Media Sponsorship: Catching Flies With Honey

By Sandy Zwyer

There is an English idiom (common phrase) that says, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” meaning that it is better to use nice methods rather than unkind methods to get people to do what you want. Makes sense, right? Now you know why the practice of Public Relations (PR) is in the best interest of everyone.

Public Relations and Advertising both convey a message to an audience, the main difference is that you have to PAY for advertising -- PR is free!

PR can have many meanings and take different forms – from inter-personal to international – yet they all have the same goal: to make a positive impression. Whether the “product” we are talking about is a relationship, an event or organization, a positive impression is generally better than a negative one. No one can afford to be without Public Relations; building and maintaining goodwill may not have a dollar value, but it is still priceless.

We’ve talked about how the media need audience – YOU – and today we will look at things from the other side, how you need the media. No one “has” to buy a newspaper or subscribe to cable television; that is a matter of choice. However, what if you belong to a non-profit organization or community group that has a story to tell and can’t afford to buy advertising?

This is where PR, in the form of media sponsorships, comes in.

Why would you want media to sponsor you? First, note that these kind of sponsorships are not financial donations, but donations “in-kind” which means that in return for giving the sponsor visibility throughout your event – for example, having their logo on tickets, signs or other promotional materials – the sponsor will support your event with “editorial coverage” (news or information story) within appropriate content. Maybe they’ll even give you one of their most popular personalities to emcee your event!

This means that you really have to do your homework and only approach potential sponsors that have the same “target demographic” (audience) as your event and/or organization. As well, because you’ll be facing a lot of competition your pitch (sponsorship proposal) must stand out in the crowd. In addition to matching the medium to your audience, your proposal will need to include the 5Ws:

WHEN – start and finish dates;
WHERE – venue and location;
WHAT – a concert, contest, fashion show, etc.
WHY – tell how your organization is aligned with the potential sponsor and its core audience, and most importantly, how you will both benefit; and
WHO – anyone associated with your event that demonstrates credibility; maybe a celebrity that will draw audience to your event or a key member of your organization with a track record of success.

You probably want to make contact with your potential sponsor ahead of time – rather than just firing off a letter – and allow plenty of time between your approach and the actual event. The chance of getting a good response to you pitch improve if you grant sponsors exclusivity in their respective media (stick with one TV station, one radio station etc.) And it is good for you to know that broadcast media need to show how they’ve worked with the community when facing the CRTC at licence renewal time.

Approaching any sort of corporation for sponsorship may seem overwhelming, but help is as close as your computer’s search engine. A good place to start is Charity Village.com, “Canada's supersite for the nonprofit sector,” which has a wealth of information, including a “how-to” course on obtaining sponsorship.