The Hidden ROI of Local Event Sponsorships

Let’s play an association game. I’ll offer a word or two, and – without looking ahead – come up with a phrase it makes you think of.

The 1st phrase is local.

Maybe you’re thinking “community,” “nearby,” or “pub” (as I found in one word association platform).

The 2nd phrase is Local Advertising.

So what was your related phrase? I’m going to guess it’s something along the lines of PPC, ad networks, direct mail or maybe billboards.

These tactics, while they do work for local marketing, are largely unrelated from the common connotation of “local.” In most towns or cities, there are places or people, or maybe a few fun facts that only locals know about.

And event marketing is the only local marketing tactic that gets brands to the ground floor. A 2014 survey by brandmuscle asked “hundreds of local dealers, agents and franchisees across a wide range of industries” to report their satisfaction rating for various local marketing tactics. Here are the results:

  • local events 80% [satisfaction]
  • coupons 77%
  • email 76%
  • direct mail 75%
  • paid search 73%
  • billboards 72%
  • community sponsorships 71%
  • Facebook 71%
  • television 65%
  • radio 68%
  • Twitter 61%
  • Yellow Pages 48%
  • local newspaper advertising 46%
  • local magazine advertising 44%

SMB and franchise marketers who try local events are clearly seeing a benefit. But even enterprise teams can find additional reach through local events.

Events mean handshakes with your customers…and pitch practice with potential customers.

It’s easy to rely on support requests or social media messages for “customer listening.” But interacting with people in your target market as they’re newly learning about your product is an irreplaceable experience. And these customer listening conversations can only take place in-person.

If your brand is B2B, this may mean opting for a sponsorship at industry events you already attend. Many professional meetup groups and associations of industry locals are happy to mention brands in exchange for financial or in-kind support. If you’re B2C, event marketing will involve a bit more research. Where does your target market hang out on Saturdays?

Wherever they are, consider being there too. Hiring an event team, Red Bull-style is one way to approach (and scale) local event marketing, but then, brand managers are missing an opportunity to ensure that their message rings with consumers. This is especially important for new brands, pre we-can-afford-to-livestream-a-space-dive status; young companies can’t afford to miss the mark on brand messaging for long.

Events offer the opportunity to get creative.

Studies have shown that events positively impact consumers’ awareness of brands, and branded events that provide experiences for consumers – physical, emotional, intellectual and interactive do an even better job of increasing brand equity*.

At ZipSprout, we’ve found that quality candies are an event booth essential.


But we’re a B2B company who knows that most folks crave a good Ghirardelli after 5 hours of conference sessions. Creative experiences should be tailored to the target market. Since many events, especially those connected with nonprofits, accept in-kind donations, you may be able to coordinate strategic product placement, such as offering a fresh snack or drink, or even massages, to marathoners. With one client, we even brainstormed offering a booth of recliners to running race finishers.

“Physical, emotional, intellectual and interactive” sounds a bit intimidating, but I think most of these components can be checked by planning an event experience that coincides with your product and target audience. Thinking back to the Red Bull Team, it’s clear that this brand’s event experience fits with their target market.

Events’ benefits are bigger than a business card.

Events can generate leads, and studies have shown that they affect brand image, but event marketing has benefits that go beyond “physical presence.”

In ZipSprout’s database of more than 7,800 local event sponsorships:

  • 26% provide social media mentions to sponsors, which for B2C, means tweets and Facebook posts out to more locals.
  • 44% link to sponsors, which can boost local SEO.
  • 53% of B2C events offer free tickets to the event (in addition to, or separate from a booth), which can be a great reward for employees or local brand advocates.

Sponsorships can also often include mentions in email newsletters, advertising related to the event, and press releases. In other words, events can provide benefits for everyone in your marketing department. You’ll be the hero of the holiday party.



Are your customers who you think they are? Do they need what you think they need? Who else is marketing to them? Events are a great way to find out.

Your presence at an event means showing off a personalized extension of your brand, and unlike most ad campaigns, live events offer the opportunity to test messaging, in real time. Heck, you could even experiment with a word association game.

*In this study, brand equity was defined as “a set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol that add to or subtract from the value provided by a product or service to a firm and/or to that firm’s customer” and including “1) brand awareness; 2) brand associations; 3) perceived quality; 4) brand loyalty; 5) other proprietary assets such as patents, trademarks, and channel relationships.”

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