On a small-business budget there are only so many events...

On a small-business budget there are only so many events and organizations a company can sponsor. That's why it's imperative to choose the right ones, set a budget and identify key goals. Credit: iStock

On a small-business budget there are only so many events and organizations a company can sponsor. That's why it's imperative to choose the right ones, set a budget and identify key goals.

"You really have to know why you're making the investment," says Bryce Townsend, CEO of ESP Brands, a Manhattan sports and entertainment partnerships consultancy. "You have to know what you're trying to achieve."

Don't sponsor organizations just for the sake of sponsoring them, or an event simply because it's popular. "There has to be a reason for being there," says Townsend.

For example, are you seeking more brand awareness or looking to showcase a particular product or service? Identifying your end goal will help you pare down your choices.

Match your market and values. "The best sponsorships are the ones that appeal to the business' target market and are a good match for the organization," says Nancy J. Church, chairwoman of the department of marketing and entrepreneurship at SUNY Plattsburgh. So, for example, an Italian restaurant may want to sponsor an Italian-American festival, she notes.

Try aligning with an organization whose mission speaks to the core values of your company, adds Hillary Needle, president of Hillary Needle Events Inc., a Dix Hills event planning and marketing firm.

Also, try picking a sponsorship that will engage staff, she suggests, noting walk-a-thons are a great way to do that.

Pick a manager. Be sure to put someone at your firm in charge of managing your sponsorship. "Too often, companies just cut a check and forget about it," says Needle. "Every event sponsorship is a marketing opportunity."

Look ahead. Find out from the event organizer what you get from your sponsorship and perhaps even suggest a multi-event sponsorship package, she says.

"Organizations are happy to accommodate you because they know they have a better chance of you repeating the sponsorship the next year if they are flexible," says Joe Campolo, managing partner at the Ronkonkoma-based law firm of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick LLP, which sponsors about 100 different organizations annually and has a six-figure sponsorship budget.

So, for instance, rather than give $2,500 for one golf event with an organization, perhaps split it among multiple events, say $1,000 for its golf event, $1,000 for its spring event and $500 for its gala, he says.

Annual review. The law firm sets a budget each year and re-evaluates its sponsorship opportunities annually. The firm's director of marketing, Victoria Tringone, manages the budget and relationships.

"We're inundated with requests," Campolo notes. "It's maximizing your time and dollars wisely." That might include serving on the board or gala committee of an organization you sponsor, he says.

Don't forget promotion. Or maybe doing some of your own promotion, such as promoting your sponsorship in your company newsletter, adds Needle.

Ask the organization for details on how it will promote its sponsors, advises Church. For example, is it taking out an ad in the newspaper? Know specifically what you're getting for your dollars, she says. Organizations should provide this in detail, along with the event's target market.

Provide for feedback. If you are giving away a physical product for event attendees to taste or sample, include a response mechanism such as an email address or 800 number so people can order from you afterward, suggests Church.

Be creative, adds Townsend. If you're trying to associate your company with the idea of security, for instance, perhaps you can tie your name to the warming blankets handed out at the end of a race, he says. "You want something with a lasting take-away."