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What Is Sponsorship Activation?

Terry Masters
Terry Masters

Sponsorship activation is a marketing term used to indicate a corporate sponsor’s intention to independently promote and advertise its sponsorship of a marketing opportunity. All costs associated with this promotion are absorbed by the corporation, and are above and beyond the amount of money allocated to the sponsorship itself. The corporation takes on the responsibility of creating awareness, or activation, in the public eye.

Corporations pursue sponsorship opportunities to enable their corporate name, products, and services to reap benefits by affiliating with a popular individual, event, product, or cause. The theory is that public goodwill and the desire to emulate the habits of famous people will lead to increased sales. Although the perception is often that the corporation wants to provide support, in reality the expectation is that the sponsorship investment will generate tangible benefits that can be measured.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The only way a sponsorship can benefit a corporation’s bottom line is if people know about it. Public awareness is essential, but is typically handled by the organizers of the sponsored opportunity. Most sponsorship agreements will contain a clause that specifically requires the organizers of the sponsorship to use every means at their disposal to promote the corporation’s involvement. Lack of adequate promotion can be grounds for the corporation to pull its support and will affect renewal if the opportunity reoccurs on an annual basis.

Certain sponsorship opportunities have special value to a corporation’s goals and objectives. The corporation might need to shore up its goodwill in a particular community or combat negative publicity regarding one of its products. In such instances, the corporation might take charge of sponsorship activation and use additional resources to make sure the affiliation gets the widest possible publicity. Return on investment is proactively managed on both sides of the relationship, relieving some of the burden from the organizers of the sponsorship opportunity.

Sponsorships are negotiated agreements regarding an exchange of value. Part of the negotiation can include sponsorship activation if the negotiator is savvy about the inner workings of a corporate budget. In major corporations, the money used for sponsorship activation typically comes out of the advertising budget, which is in a different budget category than sponsorship. If the sponsorship opportunity has particular value to a corporation, it is possible to include activation as an added obligation without affecting the bottom line amount of the sponsorship, particularly if it is the end of the year and the corporation has excess advertising money to spend. In this way, the opportunity gets additional advertising at no cost.

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Discussion Comments


@irontoenail - I don't really put that much thought into it. I think it works better for companies like fast food places that do sports sponsorships and manage to get the kids to think of them as a great place that helped them out.

I don't think most adults are that swayed either way, at least, not in the long term. But kids will remember and love the company for it.


@KoiwiGal - It makes a big difference to me though and I try to teach my kids the same. Look at the whole company, not just the product that's in front of you.

Most of the time, I find that companies which have a lot of corporate sponsorship packages going on are also very trustworthy companies (although not always) who I'm happy to buy from.

But if I'm faced with two companies who are roughly the same in all other ways and I know one of them contributes to, say, the World Wildlife Fund, I'll buy from them instead of their competitor.


I've definitely filled out surveys from companies where they've been trying to find out whether or not their sponsoring different events or charities have made a difference to the way I perceive them.

And honestly, it doesn't really make that much difference to me, most of the time. I make all my buying choices based around whether I like something, whether I think it will be good for me and which is the cheapest choice, rather than buying according to brand loyalty.

I do think that companies should have event sponsorship because it's the right thing to do, but honestly it doesn't make much difference to what I buy.

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