Changes in sponsorship marketing 

When Martha & Bros. Coffee Co. was approached by the San Francisco International Film Festival this year to renew its event sponsorship with additional contributions, the company did something it never has before — it opened its checkbook.

"It’s an extra $5,000 that they’re asking for. Besides the $5,000, there are also in-kind donations," company part-owner Roberto Guerrero said, adding Martha & Bros. was happy to pay it. "We’re going to get more."

The new marketing Martha & Bros. will be getting goes beyond a larger advertisement in the festival’s program, he said. The company will sponsor a specific event and will have a table to do coffee tastings at several festival events. It will also provide coffee in the VIP room. It is the first time the company has given any event cash; it has provided coffee to the festival for five years.

"Nothing beats handing the product to the customer and letting them give it a try. It certainly has increased knowledge of our brand," Guerrero said.

Martha & Bros.’ experience reflects a growing trend in which nonprofit organizations create new and innovative ways for sponsors to market themselves, according to several local companies and nonprofit groups. These offerings focus on providing event participants and attendees with an "experience," something designed to link the cachet of the event with the products that support it.

It has been a successful approach. The San Francisco International Film Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and corporate sponsorship fundraising has already exceeded its goals by 25 percent, according to San Francisco Film Society Associate Director of Development Suzanne McCloskey.

"Each year, we exceed the sponsor’s expectations. So each year, we have cause to say, ‘Hey, you got more last year than you bargained for,’" Film Society Executive Director Graham Leggat said. "Primarily, the onus is on us to deliver a better and better product."

One major film festival sponsor, San Francisco’s Skyy Vodka, has provided a $10,000 prize for a first-time film director, among other things, and will this year underwrite an exclusive party at the W Hotel, Leggat said.

"Let’s suppose you’re in a nicely dressed room at the W Hotel … and you’re rubbing shoulders with two of the finest actors in Hollywood today," Leggat said. "And all of the people there are drinking Skyy Vodka and the event is put on by Skyy Vodka. That’s worth its weight in gold to all of our corporate sponsors."

Sue Hearn, Skyy Vodka’s public relations events director, said that local nonprofits have become much more savvy about such marketing opportunities in recent years.

The AIDS Walk San Francisco also offers sponsors unique "experiential" sponsorships, Event Director Erika Zlatkoff said.

For example, this year Bank of the West is sponsoring the "KidZone," an area with face painting and other children’s activities. Among other things, the San Francisco bank is offering toy bear stuffing. The bear is a prominent feature of the company logo.

The KidZone was designed in part as a sponsorship-marketing vehicle, Zlatkoff said.

"Its definitely something that came up as a special opportunity we could provide to sponsors," she said. "It also made the event more fun for walkers. We were able to achieve two goals."

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