When Sponsorships Make Sense

By February 19, 2014Engagement

During the last six months, Portland’s two major sports arenas have been renamed with new sponsors: the Rose Garden is now Moda Center (though six months later people still refer to it as the name it held for over a decade)  and Jeld-Wen Stadium is now Providence Park.

These deals mean more than a change in signage and announcements, especially for the brands who now affiliate themselves with home town favorites. Just a decade ago, having that kind of partnership with the Trail Blazers wasn’t considered very favorable for most brands. My client at the time (the one with the golden arches), wouldn’t even consider in-arena opportunities as a result of choices made by some of the players that could cast a negative shadow on those around them.

Fast forward a few years and a changed landscape in the Portland sports market, you have an improved scenario. And these sponsors know it.

When Sponsorships Bring Value

This new Providence and Portland Timbers partnership will clearly bring value back to the health care provider as a result of their negotiations shared in this article. I rarely, if ever, recommend a client to agree to any sponsorship that includes only logo placement (note: there are occasions where this may make sense but they’re certainly not the norm). There’s just very little value there for the event, the sponsor and the audience – it’s typically just about money at that point.

The real opportunity at events, whether they’re online or in person, is in activating your sponsorship. When you can leverage a gathering of your audience to engage with them in a brand conversation, everyone experiences value. Value is in the exchange.

What does that look like? Let’s look at the Providence Park deal.



Signing a naming contract for the Portland Timbers and Thorns gives them an incredible opportunity to promote health and wellness within a pretty enthusiastic audience. From offering youth summer camps, to reviving the Special Olympics Oregon Games and other programs, they can create experiences in a community that is passionate about health, outdoor activities, soccer and our teams.

This is more than just putting their name on the stadium. I anticipate engaging in a Providence experience at upcoming games that kick off next month.

Want another example?

In 2003, McDonald’s restaurants in Oregon were promoting a message around the benefits of having one of their restaurants in your community. We had powerful statements that supported the employment, tax, charity and agricultural benefits that came directly from an economic impact study we commissioned.

RockFest was a traditional concert held in a dry grass field that headlined bands like KORN and Disturbed that year. Not what you might consider the McDonald’s audience, right? As part of the sponsorship, we negotiated on site presence. Our street team (me and about five or six other agency folks) showed up wearing branded t-shirts and trucker hats, Powerade Power Packs on our backs and Ronald McDonaldland Cookies in our bags. Sure, cold Powerade and cookies were a welcome site on a hot summer day, but not everyone immediately approached us.

You see, we wanted to talk with them, not just pass out samples. And sometimes that got uncomfortable because we opened minds and changed perspectives. Within an audience who certainly didn’t expect that type of experience at a rock concert.

The value for McDonald’s was in the exchange. And it was huge.

As a brand that is approached for sponsorship deals daily. I developed criteria for our team that you might want to consider as well.


Three Questions to Ask Before Signing a Sponsorship Deal

What value does my sponsorship bring the audience? Rarely will your logo on a banner add any value.

Can I add value to the event? Sponsoring the table pens doesn’t add value.

How can I engage with the audience? Some times this is before, after and/or during an event. It can be online and offline.

Last Tip: Don’t sponsor event wifi. No one ever attends an event and raves about the outstanding wireless access and coverage, right? In fact, I’d bet that it’s the number one complaint.

What are your best tips for sponsorships?