
  • Imagine actionable goals
    Not just to project ROI but also to imagine the social impact you’d like to have on both sides. Channels of distribution should be considered, as well as product tie in

We look forward to a bright future in the world of partnerships. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that profits aren’t enough, and purpose is everything. We look forward to hearing about your sponsorship and social good alliances.



Ready to dive deeper? 

Attend an upcoming Sponsorship Mastery Masterclass! We’ll be tackling topics like unique activations, valuing sponsorship, creating a culture of sponsorship and so much more. Master the art and science of sponsorship today! Learn more and register. 

About the Author

Paula Beadle is the CEO of Caravel Marketing, a national consulting company specializing in sponsorship marketing, and the founder of Sponsorship Mastery, an annual summit and programming dedicated to improving individual and organizational sponsorship performance. She is a results-driven trailblazer with a proven record of developing smart strategies and creatively connecting the right partners. Paula has helped iconic events and major brands achieve their goals through innovative sponsorship initiatives, generating incremental revenue and successfully coaching thriving teams, executives and boards.