An insider’s guide to creating the right sponsorship contract for your company
John Hancock Financial Services is in its third year of sponsoring the Audi Best Buddies Challenge Hyannis Port, an annual bike ride that raises money for Best Buddies International. Founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989, the nonprofit’s mission is to establish a movement that creates friendships, integrated employment, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“The Best Buddies Challenge is a five-star event,” says Kristine Aristide, CMP, event manager at John Hancock Financial Services. But that doesn’t mean it runs itself. “We consider it a six-month process,” she says, starting with recruiting participants and ending with ensuring that they have a great experience on race day. Here are six top considerations for working on a similar event:
1. Determine Your Goals.
Sponsoring a charitable event can offer employee engagement, field force engagement, branding reinforcement, great public relations, and a positive overall experience for all participants. Which of these is at the top of your priority list? “When you decide what is most important, you can tailor the to meet those goals,” she says. “We wanted to maximize engagement, so we elected to use our sponsorship funds to subsidize the amount each individual was asked to raise. We also wanted to provide a comprehensive training program. So we contracted Richard Fries, who is both the director for Best Buddies and a professional cyclist, to offer ‘lunch and learn’ classes for team members.”
2. Decide What You Will Spend.
“Often charitable organizations will offer special packages to engage companies as first-time sponsors,” Aristide explains. “Informational meetings run by the charity can be worth attending, as the special packages are offered only to organizations attending in person.”
3. Make Your Branding Decisions.
Do you want signage along the route? At the end? On event-sponsored clothing? Hancock decided not to use a logo on the main event jersey but rather to design team jerseys of their own. (That was another learning experience for Aristide: Finding custom cycling jerseys is not as straightforward as ordering T-shirts. Best Buddies offered vendor contacts.) This year, Aristide added a custom cycling cap to the outfit, so that when team members change for the post-race clambake, they can still find each other and the brand is still on display.
Aristide volunteered to be part of the Best Buddies Challenge Host Committee, run by the Best Buddies ride director. In monthly calls, she says, “I made sure John Hancock’s interests were represented. For example, one participant commented that buses don’t return to Boston until after the clambake. A mother of four young children, she needed to return home quickly but wanted to ride. The Best Buddies team was completely responsive. An earlier bus was added and she was able to join us.”
5. Make It Work for You.
“After they ride 50 or 100 miles, people want to celebrate with their families,” Aristide says. “The way the event is set up now, only participants are invited to the clambake. We are looking at creating a family package: If the participant reaches a higher fundraising goal, he or she can bring a spouse or kids. Being able to celebrate with your family is definitely a fundraising incentive.” The popularity of the ride, however, creates space limitations and makes including guests a challenge.
6. Put Yourself in Their Shoes.
“I had never participated in an event like this, so I rode in a charity cycling event for Special Olympics,” Aristide says. “Since doing so, I am more confident representing our participants’ needs in the contract phase.”