Making sponsorship work

By Tom,

September 2015

We get asked to sponsor events a lot. This is something that comes part and parcel with running a service based business, but probably more so with a creative business because every event needs to set a tone and communicate in order to sell tickets or raise awareness.

My problem is that I want to help everyone! No joke. I hate saying no, but the reality is that I’ve got to run a business that makes money in order to pay bills and wages. So I’ve had to adapt to be more commercially minded when taking on any kind of contra deal to provide creative services in return for exposure.

Therefore I make a judgement call based on this kind of criteria:

  • What is the event/cause and do I believe in it?
  • How much time is needed?
  • What are we getting in return?
  • Is there any potential for it to turn into paid work?
  • Will it help raise our profile?
  • Who else is involved?
  • Can we schedule the work without disrupting other projects?

It sounds harsh but with so many approaches, as a business owner you have to find a way to filter out what is actually a good opportunity and what can be good for the business, in the long term at least.

The Toward team and friends
Here's some of the team plus special guests enjoying the results of weeks of hard work!

Cue the Cardiff Business Awards

Liz Brookes and Dylan Jones-Evans approached us to provide creative services to this inaugural event and after a 30 minute conversation I was convinced that it ticked every box. Being in the early stages, we didn’t know exactly what was needed but I had a good feeling about it.

The Cardiff Business Awards really wanted to stand out as a ceremony that celebrated the best of business in Cardiff. They had a strong impartial judging panel, strict criteria and a determination to be swayed only by real success. I liked the sound of this. My view of similar awards is that there were always convenient connections, or people being blinded by top line numbers. Mainly though, I’ve felt like there are too many popularity contests out there (although I’m probably bitter because I’ve never won one!)

With headline sponsors including Natwest, Eversheds, Cardiff Met and our friends at Brighter Comms this would have been difficult to turn down.

We said yes and got cracking.

Cardiff Business Awards branding

When it came to creating an identity for the awards we started with simple, but elegant typography because the logo itself needed to be adaptable in the future. We developed a corporate and moody colour scheme of dark muted colours to highlight the high calibre of business being represented.

Cardiff Business Awards illustration

As this was the first Cardiff Business Awards we had no photography to use and wanted to avoid using stock images, so we turned to illustration for a visual style. We created a range of illustrations featuring some of the most recognisable places in the city as the focal point of the brand.

Cardiff Business Awards branding applied

We developed a full identity from the logo, through to ceremony branding, stage graphics, programme and website.

Cardiff Business Awards website design

The inaugural ceremony was a resounding success. The organising team wanted to attract the biggest and best and that’s what they got. Over 400 of Cardiff’s most ambitious business people in one room celebrating each other's achievements and an after party that went on into the early hours.

The efforts from Brighter Comms, Clearly PR and Grapevine Events saw a huge amount of press and media coverage which drove traffic to the website and led to floods of entries from a huge variety of businesses.

The design style that we developed set the tone. One of great celebration for serious achievements. It’s a tone that will carry through year on year for an event that will be a permanent annual fixture for Cardiff businesses.

Therefore my advice is that if you choose to sponsor an event, be selective, make it a showcase and make it work for your business.