Smart Money


Getting the best bang for your sponsorship bucks

By Rhonda Foxworth

Are your community bank’s many contributions to various local events a check and a logo? Perhaps it’s time to take a hard look at all the events your bank sponsors to ensure those dollars are being powerfully used.

Let’s consider three questions to ask to evaluate how much sponsoring a particular event will add value to your bank’s brand.

1. Does the event and its experience appropriately represent your bank’s brand?

When people enjoy their experience at an event associated with your community bank’s brand, your bank benefits from the goodwill. But if people don’t enjoy the event, your bank’s brand could suffer. If your bank has a quality brand, then make sure it participates in quality events.

So ask questions about the event. How is it managed? A poorly run event may reflect poorly on your bank’s brand. What other businesses are part of the event? Do they help build your bank’s brand or dilute it? You work hard to build your bank’s brand, so why taint it by being associated with other businesses that your community doesn’t value as highly as yours?

2. Can your bank’s role be significant and highly visible?

Take a few minutes to brainstorm creative ways to provide support for an event and to give your community bank the visibility you’re wanting. For example, instead of a small logo on the race shirt, why not spend those same dollars to sponsor a racing team from your bank, paying entry fees and outfitting the runners in shirts with only your bank’s logo? Often sitting down for a short meeting with the event organizers is all it takes to get the creative juices flowing.

Don’t just write a check, make a plan to engage. A powerful sponsorship opportunity involves getting your employees engaged with the event and its participants. When people interact with your team, they leave with the feeling that your bank cares about the same things they do. Give your team members something to do that helps them engage with the participants. Get employees to be intentional about using the event, not just show up to eat hot dogs. Engaging can be fun or serious—whatever fits your bank’s brand.

3. Does your bank’s brand add something meaningful to the event?

When you pick events that align closely with your community bank’s brand, it’s easy to add value through a sponsorship. Ask event managers what’s on their wish list to enhance the experience or quality of the event. Your bank’s sponsorship dollars could provide the funds. For example, could you pay for better performers to play at a community event? Your bank could “own” the music at that event and enrich everyone’s experience, without the clutter of other sponsors.

Consider the expertise of your team. For example, you have professional cash handlers in your bank. They are called tellers. Why not have them sell tickets or cash out silent auctions (in logoed shirts, of course) as your bank’s contribution to an event? It will be done far better than an assortment of volunteers would do. Perhaps they could form a team to do that task at any number of events for clients who bank with you.

Using your sponsorship money to connect with the public in fun and meaningful ways brings people around your bank’s brand. Your employees enjoy participating and are proud of what your bank is doing to help. You set your bank apart from its competitors with a positive advantage, which does lead to more clients.

When you make smart choices about event sponsorship dollars, your bank’s senior management will see it as a sound investment. It’s a gift your bank gives to improve or enhance life in the community.

Rhonda Foxworth ( is the principal of Plaid Fox Marketing in Ann Arbor, Mich. Foxworth was previously a vice president and marketing manager for Bank of Ann Arbor, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Before becoming a bank marketer, she ran a specialty toy store and marketed educational board games. Reach her by Twitter @a2plaidfox or @rjfoxworth.