Extending Your Retail Marketing with Sponsorships

Article excerpt

Properties of all sizes, from strip centers to regional malls, can expand marketing budgets, increase merchant sales, and reinforce positioning in the market through sponsorship.

Sponsorship is a form of barter. A retail property, with its consumer shopping base and selection of stores, brings a powerful commodity to the negotiation. The sponsors bring money, prizes, advertising, and other benefits to the center.

Attracting Sponsors

While large centers are often approached by companies who want to sponsor programs, smaller properties may have to initiate sponsor contact. Begin by preparing sponsorship presentation materials. Include a property fact sheet listing the center's GLA; number of stores; anchors; and demographic information on the number of weekly shoppers, average shopper age, and income.

Customize the presentation materials requesting a sponsorship opportunity with a personalized letter to each target sponsor. The goal of this mailing is to secure a meeting for a formal sponsorship presentation. Some of the following may be appropriate materials to use if you can schedule a meeting:

* Copies of third-party endorsements such as positive newspaper articles about the property and industry awards

* Current merchant list which highlights stores selling the company's products. Companies with products sold in multiple stores at the center will be most interested in sponsorship.

* Photos of the property and copies of print advertising or video clips that reinforce the property's position in the market

* Specific sponsor benefits. To secure a local distributor to provide candy for a trick-or-treat event, document the number of children who participated last year, enclose photos of the event and the advertising planned for this year.

Companies whose target consumers align with the center's demographics are good prospective sponsors. If your mall has a high percentage of recent college graduates, for example, a local car dealership with a first-time buyer program might be interested in displaying an appropriate car at your center. Offer to trade free display space in exchange for the dealer donating a vehicle as a prize giveaway. Offer to promote the vehicle in advertising and to return entry forms from the prize drawing to the dealer at the conclusion of the promotion period. It's a fair trade. The dealer provides the vehicle, a valuable prize to increase sales traffic to the property, and the center trades its advertising exposure and access to its customers via the vehicle display.

Each center has a unique shopping audience to market. An Essence magazine-sponsored mall tour visited properties with significant numbers of African-American, female shoppers. Pampers wanted malls with young families for its diaper promotion.

What to Ask For

List target sponsors with a "wish" list of what each sponsor can provide. Be realistic in trying to secure sponsorship. It is easier to get companies to donate products or services rather than money.

The benefits to the target sponsor and the center should be equally valued. The goal is to create an unofficial partnership with the sponsor. Offer a first-time sponsor more benefits and use the documented success of first sponsorship programs to attract future sponsors.

It is a myth that big companies have large amounts of money to spend on mall sponsorship programs. High budget sponsorship is rare. The largest budget sponsorship I've coordinated was more than 10 years ago, when Virginia Slims sponsored a fashion show tour. As impressive as the six figure budget promotion was, today's malls will seldom allow sponsorship by a cigarette company.

There was no exchange of dollars between sponsors and malls for a Life magazine photographic art gallery tour. However, the malls received a free, museum-quality exhibit and were featured in full-page, national advertising in Time Inc. …

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