breaking away from the pack

Innovations in Higher Education Corporate Sponsorship Programs, Part 2

By on January 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

In part 1 of “Innovations in Higher Education Corporate Sponsorship Programs”, I reported on my December 2009 conversation with Eron Jacobson in UCLA’s Office of Corporate, Foundation and Research Relations and how he is getting buy-in and cooperation across UCLA units to combine assets to create larger corporate sponsorship packages. Here in part 2, I report on the nuts and bolts of those packages and some ways they are assembled and structured.

Deciding where to focus your attention on developing sponsorable properties within the campus community is critical to the success of a marketing-driven corporate partners program. Once you identify a sponsorable property, the level of acceptance or resistance within a unit to bringing this type of program on board determines the type of approach to developing that relationship.

Jacobson has encountered internal resistance from some units to leveraging their marketable assets with corporate partners. Even within an individual campus unit that may encompass multiple smaller units with their own distinct organizational cultures, there may be varying levels of acceptance or resistance that must be addressed.

“The easiest to pitch is the Arts,” he said. “These public units provide the metrics that traditional advertisers look for.”

Recently, Jacobson provided assistance in the development of a major corporate sponsorship for the Fowler Museum at UCLA and their current exhibition “Steeped In History, The Art of Tea”. Within six months of joining UCLA in his new position as director of corporate partnerships, Jacobson secured a presenting sponsorship worth $30,000 in cash, $10,000 in in-kind support and additional support through in-store promotions delivered by the sponsor, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Despite the promise of cash, in-kind, and support for the Museum’s development efforts, some within that unit resisted the exploitation of the exhibition’s marketable assets by a corporate entity. “Some resisted the corporate message,” said Jacobson.

IEG defines strategic philanthropy as the extension of a philanthropic relationship between a commercial entity and a nonprofit to include a sales, marketing and/or promotional relationship. For example, a company might leverage a corporate gift to a nonprofit by promoting the association in its advertising and promotions.

A corporate sponsor may be looking to more directly exploit the marketable assets of the sponsorable property. In some cases, the corporation’s foundation and the marketing team will work together to not only pursue its philanthropic goals but also to gain as much exposure for the brand as possible.

Jacobson cited his experiences at UCLA with ad agencies representing corporations interested in reaching their sales and marketing goals through sponsorship of UCLA properties. “They are tasked with delivering measureable impressions”, he said. “I have put these benefits into place and on the table for them.”

While the opportunities in the Arts are diverse and numerous, choosing where to invest limited time and other resources in helping these units is critical to the overall success of his unit’s operation. “I was warned at the beginning when I started in this position that I would be barraged by small groups with sponsorable assets that could be sponsored at the $500 or $1000 levels. These don’t rise to the $25,000+ level packages upon which we are now concentrating the majority of our efforts.”

He will offer direct assistance or consulting to the smaller groups, however, so that they can internally maximize the return on their investment in corporate sponsorship marketing of their programs and events.

Some properties don’t lend themselves well to the traditional corporate sponsorship model—another consideration when deciding where to focus attention. Conferences hosted by UCLA units seeking sponsorships from their industrial affiliates need specialized packaging of benefits that are largely unique to the needs of those affiliates which can include access to research programs and recruitment of graduating students.

“It’s about making choices based on the fundamentals of relationship building,” Jacobson said. “We must establish trust and be honest with them if it doesn’t fall into a traditional sponsorship model and they need to take another approach. We will suggest how they could move forward in other ways.”

Jacobson brought our conversation back around to the importance of developing cooperation and new internal relationships.

“I looked across campus for potential value to corporate partners,” he said. As a private sector sponsorship marketer would build in sponsor benefits provided by a media sponsor, Jacobson looked to UCLA print publications, The Daily Bruin and the UCLA alumni magazine. “The alumni magazine has a 300,000 readership and I wanted to include these in the offering. I worked with the sales staff of these two publications, looked at the open rate and negotiated a rate 50% below the open card rate.”

This arrangement provides a longer term advertising component to the sponsor’s benefits that wraps around the sponsored event. An example would be an event that takes place in March where the sponsorship includes a four month ad campaign: one to two ads run in January, one in March close to the event, and one in April as a thank you ad.

The university publications benefit from this arrangement. “The alumni magazine has mostly local ads from businesses and alumni—only four to five ads per issue and they should be running 35% of their space at a minimum,” Jacobson said. “It builds credibility and stature in relation to prospective advertisers when you have a Toyota and other nationally recognized brands advertising in your publication.”

The publisher of the magazine has provided his unit with a discounted per page ad rate that he can include in a sponsorship package. Jacobson has negotiated an internal page rate with the magazine that provided his sponsorships with a 50% discount off the open rate.

Some sponsors don’t do print advertising if it doesn’t fit with their business model and in those cases, Jacobson finds other assets that do fit with their model. “Knowing the capacity of each unit’s reach to consumers is important”, he said. “Some units have had their corporate partners programs in place for a long time. Many are well, but there is always room for growth. We bring new thoughts of how to leverage those assets in new ways.”

Jacobson formed a group of important allies on the UCLA campus who understand the value of making their sponsorable assets more marketable and available to corporate sponsors. This group serves as a brain trust and advocacy group. In his article “Innovations in Service May Require Disruption”, thought leader, author and columnist Dale Dauten described a similar group at Cardinal Health as one “to weather the storm of the status quo that will give an Old Testament testing of any good idea.”

Jacobson and his team are winning over the UCLA campus community and bringing in much needed sponsorship revenues with this marketing-centered approach to a campus-wide corporate sponsorship program.

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