With sponsors trying to squeeze every ounce of return from their sponsorship expenditures, rightsholders need to do all they can to add value.

One great way to do that is by facilitating sponsor cross-promotions.

The thinking is simple: Sponsors can gain additional reach and lower activation costs by aligning with like-minded companies that target a similar audience.

“Sponsor cross-promotions can increase the reach of a promotion by tapping into marketing assets owned by all the participating partners, which allows the promotional message to be heard, seen and read by a much larger audience—and more likely at a lower cost—than if one sponsor were doing the promotion by themselves,” said Dennis Bash, regional marketing manager with U.S. Bank.

When done right, sponsor cross-promotions provide exposure in marketing channels companies may not typically be able to access on their own.  

For example, U.S. Bank several years ago partnered with Cold Stone Creamery on a cross-promotion around the NFL Denver Broncos. The Broncos County Just Got Sweeter promotion was designed to drive traffic to ice cream shops and prompt transactions with the bank’s Broncos debit card. Consumers that used the card at Cold Stone outlets received a 15 percent discount.

And a growing number of companies are finding success from sponsor cross-promotions. The Lincoln Motor Co. generated nearly $5 million in incremental sales as a result of a cross-promotion with Wilson Sporting Goods Co. around the USTA US Open.

The promotion featured assets from each company: Wilson hosted tennis clinics at Lincoln dealerships, provided a free racquet with test drive and promoted a sweepstakes on tennis cans that dangled a trip to the US Open, while Lincoln touted the events through radio and newspaper ads, paid for the event clinics and helped underwrite the sweepstakes. 

In addition to providing value to sponsors, sponsor cross-promotions can help properties extend their marketing message.

Cross-promotion success: Wilson, Lincoln & The US Open

“Sponsor cross-promotions provide properties a tremendous amount of promotion and exposure. Their partners have access to audiences they don’t have,” said Ann Wells Crandall, chief marketing officer with The Big East Conference.

Other properties echo that view.

“Sponsor cross-promotions are a sign of the times and a trend we push with our strategic partners. Any time you can align brands with like objectives, good things happen,” said David Wright, senior vice president of global partnership for Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer’s commercial arm.

Major League Soccer this summer facilitated a cross-promotion between Electronic Arts Inc. and AT&T Inc. around the AT&T All-Star Game in Kansas City. The AT&T MLS All-Star “In the Game” Challenge gave fans the opportunity to vote one forward into the MLS All-Star Game. The catch: consumers voted for the player by scoring goals in the EA Sports FIFA Soccer 13 video game.

“A the end of the day, successful partnerships satisfy partner-specific business objectives and drive incremental—and measurable—commercial value. Cross promotion opportunities are becoming an increasingly important component to a brand’s overarching strategy,” said Wright.

While cross-promotions can be highly valuable to sponsors and properties, they can be difficult to implement. Some sponsors may be hesitant to share their marketing objectives with other companies, and even those that are open to partnerships may find some pullback from their marketing agencies. 

“Cross-promotions are a great opportunity, but they’re very difficult to pull off. It seems like they could be a ‘one plus one equals three,’ but the road to get there can be difficult,” said Edward Gold, director of advertising with State Farm Insurance Co.

Cross-Promotion Best Practices For Properties
Below, IEG SR shares tips on how rightsholders can facilitate cross-promotions and drive value for sponsors.

Be proactive. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of properties to take the lead on sponsor cross-promotions. That begins with having a commitment to facilitating cross-promotions, having a deep understanding of each partner’s marketing objectives and scouting potential matches among sponsors.

Educate staff about the importance of sponsor cross-promotions. “Properties need to have someone who believes in cross-promotions and is willing to make them happen,” said Crandall.

The people charged with facilitating sponsor cross-promotions should be creative, have a marketing background and the ability to marry the marketing needs of sponsors with that of the property, she said.

“There will be resistance because sponsor cross-promotions require time, work and resources to activate. But if the property is creative and understands the needs of sponsors, ideas are relatively easy.”

Host sponsor summits. Most properties use sponsor summits as the jumping off point for sponsor cross-promotions.   

The ING New York City Marathon uses its annual partner forum to brainstorm ideas and explore potential partnerships. The event matches up sponsors that target a similar demographic and shares four or five ideas on cross-promotions.

“Cross-promotions are not something that sponsors automatically talk about. We gave them four or five thought starters to get them going,” said Crandall, who previously served as executive vice president of development and marketing strategy with the New York Road Runners, the marathon organizer.

Even casual conversations at sponsor summits can lead to potential partnerships. Farmers Group, Inc. this year struck up a conversation with Wells Fargo & Co. at the PGA Tour summit. Farmers titles the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, Calif. while Wells Fargo titles the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

“We were networking and brought up the topic of cross-promotions. I said ‘let’s leverage each other to extend our golf platforms,’” said Chuck Browning, Farmers’ head of sponsorships and corporate giving.

Stay abreast of marketing priorities. Penske Racing each year asks sponsors to identify their top marketing priorities for the upcoming year. The team uses the feedback to explore cross-promotion opportunities.    

“We’ll bring forth an idea for both parties, and if they like it, we’ll schedule a meeting or conference call to move the ball forward,” said Jonathon Gibson, vice president of marketing and communications with Penske Racing.

That was the case with Verizon and Quicken Loans. The two companies this summer leveraged their Penske partnerships with the Speed Thrills Sweepstakes. The two companies used the promotion—which dangled a $15,000 and other prizes—to build a prospect database.