B Online sponsorship

Online sponsorship is not straightforward. It's not just a case of mirroring existing 'real-world' sponsorship arrangements in the 'virtual world', although this is a valid option. There are many additional opportunities for sponsorship online which can be sought out, even if you don't have a big budget at your disposal. Ryan and Whiteman (2000) define online sponsorship as:

the linking of a brand with related content or context for the purpose of creating brand awareness and strengthening brand appeal in a form that is clearly distinguishable from a banner, button, or other standardized ad unit.

For the advertiser, online sponsorship has the benefit that their name is associated with an online brand that the site visitor is already familiar with. So, for users of the ISP Wanadoo, with whom they are familiar, sponsorship builds on this existing relationship and trust. Closely related is online 'co-branding' where there is an association between two brands.

Paid-for sponsorship of another site, or part of it, especially a portal, for an extended period is another way to develop permanent links. Co-branding is a lower-cost method of sponsorship and can exploit synergies between different companies. Note that sponsorship does not have to directly drive visitors to a brand site - it may be more effective if interaction occurs on the media owner's microsite.

A great business-to-business example of online sponsorship is offered by WebTrends which sponsors the customer information channel on ClickZ.com (www.clickz.com/experts). They combined this sponsorship with different ads each month offering e-marketers the chance to learn about different topics such as search marketing, retention and conversion marketing through detailed white papers and 'Take 10' online video presentation by industry experts which could be downloaded by registered users. The objective of these ads was to encourage prospects to subscribe to the WebTrends WebResults e-newsletter and to assess purchase intent at sign-up enabling follow-up telemarketing by regional distributors. WebTrends reported the following results over a single year of sponsorship:

• List built to 100,000 WebResults total subscribers

• 18,000 Take 10 presentations

• 13,500 seminar attendees.

A study by Performance Research (2001) compared differences in the perception of the online audience to banner ads and sponsorships. Respondents were shown a series of web page screens; for each, one half of the respondents were shown a similar version with a banner advertisement, and the remaining half were shown a nearly identical image with web sponsorship identifications (such as 'Sponsored by', 'Powered By' and 'in association with'). The results were illuminating. Of the 500 respondents, ratings for different aspects of perception were:

• Trustworthy (28% for sponsorships to 15% for ads)

• Likely to enhance site experience (33% to 17%)

• More likely to consider purchasing a sponsor's product or service (41% to 23%)

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