Get the community on side – sponsor a local team

Helping out a local sports team with sponsorship can build strong relationships with potential customers – pharmacist Silvana Gittani bet her marketing budget on it. Her success proves how many business, regardless of size, can use strategic marketing to engage with their community and forge lasting business ties.

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The youngest members of Abbotsford Juniors Soccer Club think of Silvana Gittani as ‘their’ pharmacist. Her logo is printed on the back of their jerseys. She and her family are frequently on the sidelines, cheering them on when they play. She even runs onto the pitch to blow the horn that marks the start of every season.

“That first day is a huge community event – local councillors and our federal MP come along as well as parents and grandparents,” says Gittani, who owns Abbotsford Family Pharmacy in Sydney’s inner west. Two years ago, she decided to invest every dollar of her limited advertising budget in sponsorship.

“My thinking was that if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, I’ve done something positive for the community,” she says. Gittani was also willing to take a long-term view.

“Sponsorship isn’t about spending $100 today and getting $200 back tomorrow,” she says. “You have to be prepared to give it time. I also believe you get back what you put in – if you just hand over the money and forget about it people aren’t going to respond. We have a strong presence at the matches and also on Facebook, and for us it’s worked incredibly well. People recognise us and treat us like friends so, when they need advice or anything else from a pharmacy, they think of us. Then it’s up to us to provide the service that will keep them coming back.”

Not just for the big names

Sports sponsorship is big business – last year it attracted an estimated $16.26 billion in investment, according to ESP’s 33rd annual industry review. Yet it doesn’t need to be something for big business alone.

“We tend to think of sports sponsorship just as something that large corporations do to support professional players and major teams, but there are many opportunities for businesses of all sizes to get involved,” says Michael Nearhos, General Manager of Brand Experience at NAB and leader of the bank’s sponsorships programs.

“We believe that sponsorship is really about one word: community. It’s building communities, backing them, supporting them and building your own business in the process. And there are communities of all shapes and sizes around Australia looking for support.”

It also doesn’t have to involve a huge investment.

“A lot of sporting clubs would be happy to get $1,000 to spend on new jerseys, training balls or soccer nets,” he says.

Donations other than cash might also be welcome.

“The local butcher could provide meat for the sausage sizzle, or a baker could supply the rolls,” Nearhos
says. “You might even be able to donate your time. An accountant could offer to do the annual audit.”

NAB’s Local Sponsorship Fund provides grants of up to $5,000 to sports teams, community groups and charities.

“Once a grant has been approved, the local banker is responsible for implementing and supporting the sponsorship,” Nearhos says. “Our bankers are very involved with their community and many of them volunteer their time.”

At the other end of the scale, NAB also sponsors AFL including through NAB AFL Auskick, the NAB AFL Academy and Rising Stars programs, for boys and girls, and partners soccer’s Football Federation Australia.

“The aim of sports sponsorship is the same at
every level,” Nearhos says. “You want to engage with the community, to connect with communities while building your brand. It’s great to see smaller businesses embracing that win-win thinking in their local community.”

Sealing the deal

Something as simple as a logo on a sports shirt can link your name to positive qualities such as community spirit, reliability and trust. It can also expose your brand to a much wider audience than just those on the field.

“Every time a proud parent shares a photograph on Facebook or Instagram, they’re helping to promote my business,” Gittani says.

This can add up to a worthwhile return on investment – but it’s important to be realistic about your expectations.

“We recommend thinking about how much new or retained business you’d need to attract to justify the costs,” Nearhos says. “It isn’t always easy to track new business generated by a sponsorship but there are a few simple things you can do, like asking new customers
how they heard about you or setting up a special offer or promotional code offering a free consultation or discount.”

Nearhos suggests starting any sponsorship with a written agreement.

“It can be helpful for both parties to be clear about what will be expected of them,” he says.

The perfect fit

When it came to committing her marketing spend, pharmacist Gittani had no problem deciding which kind of sponsorship to pursue.

“Sport is all about health and fitness, so it was a perfect fit for us,” she says. “Also, my kids have played soccer and I’ve seen how much they can benefit. My youngest son started playing when he was just four and it’s helped him gain important life skills like coping with losing and being a team player.

“I’ve no doubt now that the best thing I’ve done for my business is my community involvement, beginning with sponsoring our local soccer team.”

 

This article was first published in Business View magazine (Issue 25).