When determining which sponsorships are right for your brand, it's important to choose wisely. Making the wrong selections can put your brand image at risk, damaging its reputation and resulting in the potential loss of valuable customers.
For example, at least three sponsors pulled their support from a minor league baseball team after a video that ran during a doubleheader on Memorial Day stirred up controversy.
The video at the Fresno Grizzlies game was supposed to be a patriotic tribute for the holiday. It included images of individuals labeled enemies of the people, which included dictators Kim Jong-un and Fidel Castro, but it also included US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York.
As a result, several sponsors, including Sun-Maid, Dos Equis and Tecate all ended their sponsorship of the team even though the organization apologized to Ocasio-Cortez and disciplined the worker responsible for the video. None wanted to be seen as supporting a message that could be damaging to their brands.
Customers are paying attention to these misalignments. In fact, research shows that the spending habits of consumers, particularly Generation Z, reflect their values. So if you want to capture Gen Z's attention through sponsorships, you have to do your due diligence to ensure those sponsorships align with your company's values and those of your target audience.
Sponsorship is more than signage
Event sponsorships can bring your brand to life in exciting and meaningful ways that tap into consumers' passion points.
Brands considering sponsorships need to choose carefully when deciding which events they support. They should look at whether the event aligns with the brand's values and ensure the crowd at the event consists of consumers who would be interested in the brand and its products. Also, brands should find out whether the event attracts other high-quality sponsors and whether sponsors come back every year. Also, find out whether the event offers any marketing or PR opportunities beyond the event itself.
Food brands, especially, have an opportunity to offer an immersive experience at a moment of need. As the official coffee sponsor of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this year, Peet's Coffee brought its Peet's Cold Brew to festivalgoers. Peet's hosted a taproom, a vintage bus "recharge" experience, and traveling Peet's Cold Brew Trikes that doled out Peet's samples.
How to Capture Gen Z's attention
If you're interested in using sponsorships to market to Generation Z, here are a few ways to get started:
1. Provide hands-on experiences
How are you going to connect with these young consumers? Reach them where they live. Chipotle Mexican Grill took its marketing efforts to the next level when it partnered with e-sports and lifestyle companies that cater to professional and amateur gamers.
This is an effective strategy considering that 68% of Gen Z men believe gaming is an important part of their identity, according to a recent study conducted by Whistle. Not only is gaming a big part of their social lives, but it's also an influence on their media habits and a driver of their brand choices.
2. Be transparent
Members of Gen Z want to know what's in their food, where it came from, how it got here and what impact it's had on the environment.
Cereal-maker Kashi tapped into this sentiment earlier this year when it worked with five inspiring Gen Z leaders, dubbed the Kashi Crew, to create its first line of cereal made for kids, by kids. According to Kashi, the three organic cereals use unexpected ingredients, such as red lentils and chickpeas, and feature “cool shapes like swirls and filled pillows.” As part of the launch of Kashi by Kids, the brand joined forces with Edible Schoolyard NYC to teach kids and their families about how they can make healthy food choices, where their food comes from and how they can help protect the environment.
After the successful launch of the Kashi by Kids cereals, the Kashi Crew also helped create snack food made with superfood ingredients, including coconut flour, chickpeas, acai and sweet potato.
3. Stand for something bigger than yourself
According to a study by Sparks & Honey, 60% of Gen Zers want to have an impact on the world, compared to just 39% of millennials. And Gen Zers expect brands to help them leave their mark. In fact, a DoSomething Strategic survey found that 77% of Gen Z members have purchased, or would consider purchasing, a brand or product in order to show support for issues the brand supports.
Making smart sponsorship decisions is key to keeping your brand's message consistent, attracting the next generation of customers, and maintaining the customers you already have. These three steps can help you get started on your sponsorship journey.
Jeff Snyder is the founder and chief inspiration officer at Inspira Marketing Group, an experiential marketing agency headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., with offices in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. With more than 20 years of experience, Snyder leads his agency's growth by focusing on building genuine relationships through client development and audience engagement.
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for Produce Industry SmartBrief or FMI DailyLead to get news like this in your inbox, or check out all of SmartBrief’s food and travel newsletters as we offer more than 30 newsletters covering the food and travel industries from restaurants, food retail and food manufacturing to business travel, the airline and hotel industries and gaming.